September 30, 2023

July is National Nutrition Month. The month-long observation raises public awareness on the value of good nutrition and helps people make healthy food choices. Adequate and proper nutrition helps prevent illnesses and helps prolong one’s lifespan.
Adequate nutrition means we need to eat food from the basic food groups: carbohydrates or grains, proteins, oils and solid fats, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products. Each food group serves a different purpose. Excess intake or deficiency of a food group can lead to malnutrition.

Carbohydrates are our body’s main source of energy. They also have a role in the control of blood sugar and insulin metabolism, fermentation, cholesterol and triglyceride metabolism. Grains like rice, rye, wheat, legumes, fruits, vegetables, sugar, and fibers are a source of carbohydrates.
Based on structure, carbohydrates are classified as simple, complex, or fibers based on their chemical structure and the number of glucose that they contain. Simple sugars like fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, and galactose are easily digested and cause rapid increase in blood sugar. Examples of food that contain simple sugars are sodas, corn syrup, fruit juices, table sugar, and honey.
Complex carbohydrates contain three or more sugars in a more complex chemical structure. These are not easily digested, hence cause a slower increase in blood sugar levels. Examples are dextrin, amylose, and cellobiose found in brown rice, unrefined whole grains, broccoli, and in apples. Non-digestible fibers found in seeds, vegetables, potato skins, brown rice, and bran help in regular bowel movement and reduce risk for cancer of the colon. Soluble fibers from fruits, oats, dried beans and broccoli help reduce the level of cholesterol in our blood. Starches are complex carbohydrates that have high content of glucose.
Proteins are made of amino acids which serve as building blocks in growth and repair processes, and become components of our blood, tissues, hair, antibodies that fight off infection, enzymes that are important in body processes like digestion, and other important roles.
Fat is important in our diet. They also serve as source of energy. Foods with good unsaturated fats, called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, reduce our disease risk. Sources include olive oil, canola, sunflower oil, seeds, nuts, and fish.
Saturated fats found in red meat, ice cream, butter, cheese, coconut oil, and palm oil should be consumed in moderation since these can increase the risk for heart and other diseases.
The so-called trans fats or bad fats have largely been eliminated from processed foods because they have been shown to be harmful to health even when taken in small amounts. Note that in most food products labeled as low-fat, the fat content has been replaced with refined carbohydrates and starches that have high glucose content.
Fruits and vegetables should always be part of our daily diet. These reduce our risk for cancer, digestive problems, heart and other diseases. It is advised that we need to eat a variety of these foods – different types and colors – to maximize their beneficial health effects.
Dairy products are a source of calcium and protein. Adequate intake helps build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, which is a frequent cause of fracture and debilitation in old age. Regular daily consumption is advised, the amount of which is adjusted based on age and the presence of disease that may contraindicate the high intake of dairy products because of their high content of phosphorus.