Humans, like all living things, need to consume food to live. The biological, psychological, social and cultural need to eat is, in fact, one of the experiences that unites all people.
Whole food is what humans see and interact with, but the nutrients in food are what our cells use to perform their functions. Too much or too little of the nutrients a person needs over long periods of time can lead to a deterioration of cell function, which eventually leads to a malfunction, and possibly chronic disease.
What does nutrient balance look like? This article explores the tools available to you for measuring nutrient balance and healthy nutrition to prevent disease. It also describes how nutrient excess and nutrient deprivation (undernutrition) affect the risk of chronic disease.
Nutritional balance for health and prevention of chronic diseases
Our bodies require a wide variety of nutrients to carry out daily activities. For the purpose of understanding what is in the food that meets our needs, nutrition scientists have identified several nutrients and studied their specific roles in the body.
These nutrients include:
- Macronutrients Amount: Elements that provide energy. They include carbohydrates, fats and protein. Carbohydrates and protein contribute 4 calories (a measure of energy) per gram, and fats provide 9 calories per gram. Alcohol also provides energy at a rate of 7 calories per gram, but it has no function in the body, so it is not considered a nutrient.
- Micronutrients: Substances or chemical elements required in small quantities in the body for the growth, development, regeneration and function of the body. They include vitamins and minerals, as well as phytonutrients such as antioxidants.
- Water: Water is often left out of the equation, but it is an essential nutrient because the body cannot produce water. The human body is made up of 60-70% water. They fill the space between cells, and are part of the molecular structures of essential nutrients. While we tend to think of water in its pure form, water is found in certain amounts in most foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
An imbalance in the intake of nutrients is indicated Malnutrition (Malnutrition). Keep in mind, however, that with a few exceptions (such as unsaturated fats), there are no “good” or “bad” nutrients. We need all nutrients in different amounts, and what we need changes throughout our lives and as our lifestyle and state of health change.
Daily Value, Recommended Dietary Allowances and MyPlate – Which is Best for Measuring Nutrient Balance?
For health, nutritionists study the role of nutrients in the body and estimate how much of these nutrients a person needs to maintain normal function. Then, scientists and public health workers come together, examine the evidence, and come up with recommendations on nutrient intake for the general population to stay healthy.
The two terms most commonly used to describe these estimates are % Daily Value (% DV) and recommended diet (The Racial Discrimination Act). RDAs tell you, on average, how much of each nutrient you should get each day. In the United States, it was established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. RDAs vary based on gender, age, and whether the woman is pregnant or breastfeeding.
In general, RDAs are useful for the general population; People are not likely to memorize RDAs for each food item, and unless you use an app, it will be nearly impossible to keep track of how much of each food item you have consumed over the course of the day. Plus, it’s not a “magic number” that people need to reach each day – it’s an estimate of the average amount of those nutrients people need, which means that some days you may consume less, others more, and still have a nutritional balance.
Percent Daily Value (% DV or DV) is set by the Food and Drug Administration and is used on food and supplement labels. Unlike RDAs, DVs do not differentiate between gender, age, or whether a person is pregnant or breastfeeding. There is one DV per nutrient for all people over the age of four, which means it is a combination of the estimated nutritional needs of all people. DVs refer to the amount of each nutrient a person consumes in a single serving of food.
Although imperfect, RDAs are useful tools for clinical professionals and public health professionals developing nutritional guidelines. DVs are useful for informing people of the nutrients that are being consumed through food.
However, it is important to note that not only is it difficult to track RDAs or DVs throughout the day, allowing your eating habits to be dictated by measuring RDAs or other measures that can lead to disordered eating.
Additionally, neither DVs nor RDAs are the best tools for the general public to understand what they should eat to achieve a balanced diet. Tools like class In the United States, although they are also incomplete, they tend to be more practical options for helping people make healthy decisions on a daily basis. Other approaches outside the public health strategy, such as Intuitive eatingFor example, it can support people in listening to the body’s nutritional needs and eating accordingly without obsessing over specific food groups or nutrients.
Excess nutrients and their role in promoting chronic diseases
Health practitioners often refer to an excess of nutrients as overfeeding. but since Overfeeding Often defined as an increase in consumption of macronutrients that leads to an accumulation of body fat, some health professionals prefer the term excess nutrients Or bypassing chronic nutrition because excessive intake of micronutrients can also lead to chronic disease, even when weight change is not involved.
The human body is built with natural mechanisms that help prevent changes and fluctuations in nutrient intake and other factors that affect nutrient requirements, such as short-term illnesses and increased physical activity. However, if nutrient overload persists over long periods of time (weeks to years, depending on a person’s growth period and the severity of the overload), it can lead to irreversible cell damage. According to Qiu and Schlegel in Nutrition ReviewsUnder chronic food intake, both organelles experience stress, burdened by metabolic saturation, and eventually, long-term damage leads to reduced efficiency.
Most research on nutrient overload has focused on macronutrients – fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – because of their effect on insulin secretion and related cell signaling. Researchers know, for example, that excessive intake of saturated fats and simple carbohydrates over long periods of time Increases the risk For the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Other associated chronic conditions Excessive insulin secretion Related to nutrient overload with biological and genetic predisposition are:
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- PCOS (PCOS)
- Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD)
However, an excess of certain micronutrients can also lead to an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. Here are some examples:
Nutrient deprivation (undernutrition) and its role in promoting chronic diseases
Undernutrition is known as chronically insufficient Intake of energy and nutrients to meet an individual’s needs to maintain good health. While there are specific terms to describe types of undernutrition, such as protein-energy malnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies, many health institutions encourage the use of the term undernourishment because it includes all types of undernutrition.
Our body cannot make most of the nutrients it needs to perform its regular functions; He needs to get those nutrients from foods. Similar to what happens with an excess of nutrients, our bodies can prevent a deficiency in the short term. However, if we are deficient in macronutrients or micronutrients for an extended period of time, the body’s healthy growth, repair and growth can be compromised.
The amount of time that bodies can continue to function healthy with nutrient deprivation depends on the specific nutrients, age, stores, genetics, diseases, and other factors.
For example, Vitamin A deficiency It is more severe in childhood than in adulthood. In childhood, vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness, delayed growth, and infections. In fact, vitamin A deficiency leads to a very high mortality rate. In adults, vitamin A deficiency can lead to poor immune health and skin pigmentation problems. But it has a much lower mortality rate.
Undernutrition in childhood and even before birth can have long-lasting effects. Fetal nutritional deficiency Due to maternal nutritional deficiencies can lead to what is often referred to as fetal programming For chronic adult diseases. in addition to, Adverse events in childhood Associated with food deprivation not only increases the risk of chronic disease due to nutritional deficiencies but also due to the effects of toxic stress on the body.
Some of the chronic diseases associated with nutritional deficiencies include:
Apply this knowledge in the training environment
It is important to understand that nutrient supplementation with a variety of nutrients may increase the risk of chronic disease. However, at individual levels, this knowledge can be difficult to apply.
Health and wellness coaches and other health professionals can use knowledge about the risks of nutrient supplementation to:
- Evaluate the need for supplementation carefully.
- Customer and patient support Make food choices And get foods that lead to balanced and satisfying nutrition without being over-obsessed as this can lead to an eating disorder.
- Support clients in finding ways to move their bodies that they feel comfortable with.
- Avoid shaming customers for their food choices, instead, learn about the barriers that may prevent them from eating a balanced diet.
- Support community programs that help improve a variety of culturally appropriate, appetizing, low-cost foods.
Diet is the cornerstone of health. We get the nutrients our bodies need to survive, function, grow, and thrive through the foods we eat and the drinks we drink. Both nutrient overload (too much of some nutrients) and nutrient deprivation (too little of some nutrients) can cause irreversible damage to our health in the long run, and may increase the risk of chronic disease.
From a health coach’s point of view, learning about the balance of nutrients can help inform and guide clients. However, for clients and individuals, it is often beneficial to focus on the entire diet together wellness as a whole Instead of focusing on specific nutrients.