As we explore deeper into the world of health and well-being, the interest in balanced, nutritious diets is increasing, and are key determinants to our physical health. The trends of foods we pursue have become more diverse and the types of foods we can access have increased due to globalization, thus the possible combinations and factors in diet.
Nevertheless, some people consider diet as mere sustenance and do not recognize that what we consume vitally impacts our physical health. This essay delves into three fundamental ways in which diet, directly and indirectly, influences our physical health; nutrients, immunity, and weight management.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the diet is to fulfill adequate nutrients for our bodies to function well. Our human bodies require 6 major nutrients: 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), 2 micronutrients (minerals and vitamins), and water.
Each nutrient plays a unique role in maintaining physiological processes and human life. Carbohydrates, a major energy source, helps control blood glucose and insulin metabolism. Fats work as an energy source as well, and they also support cell function and protect organs.
Proteins, the building blocks of life, make new cells and repair old cells. Minerals and vitamins act as catalysts for enzymatic reactions, contributing to fundamental biochemical processes in our bodies. Lastly, water, the most important nutrient in the human body, has countless roles, including maintaining body temperature, protecting sensitive tissues, and getting rid of body wastes.
When our diet lacks these nutrients, our bodies will experience malnutrition, a state when the human body goes through deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients, or impaired nutrient utilization. For instance, deficiencies in protein can lead to muscle wasting, a decrease in metabolism, and a lack of balance.
There are countless problems and diseases that are associated with deficiencies or excesses of necessary nutrients. Hence, a well-rounded and nutrient-dense diet is critical in maintaining our physical health and the functions of our bodies.
2. Immunity and Microbes
Aside from malnutrition, consuming certain foods could contribute to increasing the immunity of our bodies. Gut microbiota, microorganisms in the human gut, shape our immune system and ensure the immune response is quick and effective.
A high-fiber, plant-rich diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes promotes the growth and maintenance of these beneficial microbes. The helpful microbes break down fiber into short-chain fatty acids, which stimulate immune cell activity.
Prebiotics: foods containing fiber and oligosaccharides that feed bacteria, are richly found in garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, bananas, and seaweed.
With these beneficial gut microbes, constructing a well-rounded diet including a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains would reduce the risk of infections and inflammation, improving the overall immunity of our bodies.
3. Weight Management
In 2023, the national adult obesity rate in the United States was 41.9% and that of England 25.9%. The rising global health concern of obesity is very closely related to diet and the increased consumption of processed foods.
A diet high in processed foods containing added sugar and saturated fats, such as soda, ice cream, pizza, and french fries, creates an imbalance in energy and nutrients, eventually leading to weight gain.
Obesity is the Source of Countless Diseases
Overweight and obesity act as a source of countless diseases and health problems including high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases and strokes, and cardiovascular diseases by accumulating visceral fat around vital organs and disrupting their functioning.
Besides, obesity leads to osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint), sleep apnea, and breathing problems. Planning a diet including whole, nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables could help prevent obesity. However, the more important and effective method to prevent obesity is to exclude certain unhealthy foods from your diet.
For instance, when consuming proteins, try avoiding the fried options, and instead choose baked, steamed, grilled, stewed, or boiled options that are lower in calories and saturated fat. By understanding the beneficial and harmful aspects of different foods and the risks of obesity, you can plan a diet to prevent obesity and the range of diseases associated with it.
Our Dietary Choices are Intrinsically Linked to Our Physical Health and Well-being
Building a balanced diet with the necessary nutrients is the most fundamental method to care for and maintain the human body and its functions. Consuming foods rich in gut microbes improves our immune systems, reducing the risks of infection.
Finally, excluding processed foods from our diet and replacing them with other healthy options would noticeably reduce the chances of becoming obese, a source of countless diseases.
Overall, by constructing a diet that connects our dietary choices and physical well-being today, we will become more vibrant, resilient, and healthier tomorrow!