Food is defined as 'substance taken into the body to maintain life and growth'. It follows that it is essential if we are to live healthily and allow new cells to grow.
The fuel required to keep our bodies running efficiently comes directly from the food we eat. If that food is wholesome and fresh, it will contain the nutrients required to sustain life by providing us with raw materials which the body requires in order to function efficiently.
Nutrients are involved in every single body process, including fighting infection (via the immune system), repairing cells on an ongoing basis, and supporting neurotransmitters which send messages to and from the brain. They are also needed for energy - mental, physical, and emotional. In other words, we cannot keep going without the many different nutrients supplied by our diet.
If we do not give ourselves the proper nutrients, the body's normal functions will gradually fail and signs of advancing age will become more apparent. Unfortunately, the average person's expectation is that his or her health will fail due simply to the ageing process (how often do you hear someone say "Well, it's my age, I suppose"?) However, the chronological age of the body is not necessarily the same as its biological age and it is possible to minimise biological age through good diet and nutrition.
Why do we get hungry?
Hunger is a signal by the body that fuel is running low and reinforcements are required. It is unable to be more specific about what it requires, although sometimes a craving for a particular food is an indicator.
If all required nutrients are supplied in a meal, hunger subsides until it is time for the next one. However, if there is still a deficit in some area, there is a tendency to go on and on 'picking' as the feeling of not being quite satisfied persists.
Sometimes the message is misinterpreted. When blood sugar levels have dropped greatly due to insufficient or inappropriate intake of food, the body screams 'Sugar' or 'Coffee'. Giving in to such demands will, in the short term, push up sugar levels and make you feel better. This stresses the body and causes it to keep crying out for its 'fix'. By eating little and often, preferably foods which are relatively unrefined such as wholemeal or rye bread, oatcakes or crispbreads, with a small amount of protein, or fresh fruit and nuts or seeds, these drops in blood-sugar levels can be prevented.
Feelings of thirst can also be misinterpreted as hunger.
What is health?
To many people, health is the absence of disease. However, even if you show no obvious signs of illness, you may not necessarily be healthy. Are you, for example, as full of energy and vitality as you might be, or is it a drag to get out of bed in the morning?
One problem which most of us have is that we simply do not obtain the nutrients which are vital if we are to keep our biological age in check. Cooking and processing destroy many of the nutrients required to keep the body functioning properly; the more processed or over-cooked the food, the fewer nutrients will be present.
Unless they are organically grown, most of the fruit and vegetables we buy today are grown on soil depleted of valuable minerals (they appear to thrive on just a few, whereas the human body requires a total of 47 essential nutrients). Eating fruit and vegetables days, weeks, or even months after they are picked will cause them to lose a large percentage of the few nutrients they contain.
Health should not be confused with fitness - we have all heard about super-fit marathon runners who have heart attacks. While moderate exercise is essential to good health, it is no substitute for a good diet. Unless the heart and arteries (the cardiovascular system) are in good shape, they will not be able to keep up with the demands put upon them.
Written by Liz Thearle.