“Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food” ~ Hippocrates
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth. Simply put, it is the food we eat and the liquid we drink that provides us with the energy and nutrients necessary to not only survive but to thrive.
When beginning to learn about nutrition and what to eat, you have to consider your body’s dietary needs. Finding out your weaknesses and finding the right vitamins and nutritional elements to rectify that. Poor nutrition can be detrimental to your health, reducing your immunity impairing your physical and mental development. Good food can literally save your life.
Understanding Food Labels
Nutrition labels are really important when beginning your nutritional journey, reading and understanding these are the key to making smart decisions for you and your family. In the UK it is the law to have this clearly displayed on the packaging. So what does it all mean?
The label will break down the food/drink into the main nutrition categories: energy, fat (saturates), Carbohydrate (sugars), fibre, protein and salt. Usually, the packet will then break the contents down into 100g, one portion and the whole pack, stating how much of each nutrient is in all three measurements, with the recommended daily amount next to it for reference (more on that shortly).
Working out if any of these measurements are good for you is the tricky part. Luckily there is a reference for what sort of amounts are good/bad.
High: >17.5g per 100g
Low: <3g per 100g
High: >5g per 100g
Low: <1.5g per 100g
High: >22.5g per 100g
Low: <5g per 100g
High: >1.5g100g (or 0.6g sodium)
Low: <0.3g 100g (or 0.1g sodium)
Recommended Daily Amounts
Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA)or Reference Intakes (RI) is the suggested amount of nutrients for a healthy adult. These are not the be all and end all of exactly what it is you should be eating. Everyone’s body is different, and everyone needs varying amount of nutrients to find the right balance for them. Get to know your body and experiment with a few differing amounts to see what works best for you and your family’s bodies.
Here is the general table just for reference, but remember, it is just for ‘reference’.
Dietician V Nutritionist
This can be a very confusing issue for some people, so it is important to remember to always ask your doctor for help if you want a health professional to give advice on your diet and food intake options.
Simply put, dieticians are the only nutritional professionals to be regulated by law – meaning they need qualifications and experience and are governed by a specific code of ethics. Their title is protected by law and they need a bare minimum of a Bachelors of Science with honours in Dietetics. Dieticians work in the NHS or in private clinical, they are health professionals and are always up to date with the most recent medical information regarding nutrition.
Nutritionists differ in the sense that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. That’s not to say that you should steer clear of nutritionists altogether – look for ones on the UK Voluntary Registry of Nutritionists, these are registered nutritionists and have some authority of diet and healthy eating. Nutritionists tend to work in non-clinical settings such as within the government, in the food industry and in the sports and exercise industries.
- Added sugars is bad
If sugar has to be added to food, then it is not supposed to be there. Added sugar such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup is just empty calories. There are no nutrients of value in added sugar and what’s more, it’s a leading cause of obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
- You don’t need to eat every 2-3 hours
Just eat when you’re hungry and make sure it’s nutritious! There’s no evidence that eating little and often is in any way better for you.
- Low fat does not equal healthy
Low fat foods that are supposed to contain fat taste bad, so manufacturers add lots of sugar to them. They’re not ‘bad’ for you, but they’re definitely not the better option.
- Eat carbs after working out
Don’t be scared of carbohydrates, they are a great source of energy for the body. When you work out your body needs to refuel to make up for the energy spent, carbohydrates are needed to provide that energy that has been lost. Similarly, it’s better to eat sugar BEFORE working out. The burst of energy it gives you will be good for the energy needed and if you eat it after, the body will just turn it straight back in to fat.
- Unprocessed food is the healthiest food
When food is processed, nutrients are removed and harmful ingredients are often added. Try to get food from the source and avoid food in a tin or food that has serious packaging.