With the release of the new dietary guidelines, in the form of the new food pyramid, I still find that many people don't actually understand what nutrition actually means. Because of this, dietary choices can seem overwhelming. Even greater confusion can be generated by prime time news specials which only strive to educate through clever sound-bites and diet fads which lead some to believe that all of their answers are found in one single "magic food." So what is nutrition and how can you understand it in a way that helps you apply it to your life and to the benefit of those you know and love? Here's an analogy I have found helpful in teaching those who attend my free Sunday Night Wellness Call.
Your body functions in a manner similar to a car assembly plant. At that plant, a steady stream of new parts, the correct parts and parts in the right ratios to each other are absolutely necessary in order to keep that plant open for business and running smoothly.
What would happen if someone in purchasing forgot to provide that plant with steering wheels? The cars would be almost functional. But because of a single part deficiency, that car would not be able to carry out its intended function.
If this only happened to a few cars, it probably wouldn't be a big deal. You wouldn't see any symptoms of a parts deficiency. But what if that plant had no steering wheels for an entire month? How about year? First the plant would probably close, the community would fail. Good people would move away and the "bad elements" would most likely take over the town. The lack of balanced parts would eventually lead to dire conditions.
What happens when the cells of your body are missing parts?
You eat to provide your cells with nourishment. It's not just about calories. That nourishment is the collection of parts every cell in your body needs to function properly. You provide your cells with parts and those parts are assembled according to instructions in your DNA to create a variety of finished products. That could include new cells, of which there are many kinds, anti bodies to fight disease, neurotransmitters to carry signals between nerves, and hormones to regulate your body.
So again, there are beneficial raw materials in foods, which our bodies use, and need, to carry out vital cellular functions.
These functions keep us alive.
These functions combat disease.
These functions allow us to heal.
These functions allow our cells to build new cells and all of the other finished materials that are necessary for normal life and optimal health.
And these raw materials are called nutrients.
We eat to give our body access to nutrients.
Sadly, our food does not contain the nutrients it once had in abundance, so it is necessary to supplement a good diet with quality nutritional supplementation to ensure that our cells do not suffer from a parts deficiency. We should still strive to have a good diet, from as many whole foods as possible, with supplementation being a means to supplement, not substitute, the benefits of a good diet.
Dave Saunders is a certified nutritional educator, wellness coach, member of the American International Association of Nutritional Education (AIANE) and author. He is also the host of a weekly, nation-wide telephone lecture on health and nutrition.
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