Nutrition is a science focused on the interactions between living organisms and their food. It also includes the study of the biological processes used in consuming food and our body’s ability to use the nutrients found in food.
Nutrients are the chemical substances contained in food that are necessary to sustain life. There are 6 classes of nutrients that our body requires to function optimally, those are:
1. Water – Water is the most important nutrient in the body, it is about 60% of our body composition. Water helps to transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, remove wastes, flush toxins, lubricate joints, improves oxygen delivery to all our cells, enables cellular hydration, moistens oxygen for easier breathing, cushions bones and joints, absorbs shocks to joints and organs, prevents tissues from sticking, improves cell to cell communication, maintains normal electrical properties of cells and empowers the body’s natural healing process.
2. Proteins – Proteins compose about 18% of our body. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Our body uses and assembles 50,000 different proteins to form organs, nerves muscles and flesh. Proteins are responsible for building enzymes, antibodies, hemoglobin, hormones. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. All proteins are a combination of 20 amino acids. 10 of these are essential, meaning the body cannot produce them, therefore we need to consume them from our food. 10 are nonessential and can be synthesized by the body.
3. Fats – Fats compose about 15% of our body weight. Fats provide a source of energy for the body. They are the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. They are required for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins; A, D, E and K. Fats are required for the adequate use of proteins, serve as a protective lining for the organs of the body, play a role in slowing the absorption of food for proper energy regulation and last but not least, they make food taste great!
4. Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates compose about 2% of our body. They provide fuel for the brain, a quick source of energy for muscles, help regulate protein and fat metabolism. Carbohydrates provide a source of fiber which helps with eliminating waste materials, help fight infections, promote growth of body tissue such as bones and skin, lubricate the joints.
5. Vitamins – Vitamins compose less than 1% of our body. They function as coenzymes or helpers in metabolism, are essential for growth, vitality and health. Helpful for indigestion, elimination and resistance to disease
6. Minerals – Minerals compose about 4% of the body. Minerals are provide solely by food sources, they are not produced by the body. They act as co-factors for enzyme reactions, maintain pH balance and osmotic pressure, facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes, maintain proper nerve conduction, contract and relax muscles and regulate tissue growth.
The recommended amount of macronutrients in an optimal healthy diet (with some room for shift as we are all uniquely bio-individual) are;
40% Carbohydrates – (Preferably 20-25% non-starchy and 15-20% starchy)
The best sources of these macro-nutrients are as follows;
Carbohydrate foods = low glycemic vegetables, fresh organic fruits, whole grains that are properly prepared by soaking or sprouting, legumes that are properly prepared or sprouted, and tubers such as potatoes.
Food sources for FAT = raw soaked nuts & seeds, raw cold-pressed oils from nuts & seeds, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, saturated fats from healthy animal sources, such as butter, tallow or lard.
Protein foods = Grass fed beef, wild meats such as; bison, elk, buffalo, venison and so on, pastured poultry, whole raw dairy, pastured eggs and wild seafood.
From a biological perspective we are still hunter gatherers. 99.9% of our genes were formed BEFORE agriculture. There are several major milestones that led to the ‘corruption’ of the above stated optimal diet;
1. The Agricultural Revolution – 12,000 years ago we went from hunter gatherers to farming societies.
2. Introduction of Refined Sugar – 400 years ago the ability to refine cane sugar for mass production was discovered. This has likely had the most health detriment to us in our modern day.
3. The Industrial Revolution – starting in the 1800′s completely adulterated foods were born.
4. The Food Giants – born in the 1900′s made the ability for processed foods to go even further.
5. World War II – Even further increase in production of processed foods.
These milestones, perhaps seen as advancement and convenience at the time, have had a huge impact and grave consequences on our health as a population. In the early 1900′s an amazing man and dentist by the name of Weston Price began to make the correlation between our health and diet. He first observed this through the teeth of his patients. He then traveled to various indigenous nations/tribes untouched by modern civilization to study their teeth, only to find some amazing nutritional principles. Also around that time, 1932-1942, a doctor by the name of Francis Pottenger studied the effects of nutrition on cats, and the impact on the future generations of cats. His study was a profound help in understanding what is currently going on in our modern day with all the declining health and degeneration.
What Price & Pottenger Discovered Regarding Nutrition
Price discovered that while the diets of healthy societies varied greatly, there were several commonalties;
1. They contained no refined or denatured foods.
2. All used some type of animal products with some raw. (there was no vegan culture that was truly healthy)
3. Diets were four times as high in calcium and other minerals, and encompassed 10 times the amount of fat soluble vitamins as that of the modern diet.
4. Foods with high enzyme content were included.
5. Seeds, grains & nuts were soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened.
6. The fat content of the diets varied from 30-80% of total calories. (with only 4% from polyunsaturated fats)
7. The diets contained nearly equal amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
8. Salt was always included. Good real unrefined or processed salt.
9. The bones of animals were made use of, usually as a bone broth.
To read Price’s work on nutrition through his travels and studies of native cultures untouched by processed foods, check it out below. It’s not a sit down and read all at once kind of book, but it’s a great resource to refer to if you want to really see for yourself how profoundly traditional diets can keep one very optimally healthy. ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’, by Weston A. Price
Pottenger’s Studies Show Us:
1. The degeneration of the 2nd and 3rd generation cats is a mirror image of our current social & health situation, such as structural deformity, social stress, allergies & reproductive problems.
2. It took him 4 generations through a reversed diet that was actually appropriate for the cats to return the cats health to normal.
To read more about the work of Dr. Pottenger, check out the book that recorded his extensive studies of feeding experiments done to determine the effects of heat processed food on cats. It’s really a compelling study that is useful in giving us insight into the root cause of preventable illness so common and widespread in society today. ‘Pottenger’s Cats’, Francis M. Pottenger, Jr., MD
Finally, a wonderful bible of a nutrition book and recipe book that you simply must read and own is by far ‘Nourishing Traditions’ by Sallon Fallon. In it, Fallon goes into great detail regarding the foods I have discussed above as well as how to properly prepare foods for optimum nutrient absorption. It’s a critical read if you want to understand how to nourish yourself through your food.
This post contributed to Fight Back Fridays.
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Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest.
Lydia offers specialized step by step counseling to transform your health. Personalized consultations to suit your specific needs are offered via phone, Skype or in person. Lydia offers a variety of packages offered to suit your individual needs. Contact Lydia today to get started as well as to learn more about what she has to offer you!