There are hundreds of answers to this question and for each of us the answer will be different. I would probably answer that I eat because I love food! I love preparing it, cooking it and sharing it with my family and friends! I would also answer (now that I’m wise and passionate about nutritional medicine!) that we eat because food is the fuel our bodies need to grow, repair or heal, learn and be active. I don’t think many of us really think about or even understand the connection and therefore we also don’t think about the connection between disease or illness and what we eat.
It’s logical that if we don’t eat the right balance of nutrients from the different food groups then our bodies may not be able to function well. Natural foods (read: not processed!) provide the six classes of nutrients our bodies need including the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) micronutrients (vitamin and minerals) and water. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide the building materials and energy for the body. Vitamins, minerals and water are essential to many of the processes and activities of our cells and organs.
The science of nutrition studies the nutrients and other substances found in food and how the body utilizes them for optimum health. Research from clinical trials and epidemiological studies show the relationship between nutritional deficiencies or imbalances and dysfunction, illness or disease in the body.
If there is a deficiency or excess of nutrient over time, many of the body’s functions can be impacted and conditions like anaemia, underactive thyroid, cognitive decline or osteoporosis can arise. A deficiency or excess of energy results in undernutrition or overnutrition. Overnutrition may result in significant weight gain or obesity and this is associated with increased risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, depression and other mental health conditions.
Recently, an international study (1) published in The Lancet Psychiatry, highlighted the importance of nutrition for maintaining mental health and discusses research proving that the quality of diet and the deficiencies in certain essential nutrients are determining factors for physical and mental health. The human brain needs an adequate intake of key nutrients, such as polyunsaturated fatty acids Omega-3, essential amino acids, B-group vitamins (B12 and folate), vitamin D and minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. A balanced and high-quality diet provides all of these nutrients and where deficiencies are identified supplements may be needed.
In my clinic, my degree in nutritional medicine underpins the way I work with you to identify underlying causes of ill-health and provide practical recommendations to change dietary and lifestyle habits in the pursuit of optimum health and wellbeing.