The Function of Food
The major function of the food we eat is to provide energy, to promote growth, to repair body tissues and to regulate body processes.
All food can be chemically grouped into two major categories known as Macro nutrients and Micro nutrients.
The three Macro nutrients as follows:
Proteins are a group of complex organic nitrogenous compounds that form the principal constituents of the cell protoplasm. They are made up of combinations of amino acids and their derivatives. As you are probably aware, active martial artists - especially those training for a competition have a higher daily protein requirement.
Carbohydrates are energy yielding nutrients. They are complex dietary compounds that include sugars (simple carbohydrates), starches (complex carbohydrates), celluloses and gums. Carbohydrates represent the largest single component (aside from water) in most diets. They provide slightly less than have the calories in the typical American diet. It is important for athletes to "carbohydrate load" prior to a competition. This is done by eating more starches such as pasta and bread one day prior to the event.
Fats or Lipids as they are also known are the most concentrated energy-yielding group of the Macronutrients. Examples of fats include animal fat such as found in meats, eggs yolks, dairy products and vegetable fats such as found in nuts, grains and vegetable oils.
The Micro nutrients as follows:
Vitamins are organic substances, needed in small amounts, which perform specific metabolic functions and must be provided in the diet to maintain health. Vitamins are divided into two groups; fat soluble and water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are D, E, A, and K. The other vitamins are water soluble.
Minerals are essential nutrients that are required to regulate body processes and to support the body structure. Minerals are classified as major minerals if they are needed be consumed in more than 250 milligrams (recommended) daily. Examples of major minerals are sodium, chloride, potassium and calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. The trace minerals are those minerals that are need in small amounts (usually less than 20 milligrams daily). These include chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, zinc, selenium, molybdenum and manganese.
Water is so essential for life that a person will die within a few days without it. Water constitutes approximately 60% of the total body weight. Water, carbon dioxide and energy are end products of the combustion of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Water functions in the body as a solvent for other nutrients as well as a transporter of the waste products of metabolism. Water is found in body fluids such as in the saliva that helps to transport food from the mouth to the stomach and through the intestinal tract. Synovial fluid of joints uses water as a lubricant. Water is also required in the chemical breakdown of complex nutrients into small compounds to be used by the body. Water is lost from the body in the urine, stool and through the lungs and skin. Water also plays a vital role in regulating the body temperature. Athletes must remember to stay well hydrated because water is easily lost through the lungs and skin during high levels of exertion.
Fiber is a naturally occurring complex carbohydrate found in food that is indigestible. Although it is not absorbed as other nutrients, it plays a very important role in maintaining good health
There are two types of fiber. The first is called insoluble fiber . This is also known as roughage and is composed of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. These fibers occur in plant material to give the plant its shape and structure. This type of fiber helps to maintain regularity and decreases the time that potentially harmful or cancerous causing compounds can come in contact with the lining of the intestine.
The second type of fiber is called soluble fiber and is composed of gum, mucilage and pectin. These soluble fibers play an important role in binding to fatty substances in the diet and excreting them with the stool. This important function lowers the blood cholesterol levels and helps to regulate blood glucose.
Some nutrients are essential to human growth and maintenance. A nutrient is considered essential when it is one that must be provided to the body by the food we eat. These essential nutrients must be provided in the diet since the body cannot be synthesized by the body from other nutrients.
Calorie is a term that is used as a measure of the amount of energy in food. One food calorie (a food calorie is really a kilocalorie and is a larger measure of energy than a calorie used in chemistry) is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree of Celsius. An active martial art athlete will require a much higher caloric intake when in training than he would if inactive (assuming he wants to maintain current body weight).
Useful Approach to Nutrition used at the Heart and Health Center
The following is the practical approach we use in the Healthy Lifestyle Clinic to help my patients improve their diet.
Students enrolled in the advanced 1000 hour course in Restorative Massage see patients with me in this clinic. These students are training to receive certification as “Holistic Health Practitioners” from the Napa Valley School of Massage.
The Healthy Lifestyle Clinic is held each week on Friday morning. Patients are scheduled for a 30 minute visit. This allows us time to greet the patient and obtain and record his or her weight, blood pressure, pulse and respirations (vital signs).
All this data is recorded on a computer that is opened to the patient's file. The patient's BMI is calculated and his ideal body weight is recorded. The patient is asked to recall three consecutive breakfasts, lunches and dinners. He or she is also asked to provide us with typical snacks eaten throughout the day. This information is also recorded on the computer. The patient also provides us with the level of exercise done each week. At this point, the Holistic Health Practitioner student then presents the patient's case to me and together we discuss potential areas for improvement.
It is interesting to me how quickly the students are able to see the patterns and areas for improvement. At the conclusion of the visit, the patient is given a copy of our findings and recommendations.
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