While you enjoy the sensual qualities of food—the mouth-watering appearance, aroma, texture, and flavor—your body relies on the life-sustaining functions that nutrients in food perform. Other food substances, including phytonutrients (or plant substances), appear to offer even more health benefits beyond nourishment. What’s inside your food?
Your body can’t make most nutrients from food, or produce energy, without several key nutrients. You need a varied, adequate supply of nutrients from food for your nourishment—and life itself. Your food choices are digested, or broken down into nutrients, then absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to every cell of your body. Most of the body’s work takes place in cells, and food’s nutrients are essential to your bodies “do list.” More than forty nutrients in food, classified into six groups, have specific and unique functions for nourishment. Their work is linked in partnerships for your good health.
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Nutrients: How Much
Everyone around you needs the same nutrients—just in different amounts. Why differences? For healthy people, age, gender, and body size are among the reasons.
More than Nutrients: Foods’ Functional Components
Food contains much more than nutrients! Science is beginning to uncover the benefits of other substances in food: phytonutrients (including fiber), omega fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, and pre- and probiotics, to name a few. Described as “functional,” these substances do more than nourish you. They appear to promote your health and protect you from health risks related to many major health problems, including heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and macular degeneration, among others.
At least for now, no DRIs exist for the functional components in food, except for fiber. And scientists don’t yet fully understand their roles in health.
Healthful Eating, Active Living: One Step at a Time!
The sooner you invest in your health, the greater the benefit! If you’re ready to eat smarter or move more, use these goal-setting steps to invest in your health and the health of your family, one easy step at a time.
Set personal goals. Know what you want—perhaps a healthier weight or lower cholesterol levels. And be realistic. Change doesn’t mean giving up a food you like. However, smaller portions, different ways of cooking, or being more physically active give you more “wiggle room” to occasionally enjoy foods with more calories.
Make gradual changes. Change for the long run takes time, commitment, and encouragement. Most health goals take a lifelong commitment. Stick with your plan, even if success takes time.
Pat yourself on the back with a bike ride, a walk with a friend, a new CD, or a new outfit. Feeling good is the best reward! Reevaluate your plan every month or two. See how changes you made—the simple steps you took— fit with your goals. You may even tackle a new goal