What should we eat?
Food (noun): “Substance taken into body to maintain life and growth; nutriment.”
My mother told me to eat my liver, eggs and greens, to drink my milk and to take my cod liver oil. Her mother told her the same and her mother before that. Somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten that we eat food for a reason. Food is essential for human life and health and we need to eat food because of the nutrients it provides. Let us have a quick reminder of the life sustaining roles performed by nutrients in the body, as a precursor to the argument that we need to eat the right food for the right reason.
Macronutrients are, collectively, carbohydrate, protein and fat. The Greek word macro means large and these are nutrients that we (allegedly) need in large quantities. In this Part Three of the book, we explore carbohydrate and fat in some detail and I will argue that our need for carbohydrate is not large, if there is a need at all, and that the critical macronutrients for the human body are protein and fat – but that the micronutrients provided by carbohydrate can be valuable.
Micronutrients are, as the name suggests, those needed by the body in smaller quantities. Vitamins and minerals fall into this category. (We also need water and oxygen, but I’ll take those as read).
There are 13 vitamins in total: A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E and K. The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K and, as their name suggests, they are found in fats and need to be consumed in/with fats for their absorption. The water soluble vitamins are vitamin C and the vitamin B group, which comprises: B1 (thiamine); B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin); B5 (pantothenic acid); B6 (pyridoxine); B7 (biotin); B9 (folic acid) and B12 (cobalamin).
There are two categories of minerals – macro minerals are both present in the body and needed by the body in larger amounts than the trace minerals (where only a trace is needed). The macro minerals are: calcium; chloride; magnesium; phosphorus; potassium; sodium and sulphur. The trace minerals are: chromium; copper; fluoride; iodine; iron; manganese; molybdenum; selenium and zinc. (Fluoride is one of sixteen minerals commonly listed in nutritional textbooks. It is not, however, an essential nutrient and not a substance that the body needs to – or even should – ingest. It has been added to the water supply in many developed countries, as it is noted to decrease dental caries. This makes it an antidote to sugar in effect. Surely humans are better off without both fluoride and sugar).
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