WHAT IS FOOD MADE OF AND WHY DO WE EAT IT?
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© July 2012, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
This is an introductory article to the food and nutrition section of this website. It addresses the obvious, but not so simple question of why we have to eat food and what food really is.
WHAT IS FOOD?
A good definition of food is anything that tends to nourish the human body. It may range from mineral deposits like salt, to seaweeds, to strange animals, or even the blood or other tissues of an animal. The most consistent quality of all of these is that it contains some nutrient that our bodies require, and at the same time it does not contain too many things that are poisonous or toxic for our bodies.
The opposite of a food is a poison. This is something that does not contain much that is nourishing for our bodies, but does contain things that are toxic or harmful to the body. Obviously there are thousands of these substances, from minerals such as arsenic or mercury, to plants that are toxic such as some mushroom, to many toxic chemicals.
WHY DO WE NEED TO EAT FOOD?
The simplest answer is that this is how our bodies are designed to function. It is similar to the fact that one must put gasoline and oil in a car or it wonÕt run. In the same way, our bodies are set up to receive food in order to grow, maintain themselves, have energy and do all the things the body is supposed to do.
Without the correct nutrition or food, the body will break down, sooner or later. This is identical to the fact that if the gasoline and oil are not correct for the car, sooner or later the car will stop running smoothly and eventually it will be destroyed.
WHAT DOES THE BODY NEED IN TERMS OF FOOD?
Scientists have been working on this problem for years. They have tried feeding people all sorts of special diets of various foods, chemical copies of foods made in the laboratory, and other items to figure out exactly what a human being needs to eat.
Especially, with the recent NASA space program, scientists want to know what foods people need to take with them on their journey into space so they will stay healthy. Obviously, it is hard to take all foods along, such as cows, chickens and even a large variety of fruits and vegetables. So they have spent years trying to find out which are most important.
Unfortunately, the search for exactly what people need is not over. However, scientists around the world have learned a lot about human nutrition. This is the subject of this entire course.
1. People seem to need a certain number of calories. A calorie is a unit of heat. Actually, what is called a food calorie is equal to 1000 heat units. Scientists find that human beings need at least 1000 calories or 1,000,000 heat units daily or more, depending on many factors. These heat units are found in several kinds of foods that are called fats, oils, sugars and starches. Protein also contains some of them, although this is not as good a source as the others.
2. Most people need at least about 40 grams of protein daily or more. Protein is a type of chemical that is the building material for the human and all animal bodies. A separate article discusses protein in much more detail.
3. People also need certain essential fats or oils in their food. Fats and oils are complex chemicals that are also sources of heat or energy for the body. A separate article discusses them.
4. All people also need a large set of chemicals, sometimes called phytonutrients. These are found mainly in vegetables. Some are also found in all other foods such as fruits, meats, eggs, etc.
5. People do not seem to live well eating just manufactured food. People need fresh meats, eggs, vegetables and other real, whole natural foods.
6. People need a variety of foods. In other words, living on the same food every single day, while it is okay, it is not the best. A variety of meats, eggs, poultry, and vegetables seems to work the best.
7. People need different foods in different locations, different climates, and for different kinds of lifestyles. A person who works physically will require more calories, for example, than a person who works in an office in most cases.
Food needs also differ to some degree based upon their body chemistry. We call this the oxidation rate. Those with a fast oxidation rate seem to require more fats and oils. Babies have a fast oxidation rate in most cases, and they do very well on motherÕs milk, which is very high in fat.
In contrast, slow oxidizers, which includes most adults, seem to need more protein and vegetables, and not as much fats and oils.
8. Most people need a lot more nutrition than the are getting today in America, in particular, but in other nations, too. Primitive tribes often got a lot more nutrition because all their food was freshly killed or freshly picked, and most of it was minimally processed or refined very little. This means it was eaten in a state close to nature. Most tribes cooked their food, but did little else to it.
9. Most people today also have special nutritional needs due to stress, old age, chronic illnesses, pregnancy, breastfeeding needs, activity level and other factors. This means that most people need even better nutrition.