Serving the community for over 100 years

What is Nutrition and Food?

When starting a new eating pattern, it’s good to know the basics of nutrition and what the foods we eat are made up of.

Nutrition (also called nourishment) is the process of providing fuel (ie. food) to cells and organisms to support life, for growth, maintenance and repair of worn tissue.

Humans need food to supply the “building blocks” necessary to build tissues, to repair tissues as they wear out and die, to keep the body strong, healthy, in good working condition, and to supply fuel for energy.

Good nutrition is vital for good health

Food is any edible substance, made of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, water, non-digestible matter such as fibre and other things. These provide the body with the energy to work well, to perform daily tasks, to grow, to keep disease away and to repair damaged parts.

No single food provides all the substances the body needs (nutrients) for good health (except breast milk for babies). Most foods contain varying proportions of nutrients and the body uses each in a different way. Food is consumed for nutrition and pleasure purposes.

Water makes up about 70% of the body and is essential for health and all the body’s functions. It moves nutrients into cells and gets rid of waste products from the body’s cells.

Good nutrition is reflected in the growth and function of the body and also in a person’s appearance. The eyes, body size, skin, hair and teeth show whether body nourishment is good or poor. Many common health problems can be prevented or improved with good nutrition. If disease develops, good nutrition helps minimize the effects. People never outlive the need for good nutrition.

Poor nutrition can have a bad impact on health, and may come from eating too much (excess) or too little (deficiency) of different foods, eg. a poorly nourished adult will have a decreased resistance to infection and disease, a poorly nourished child won’t develop properly and could be tired or have poor concentration.  An excess of some foods may result in obesity, heart disease or diabetes.

Poor nutrition may result from bad food choices (made with or without nutrition knowledge), from limited availability of healthy choices and from limited access and transport to food shops.  Poor nutrition is a contributing factor in the declining health of indigenous people.

Nutrition is also important for digestion and circulation.

Historically, most human cultures used to get food through hunting and gathering. Today most cultures use farming, ranching, and fishing, and food is transported over longer distances.  Accordingly, most people don’t have to exercise as much as they did in the past. Lack of exercise may also contribute to some of our health problems and diseases.

When people refer to diet they are usually referring to what someone eats. Dietitians and nutritionists are health professionals who specialize in diets including human nutrition, meal planning, economics, food preparation, and so on. They are trained to provide safe, evidence-based dietary advice and management to individuals (in health and disease), as well as to businesses such as IBIS.

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