DIET AND NUTRITION: THE CONCEPT AND CONTENTS


By Uchechi Nwosu

Diet is the total amount of food consumed by a person. Nutritious food contains all the essential nutrients – protein, fats, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet should contain all these in the correct proportions and sufficient quantity. The word diet implies a particular intake of food for health and weight-management reasons. Every person or culture has some preferences or taboos about food due to morality, personal taste or religion.

Nutrition is the provision of materials (in form of food) to an organism to support its life. Food is a thing which, when eaten and digested, can be used by the body to provide energy, or substances that help in body building and repair or in preservation of health. Food includes many things we eat and drink. It does not include alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

Foods may grouped into types according to whether they are a) solid or liquid, b) local or imported, c)cereals, vegetables or fruits, and d) eaten raw or cooked. Solid foods are yam, rice, bread, beans etc. examples of liquid food are milk, cocoa drinks and fruit juices. Local foods can be sourced domestically, e.g. sweet potato, guinea corn, yam beans etc. imported foods are stockfish, milk, pasta, cheese. Foods that can be eaten raw are lettuce, pawpaw, cucumber, carrot etc. those that can be cooked are yam, rice, meat, fish, potato etc.

Foods can also be grouped into classes based on the chemical composition of the food and the nutrients present in the food. Accordingly, foods are grouped into six classes, namely carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oil (or liquids), vitamins, minerals salts and water. Carbohydrates are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen in carbohydrate is 2:1. Carbohydrates are energy giving food. Examples are garri, yam, rice; maize etc. proteins comprise carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. They may also sulphur and phosphorus. Proteins are used in body-building, and growth and repair of worn-out cells. Examples are meat, fish, milk, yoghurt, beans etc. fats and oils are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Fats are solid at room temperature, but their chemical compositions are similar. They are energy-giving foods. Examples are animal fats, palm oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, and margarine.

Vitamins are required by the body in small quantities. Examples are vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K. when presents, the body is healthy. When each vitamin is absent, the body suffers from a specific disease, unique to the absence of that vitamin. The diseases that arise when vitamins are absent are called vitamin-deficiency disease.
A poor diet may have a serious impact on a person’s health, causing disease such as scurvy, kwashiorkor, obesity, diabetes and heart conditions. It is best to eat a wide variety of foods, especially fresh, unprocessed foods.
Don’t joke with your Diet.

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