Why We Eat: Food and the Body
In this article we are going to look at the connection between food and our physiology and why food can play such an important role in optimising health and improving physique.
Food provides the basic nutritional components needed for us to function such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates (which in turn provide calories to enable us to make energy). It also provides micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals as well as phytonutrients (these are like chemical messengers that can have profound impacts on our health).
Ultimately food provides the building blocks and information for life to exist. Understanding how food impacts your body can ultimately help you make more conscious decisions about foods that are more supportive of your health and perhaps physique goals.
What are we?
It is important to firstly understand what we are.
If we have a deeper appreciation for what we are we can have a deeper appreciation of how our nutrition choices might impact us.
When it comes to the human body, we are made up of a bunch of systems that are in constant communication with each other. These systems include the musculoskeletal system, central nervous system, hormonal/endocrine system, digestive system and so forth.
These systems are then made up of specific organs.
If you look at the digestive system as an example, it comprises of organs such as the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, but is also relies upon organs (such as the pancreas and gallbladder) to be able to carry out its normal functions. Then of course there’s the trillions of bacteria in our gut that also have a crucial role in how our digestive systems function as well.
When we look at organs they are also made up of tissue. This tissue is made up of cells and the cells made up of organelles such as things like the mitochondria that act like the powerhouses to help us make energy.
For all these things to function on a cellular level they rely upon atoms and molecules which are tiny little particles that act as the basic building blocks.
It is necessary to note that we find these atoms and molecules in the air we breathe, along with the food and fluids that we consume.
To think that nutrition plays little role in our health when we are essentially made up of the things that we decide to consume is madness in my opinion. It shows a complete lack of understanding of human physiology and a lack of appreciation that we can influence how we look, feel and think from the choices that we make with nutrition and lifestyles.
Just think about it, if we cannot supply what our body demands to function then the organelles and cells become dysfunctional. This then results in dysfunctional tissues, organs, systems and thus a dysfunctional body. As a result, we start to experience symptoms such as:
- Poor skin, hair and nails
- Reduced energy levels & poor mood
- Increased illness and immune issues
- Digestive troubles
- Hormonal irregularities
Of course, there are many moving parts in this picture but to use an analogy of a tree: nutrition is one of the main roots that allows that tree to grow strong. Neglecting your nutrition for sustained periods results in a body that struggles and a risk of the development of unwanted symptoms and even the increased risk of disease.
At the time of writing this piece in the UK we are spending around £10,000,000,000 per year on type 2 diabetes alone in the NHS. This is around 10% of the total NHS budget on a disease that is largely influenced by our lifestyles, in particular the food that we eat and how much we move.
We can therefore conclude that food can be viewed as the substance of life, and the more nutrient-dense the food, the chances are that there will be a better quality of life.
This is not to say that every meal must be perfect, we all like to have flexibility in our diet where we can satisfy emotional and social mechanisms behind food and that is totally fine, it’s about finding the balance that is appropriate to you. My recommendation though is to prioritise the physical aspect of your nutrition. Find foods that you know are going to serve your body well and remain open minded about what those foods might be. Try not to categorise yourself as eating a certain diet or follow a dogmatic approach to eating because sometimes those choices only support you in the short term and if we categorise ourselves as only eating in a certain way it can be harder to step away from that methodology when change is required.