Nutrition: A to Z


These are days of tremendous changes. When we awaken in the morning, we immediately check the news to see what has happened while we slept. We venture into the day wondering what will happen before nightfall to change the world we live in.

Psychologically and mentally, and sometimes emotionally, man is very adaptive. From a quiet, rural, agricultural way of life, we have accepted the busy, industrial, technological turnpike we are on. We have survived Dunkirk and Dachau and are enduring Vietnam. Man has spun through space and walked on the moon.

Yet for all these outward changes, man remains physically the same biological organism. His biosystem, whatever the outward adaptation, operates within inflexible limits. The body temperature, caloric intake, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels provide balances and set boundaries beyond which the body, as presently constituted, cannot safely venture.

These balances and boundaries are to a great extent determined and set by the food we eat. Although man from earth may walk on the moon out in space, he is protected while there and on his journey with the same temperature control as on earth and with food and water from earth.

What are you doing to insure the well-being of your family in this changing world?

Choosing the best food for the body is a science—a science of nutrition, of food at work. We are aware that food works for the body in three major ways:

1. It provides materials not only to build the body but also to repair and maintain it.

2. It supplies regulators that enable the body to run smoothly and to use other vital materials, such as oxygen and water.

3. It provides fuel for energy and warmth.

Are we aware daily and consistently of the importance of good nutrition? There can be no doubt about it, it is fun to eat. But do we have the discipline as fathers and mothers, and are we encouraging the discipline in our children, to choose to eat those foods that will be best for the full functioning of the marvelous biosystem our Father has given us?

Check up on the family: Are they feeling eager for life? Full of energy? Are the girls slender and graceful? Are the boys lean and lithesome? Are complexions fair and healthy? Eyes sparkling with enthusiasm? Is sleep at night peaceful, composed?

Since we are what we eat, are we happy with what we are?

The all-important matter of eating the right foods in order to improve the way we feel and look is not the happy accident it would seem to be. It is a matter of wisely choosing the best.

Six main categories of nutrients are supplied by the food we eat:

1. Water: to provide some minerals, but more importantly to act as a medium in which chemical reactions take place and to act as the body’s lubricant.

2. Proteins: for muscle and organ tissue growth and replacement and to build organic substances, called enzymes, to step up chemical reactions from the body.

3. Fats: for energy, as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins, and as sources of essential fatty acids.

4. Minerals: to build and replace bones and teeth, for enzymatic reactions, and to firm up tissues.

5. Carbohydrates: to give us body energy.

6. Vitamins: to regulate the vast number of reactions constantly going on in the body.

Our bodies need a continuous supply of all nutrients, from vitamin A to the mineral zinc, in both good supply and correct balance to promote continued vitality and health. Necessary every single day are about three quarts of water, to carry the food (fuel) to all cells in the body, to act as a medium within which cellular reactions take place, and to remove waste products from the body; approximately 2,500 calories of energy, mostly from carbohydrates and fats; 65 grams of protein; 5 grams of minerals; less than one gram of vitamins.

To make it easy to choose the variety of foods necessary for a balanced diet, the essential foods are listed in four groups. Each group might be assigned a representative color that will help you associate foods of similar nutritive value. Remember to eat representative foods from each group daily. Following are the food groups, with the color assigned to each:

RED for the meat group. This includes animal proteins—meat, poultry, fish, eggs—which have high food value and are especially rich in iron and B vitamins. We need two or more servings from this group every day.

GREEN for fruits and vegetables. These include vital sources of vitamins, particularly A and C, plus some minerals. We need four or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

BROWN for the cereals and breads, which supply carbohydrates, important sources of body energy. This group, which includes whole-grain, enriched cereals and bread, also furnishes B vitamins and iron. We should eat four or more servings each day from this group.

YELLOW for milk and dairy products. These give one calcium, a most important mineral, plus protein, riboflavin, vitamin A, and much more. Adults need two or more glasses of milk, or its dairy equivalent, each day to fulfill the calcium requirement; children need three or more. Part or all of the milk may be fluid skim milk, buttermilk, evaporated milk, or dry milk. Cheese and ice cream may replace part of the milk.

If we can keep the biosystem within the body regulated and operating at full capacity with the proper intake of food, we are better prepared to meet the changes in our world. Have fun eating, but be aware of what you eat.

[illustration] Art by Cheryl Tourney and McRay Magleby

Sister Thackeray, consumer education specialist for Utah State University Extension Services, served twenty-two years as home economist in General Foods test kitchens in New York City. She has written for Woman’s Home Companion and has a weekly column in the Salt Lake Tribune. She serves as spiritual living teacher for West 11th Ward Relief Society, University West Stake, in Salt Lake City.