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Home > Art Of Healthy Living > Balanced eating > Optimum Nutrition
Optimum Nutrition
HippocretesHippocrates once said "Your food shal be your medecine." Diet plays a vital role in the maintenance of good health and in the prevention and cure of disease. In the words of Sir Robert McCarrison, one of the best known nutritionists, "The right kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of health and the wrong kind of food is the most important single factor in the promotion of disease."

With the help of various nutrients the human body builds up and maintains healthy cells, tissues, glands and organs. Without specific nutrients the body cannot perform any of its functions, be they metabolic, hormonal, mental, physical or chemical. The food, which provides these nutrients, is thus one of the most essential factors in building and maintaining health.

Nutrition, which depends on food, is also of utmost importance in the cure of disease. The adoption of a faulty nutritional pattern weakens the organism or lowers resistance in the body which is the primary cause of diseases. There is an elaborate healing mechanism within the body but it can perform its function only if it is abundantly supplied with all the essential nutritional factors.

It is believed that human cells need atleast 45 chemical components and elements. Each of these 45 substances, called essential nutrients, must be present in adequate diets. The list of these nutrients include oxygen and water. The other 43 essential nutrients are classified into five main groups, namely carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. All 45 of these nutrients are vitally important and they work together. Therefore, the absence of any of them will result in disease and eventually in death.

Research has shown that an under-supply of various nutrients can cause almost all varieties of disease. On account of various factors, including the intense processing and refining of foods, the time lag between the harvesting and consumption of vegetables and fruits, the chemicals used in bleaching, flavouring, colouring and preserving foods and the chemical fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides and sprays used for treating the soil etc these nutritional deficiencies occur. Therefore, as a first principle of nutrition, one should insist upon whole meal flour and whole meal bread and avoid the white refined flour.

Research has also shown that diseases produced by combinations of deficiencies can be corrected when all the nutrients are supplied, provided ir-repairable damage has not been done. A well-balanced and correct diet is thus of utmost importance for the maintenance of good health and the healing of diseases. Such a diet obviously should be made up of foods, which in combination would supply all the essential nutrients.

It has been found that a diet, which contains liberal quantities of (i) seeds, nuts, and grains, (ii) vegetables and (iii) fruits, would provide adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients. These foods have, therefore, been aptly called basic food groups and the diet containing these food groups as optimum diet for vigour and vitality. It is described, in brief, below:

Seeds, nuts and grains: These are the most important and the most potent of all foods and contain all the important nutrients needed for human growth. They contain the germ, the reproductive power which is of vital importance for the lives of human beings and their health. Millet, wheat, oats, barley, brown ric, beans and peas are all highly valuable in building health. Wheat, mung beans, alfalfa seeds and soya beans make excellent sprouts. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts and soya beans contain complete proteins of high biological value.

Seeds, nuts and grains are also excellent natural sources of essential unsaturated fatty acids necessary for health. They are also good sources of lecithin and most of the B vitamins. They are the best natural sources of vitamin C, which is perhaps the most important vitamin for the preservation of health and prevention of premature ageing. Besides, they are rich sources of minerals and supply necessary bulk in the diet. They alsocontain auxones, the natural substances that play an import ant role in the rejuvenation of cells and prevention of premature ageing.

Vegetables: They are extremely rich source of minerals, enzymes and vitamins. Faulty cooking and prolonged careless storage, however, destroy these valuable nutrients. Most of the vegetables are, therefore, best consumed in their natural raw state in the form of salads.

There are different kinds of vegetables. They may be edible roots, stems, leaves, fruits and seeds. Each group contributes to the diet in its own way. Fleshy roots have high energy value and good sources of vitamin B. Seeds are relatively high in carbohydrates and proteins and yellow ones are rich in vitamin A. Leaves, stems and fruits are excellent sources of minerals, vitamins, water and roughage.

To prevent loss of nutrients in vegetables, it would be advisable to steam or boil vegetables in their juices on a slow fire and the water or cooking liquid should not be drained off. No vegetable should be peeled unless it is so old that the peel is tough and unpalatable. In most root vegetables, the largest amount of mineral is directly under the skin and these are lost if vegetables are peeled. Soaking of vegetables should also be avoided i taste and nutritive value are to be preserved.

Fruits: Like vegetables, fruits are an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and enzymes. They are easily digested and exercise a cleansing effect on the blood and digestive tract. They contain high alkaline properties, a high percentage of wafer and a low percentage of proteins and fats. Their organic acid and high sugar content have immediate refreshing effects. Apart from seasonal fresh fruits, dry fruits, such as raisins, Prunes and figs are also beneficial.

Fruits are at their best when eaten in the raw and ripe states. If cooked they lose portions of the nutrient salts and carbohydrates. They are most beneficial when taken as a separate meal by themselves, preferably for breakfast in the morning. It becomes necessary to take fruits with regular food, they should form a larger proportion of the meals. Fruits, however, make better combination with milk than with meals. It is also desirable to take one kind of fruit at a time. For the maintenance of good health, at least one pound of uncooked fruits should form part of the daily diet. In case of sickness, it will be advisable to take fruits in the form of juices.

The three basic health-building foods mentioned above should be supplemented with certain special foods such as milk, vegetable oils and honey. Milk is an excellent food. It is considered as "Nature`s most nearly perfect food". The best way to take milk is in its soured form that is, yogurt and cottage cheese. Soured milk is superior to sweet milk as it is in a predigested form and more easily assimilated. Milk helps maintain a healthy intestinal flora and prevents intestinal putrefaction and constipation.

High quality unrefined vegetable oils should be added to the diet. They are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and P and lecithin. The average daily amount should not exceed two tablespoons. Honey too, is an ideal food. It helps increase calcium retention in the system, prevents nutritional anaemia besides being beneficial in kidney and liver disorders, colds, poor circulation and complexion problems. It is one of nature`s finest energy-giving food.

A diet of the three basic food groups, supplemented with the special foods mentioned above, will ensure a complete and adequate supply of all the vital nutrients needed for health, vitality and prevention of diseases. It is not necessary to include animal protein like egg, fish or meat in this basic diet, as animal protein, especially meat, always has a detrimental effect on the healing processes. A high animal protein is harmful to health and may cause many of our common ailments.
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