Chapter 1. Introduction to Nutrition
In addition to nutrition, health is affected by genetics, the environment, life cycle, and lifestyle. One facet of lifestyle is your dietary habits. Recall that we discussed briefly how nutrition affects health. A greater discussion of this will follow in subsequent chapters in this book, as there is an enormous amount of information regarding this aspect of lifestyle. Dietary habits include what a person eats, how much a person eats during a meal, how frequently meals are consumed, and how often a person eats out. Other aspects of lifestyle include physical activity level, recreational drug use, and sleeping patterns, all of which play a role in health and impact nutrition. Following a healthy lifestyle improves your overall health.
Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Canadians of all ages can take to improve their health. There is strong evidence that increased physical activity decreases the risk of early death, heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers; prevents weight gain and falls; and improves cognitive function in the elderly. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines are available at the website of The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.
Recreational Drug Use
Recreational drug use, which includes tobacco-smoking, electronic smoking device use, and alcohol consumption along with narcotic and other illegal drug use, has a large impact on health. Smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer, eleven other types of cancer, heart disease, and several other disorders or diseases that markedly decrease quality of life and increase mortality.
Staying away from excessive alcohol intake lowers blood pressure, the risk from injury, heart disease, stroke, liver problems, and some types of cancer. While excessive alcohol consumption can be linked to poor health, consuming alcohol in moderation has been found to promote health such as reducing the risk for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in some people. Drinking in moderation is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Illicit and prescription drug abuse are associated with decreased health. The health effects of drug abuse can be far-reaching, including the increased risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and liver disease.
Inadequate amounts of sleep, or not sleeping well, can also have remarkable effects on a person’s health. In fact, sleeping can affect your health just as much as your diet. Scientific studies have shown that insufficient sleep increases the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. Abnormal breathing during sleep, a condition called sleep apnea, is also linked to an increased risk for chronic disease.
Personal Choice: The Challenge of Choosing Foods
There are other factors besides environment and lifestyle that influence the foods you choose to eat. Different foods affect energy level, mood, how much is eaten, how long before you eat again, and if cravings are satisfied. We have talked about some of the physical effects of food on your body, but there are other effects too.
Food regulates your appetite and how you feel. Multiple studies have demonstrated that some high fiber foods and high-protein foods decrease appetite by slowing the digestive process and prolonging the feeling of being full or satiety. The effects of individual foods and nutrients on mood are not backed by consistent scientific evidence, but in general, most studies support that healthier diets are associated with a decrease in depression and improved well-being. To date, science has not been able to track the exact path in the brain that occurs in response to eating a particular food, but it is quite clear that foods, in general, stimulate emotional responses in people. Food also has psychological, cultural, and religious significance, so your personal choices of food affect your mind, as well as your body. The social implications of food have a great deal to do with what people eat, as well as how and when. Special events in individual lives—from birthdays to funerals—are commemorated with equally special foods. Being aware of these forces can help people make healthier food choices—and still honor the traditions and ties they hold dear.
Typically, eating kosher food means a person is Jewish; eating fish on Fridays during Lent means a person is Catholic; fasting during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar means a person is Muslim. On New Year’s Day, Japanese take part in an annual tradition of Mochitsuki also known as Mochi pounding in hopes of gaining good fortune over the coming year.
Factors that Drive Food Choices
Along with these influences, a number of other factors affect the dietary choices individuals make, including:
- Taste, texture, and appearance. Individuals have a wide range of tastes which influence their food choices, leading some to dislike milk and others to hate raw vegetables. Some foods that are very healthy, such as tofu, may be unappealing at first to many people. However, creative cooks can adapt healthy foods to meet most people’s taste.
- Economics. Access to fresh fruits and vegetables may be scant, particularly for those who live in economically disadvantaged or remote areas, where cheaper food options are limited to convenience stores and fast food.
- Early food experiences. People who were not exposed to different foods as children, or who were forced to swallow every last bite of overcooked vegetables, may make limited food choices as adults.
- Habits. It’s common to establish eating routines, which can work both for and against optimal health. Habitually grabbing a fast food sandwich for breakfast can seem convenient, but might not offer substantial nutrition. Yet getting in the habit of drinking an ample amount of water each day can yield multiple benefits.
- Culture. The culture in which one grows up affects how one sees food in daily life and on special occasions.
- Geography. Where a person lives influences food choices. For instance, people who live in Winnipeg may have less access to seafood than those living along the coasts.
- Advertising. The media greatly influences food choice by persuading consumers to eat certain foods.
- Social factors. Any school lunchroom observer can testify to the impact of peer pressure on eating habits, and this influence lasts through adulthood. People make food choices based on how they see others and want others to see them. For example, individuals who are surrounded by others who consume fast food are more likely to do the same.
- Health concerns. Some people have significant food allergies, to peanuts for example, and need to avoid those foods. Others may have developed health issues which require them to follow a low salt diet. In addition, people who have never worried about their weight have a very different approach to eating than those who have long struggled with excess weight.
- http://www.csep.ca/english/view.asp?x=804 ↵