Food and water. The most basic of human requirements. Over the last few thousand years you would think that the human race might have perfected the art of sustenance – filling our bodies with just the right blend of ingredients to keep ourselves fit and healthy. But as Nutrition and Hydration Week attempts to highlight, there is still much to be done.

If anything, the modern diet is worse than that of the generations that have preceded us. With rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes at an all-time high, there is clear evidence to suggest that society is not paying enough attention to our nutritional needs.

The aim of Nutrition and Hydration Week 2016 is to:

“Create a global movement that will reinforce and focus, energy, activity and engagement on nutrition and hydration as an important part of quality care, experience and safety improvement in health and social care settings.”

With this in mind, let us take a closer look at how your diet can help you stay fit and healthy.

The macronutrients

Macronutrients refers to the nutrients the body needs in relatively large quantities to survive. Eating any of the three main macronutrients to excess can lead to unnecessary weight gain, but no one can survive without these substances altogether.

Fats

While the word ‘fats’ may seem like a dirty word, it is important to establish that a number of fats are important to a healthy diet. While too much in the way of trans-fats can lead to furring of the arteries, weight gain and all manner of health problems, a regulated level of fat and fatty acids plays an important role in absorbing essential vitamins, keeping your skin healthy and fuelling your energy levels. Among the best sources of ‘good fats’ comes from fish, oils (olive oil and canola oil), avocados and nuts.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have also come under fire in recent years as a key reason why people find it difficult to keep weight off. But make no mistake, we need carbohydrates in our diet as fuel for our muscles.

It should be said, however, that carbohydrates aren’t just found in bread and potatoes. People can gain their recommended daily intake of carbs simply by eating a good balance of fruit and vegetables.

Proteins

Proteins are absolutely crucial to the repair and growth of the body’s tissues and they even help to regulate blood sugar. Our hair and nails are predominantly comprised of protein and any number of hormones and chemicals within the body rely on an adequate supply of protein.

Proteins can be found in both meat and plant-based foods, so vegetarians can easily meet the recommended daily intake simply by ensuring a steady intake of greens and pulses such as lentils, broccoli and even peas

Micronutrients

In addition to macronutrients there are also a number of nutrients the body requires in small quantities to keep them running smoothly. These consist of vitamins, minerals and trace elements such as:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
  • Iodine
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Beta-carotene
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

These nutrients contribute towards everything from normal brain function to a healthy immune system, strengthening bones to facilitating the breakdown of food into energy.

Hydration

There is nothing humans need to ingest more readily than water. While the body can go without even macronutrients for many days, it is impossible to survive for long without water. 60% of the body is comprised of water and every cell requires water to function correctly. Staying hydrated enables the body to effectively regulate temperature and blood flow, digest foods and even support the function of vital organs.

If you’d like to know more about why hydration is important, read our article Are you drinking enough water?

Nutrition and Hydration Week runs until the 20th March. Find out more.