Nutrition is the process by which organisms take in and utilize food material. Does that statement sound seriously boring to anyone besides me?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been overly interested in learning about nutrition. Yes, I’m into living healthily and doing things naturally, but that doesn’t mean I want to understand every single component of living this type of lifestyle. I wasn’t thrilled with taking nutrition in high school, I was happy when I wasn’t required to take it in nursing school (silly though, I know), and I’m still not itching to dive into a nutrition book and learn all about it.
Because the majority of it isn’t what I believe to be ideal and true in the first place, and secondly… because it’s a major snooze! Honestly… it is!
Here’s the deal though. Nutrition matters. Especially if you want your kids to get as much nourishment from foods as possible so you don’t have to supplement so much. Nutrition encompasses the basics (and complexities) of the way God made our bodies. Those are the things that we as parents need to understand in order to make sure that not only we stay healthy, but our kids stay healthy as well.
So if you’re like me and learning about nutrition sounds like a total bore to you, this post is for you. Today I’m going to be giving you the 5 basic elements of children’s nutrition. It’s going to be broken up to where you can actually “get it,” and I promise I won’t make it boring. And yes, this info applies to adults too.
Two Main Components
Nutrients are responsible for the maintenance, repair, growth and reproduction of the body, and all foods contain these two basic nutritional components.
Macronutrients and Micronutrients
Macronutrients are things like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats while micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. In order for our children to be healthy, we must make sure they get proper amounts of all these nutrients every day.
There are three nutrients that are considered macronutrients… proteins, carbs, and fats.
Proteins are essential for the proper function and structure of the body, but not only that, they also help with digestion, metabolism, and the production of antibodies to help fight infection. They are the building blocks for every single cell in the body.
Proteins also supply the body with amino acids. Amino acids are used in various ways in the body like hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters. If we’re lacking in protein, therefore lacking in amino acids, our bodies are not only not going to be structurally sound or as able to heal and repair itself, but our moods and thought processes will be affected too.
Proteins are split into two groups, complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins just means that the food contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need, and incomplete proteins means that the food contains some, but not all, of the essential amino acids. We’ll talk more about this Friday when I talk about how to plan meals for your kids.
Proteins sources are things like animal meats, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts, and some vegetables.
Fats are an energy source for the body, and we need them. They are a long lasting form of energy, they keep you feeling full longer, they give our bodies shape and insulation, and they are beneficial to the function of the body.
Besides giving us long lasting energy and keeping us feeling full, fats play an important role in the function and structure of the body. They strengthen the immune system , are involved in inter-cellular communication, protect against cancer, help the receptors on cell membranes work properly, and are involved in kidney function and hormone production among many other things.
There are basically two forms of fats: saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature like butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, and palm oil. These fats give our cells the structure that they need to function.
Unsaturated fats are those that are liquid at room temperature like olive, grapeseed, sunflower, evening primrose, or any other plant based oil.
Now when it comes to learning about which oils are best to use, I love this section of the Weston A. Price article, Principles of Healthy Diets. There’s an entire section on fats. Basically, we need both saturated and unsaturated fats to stay healthy with the larger portion being saturated.
Carbohydrates are another energy source to the body, and they provide energy much quicker than fats do. They also don’t last as long. So, if you were to feed your child a high fat lunch, chances are she’d stay full longer than if you fed her a high carb/low fat lunch. Carbs, like everything else we’ve talked about, provides the body with necessary functions and structure as well.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs.
Simple carbs come from things like white processed foods, sugars (even natural sugars), fruits, and milk. These simple carbs turn to sugar and are stored in the body quickly.
Complex carbs are made up of a bunch of simple carbs, but they take longer to turn to sugar and to be stored. They are known as starches and fiber and found in whole grain breads, pasta, rice, and potatoes.
So which carbs are best for your kids? All of them! No I’m not talking about white, processed, void-of-nutrition type foods or candies. I’m talking about real foods… foods that God created to grow in the ground and on bushes and trees. Our bodies need some simple carbs and complex carbs with the majority of our carb intake being complex carbs.
Micronutrients are found in all food sources (some more than others) and consist of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins are compounds that are created by plants and bacteria. We humans can not make our own vitamins which is why we must either get them from our foods, through healthy gut flora, or we must supplement.
When it comes to vitamins, there are two types: fat soluble and water soluble.
Fat soluble vitamins are found in… you guessed it, fats. These vitamins are needed in adequate amounts, but they don’t need to be consumed as often as water soluble vitamins do. Fat soluble vitamins are stored in the bodies fat cells to be used when needed. Since these vitamins are stored in the body, the body can become toxic if too many are consumed.
Water soluble vitamins need to be consumed in small, frequent amounts, and most don’t have toxic levels. If the body gets too many water soluble vitamins, they’re just excreted through the kidneys and out of the body with urine. You’ve heard about having expensive pee right?
Minerals typically come from the earth and are formed in our foods as the foods grow in mineral-rich dirt. Minerals are needed by the body to help with metabolic functions such as iron helping oxygen to attach to red blood cells and calcium helping to make bones and teeth strong.
So here it is folks… we first of all need to be choosing real, whole forms of food that are as natural to the way God created them as possible. We also want those foods to contain adequate sources of vitamins and minerals for ourselves and our children. On top of that, we need to be sure that we’re balancing our meals by including each of the three macronutrients to ensure that we’re eating what our body requires.
If you’re wondering how much of what macronutrients are needed to ensure a balanced meal, well we’ll talk about that this coming Friday.
Have any questions about this information? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll try to find the answers together!