According to a 2015 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey of health professionals with experience in Central America, populations in developing areas of this region lack basic knowledge of biology and physiology. Beginning with a discussion of basic health concepts and then explaining how nutrition affects our bodies is a good strategy.
Explaining Organ Functions
- Lungs: provide oxygen to blood
- Heart: circulates blood throughout the body
- Stomach: helps digest food
- Intestines: absorb nutrients from food
- Liver: removes toxins from blood and processes nutrients from food
- Kidneys: filter blood of waste and extra fluid
Nutrition is how food affects the health of the body. Food is essential—it provides vital nutrients for survival, and helps the body function and stay healthy. Food is comprised of macronutrients including protein, carbohydrate and fat that not only offer calories to fuel the body and give it energy but play specific roles in maintaining health. Food also supplies micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicals that don’t provide calories but serve a variety of critical functions to ensure the body operates optimally.
Explaining Macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat
Protein: Found in beef, pork, chicken, game and wild meats, fish and seafood, eggs, soybeans and other legumes included in traditional Central America cuisine, protein provides the body with amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins which are needed for growth, development, and repair and maintenance of body tissues. Protein provides structure to muscle and bone, repairs tissues when damaged and helps immune cells fight inflammation and infection.
Carbohydrates: The main role of a carbohydrate is to provide energy and fuel the body the same way gasoline fuels a car. Foods such as corn, chayote, beans, plantains, rice, tortilla, potatoes and other root vegetables such as yucca, bread and fruit deliver sugars or starches that provide carbohydrates for energy.