Every food we eat affects and contributes to our body and our health in some way. The effect can be instant, such as feeling energised or ready to move, or feeling lethargic and sleepy; or it can be long term – leading to weight gain or heart disease. Regardless, everything we eat contains nutrients which the body processes in different ways.
Some foods are more nutritious or have a higher nutrient density than others. For example, a cheese and salad sandwich for lunch has more macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrate, protein and some fat) and micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals such as calcium) than a sausage roll (i.e. some carbohydrate and protein, but a lot of fat). Thus the sausage roll is more energy-dense than nutrient-dense.
How are nutrition and overall health linked?
Before we are even born what we eat influences our development. And from the first moments after we are born, when we first breastfeed, nutrition is linked to our health. That first feed influences what we call our microbiome. The microbiome is the road map that helps program us for the future; containing the genetic information that tells our body how to function, digest food and protect us from disease.
Our diet regulates our microbiome. What we eat determines the millions of microorganisms and bacterium which grow in our gut. Since our diet has evolved from hunter-gatherer farmed foods to consuming more industrialised processed foods; our gut microbiota has changed. and the prevalence of chronic and metabolic diseases has risen. Thus, eating more nutritious foods increases the nutrients available in our body to function, which helps us achieve optimum health.
As we go on to grow and develop into children, young adults and older adults, what we eat will influence our development at that stage of our lives.