Basics of Nutrition

//: Ella Olsson Photography


When I sat down in my first Nutrition Class I was blown away.  The professor, a very stylish Naturopathic Doctor, exuded power through her knowledge of food.  She knows it well – all the way down to the biochemical level – what happens to it from the moment it enters our body until it leaves – All of its interactions with our internal environment as well as synergistic effects (both beneficial and detrimental) that happen when we intake meals or supplements. “This,” I told myself from day 1, “is something I want in my arsenal!” Immediately, I understood, Nutritional knowledge can help us all maximize that philosophy – You know, the one that says, “Let Food be thy Medicine and Medicine be Thy Food”.  The more we learn, the more we understand and the closer we come to finding the keys that unlock and resolve so many issues, from chronic fatigue to bad skin to constipation.

The Basics: 

Nutrition is defined as the science that interprets interaction of nutrients in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease patterns within organisms.  It includes food intake, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion. Adequate levels of nutritional substances in our body provide a fundamental pillar of energy that our body relies on to carry out her daily tasks (and if you are a go-getter or super mom – the energy you need to tackle you dreams or keep up with you kids).

Essential Nutrients: 

Our Bodies Need 3  Essential Nutrients to Function:

Carbohydrates – Primarily Used for Energy + Source of Fiber

Fats – Energy Reserves, Thermal Insulation, Main Components of Cell Membrane, Vitamin Transporters, Organ Padding + Can be converted to other compounds

Proteins – Building Blocks of All Organs, Tissue Repair + Messengers of the Endocrine System

Nutritional Requirements:

In so many ways we are o-so-similar. For this Reason, the US Food and Nutition Board made a Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) in 1997, providing information to health care professionals, proposing standards of daily nutritional intake. These standards take into account a person’s life stage and gender.

The ADMR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) is a component of this outline that provides an estimated range of macronutrients necessary to reduce risk of chronic disease as well as provide adequate intakes of all essential nutrients. Currently, these numbers suggest 45-65% of our daily caloric intake should come from Carbohydrates (with >25% being sourced by refined sugars), 10-35% should come from protein and 20-35% from fats. All Macronutrients play their part from a cellular level to their highest level of expression – how we heal, breathe and move.

While the ADMR tells us the recommended baseline intake of each nutrient, the UL (Tolerable Upper Intake Level) tells us the highest level of intake that will pose no risk or induce adverse side effects. For example, eating more than the necessary requirements of carbohydrates (especially refined sugars) can lead to excess weight gain – putting us more at risk for heart disease, diabetes, fibroids and a host of other complications.    For many nutrients there is insufficient data to develop a UL but this does not mean there is no risk when over consumed.

Lastly, DRI is an Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) which goes above and beyond telling us the basic nutritional levels necessary to avert disease. The EER takes into account you as an individual and the Energy you need to flourish! It guides according to the energy you expend during daily  physical activities, the thermic action associated with digesting and storing food, as well as your basal (resting) metabolic rate. This calculation is also specific to your sex, age, weight and height – a personalized computation of your daily energy requirements.

All of these are based on caloric intake. Calories being Energy! Energy being a necessary component all activity from a cellular to organismal (We cannot blink without energy). Thus, depending on the health goal, we need to consider that caloric intake. Ultimately, however, the goal is not to become a calorie counter. For now it is simply important to understand that we are what we eat. The food that we ingest gets broken down into tiny microscopic pieces that act as our fuel, comprise our tissues and allow or internal environment to communicate amongst itself.  With a deficiency or excess in any one Essential or Micronutrients – our body will undergo some level of stress. We must be our own guides to find our own unique sweet spot – paying attention to what we eat and what we are not getting enough of.

  • Hi Healers, Please Be Advised – This article was written by a student of medicine. I am editing + interpreting my studies as I go. I advise anyone interested in finding out more about their own personal health via a nutritional lens to seek counsel of a Registered Nutritionist or Licensed Naturopathic Physician.

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