The Balanced Diet
© Dallas E. Boggs 2012
Nutrition is the science that deals with the effects of food on the body. Food provides “nutrients,” all the absorbable components of what we eat that the body needs in order to fulfill the three main nutritional requirements of good health. Those are: (1) the energy we need to keep warm and to help our organs function, as well as fuel for moving and working; (2) specific nutrients that are needed to utilize foods; and, finally, (3) the nutrients that are required for growth of cells and replacement of used-up cells.
Besides the carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals that should be included, there is one other so essential it is often forgotten—water. Water doesn’t have vitamins; but, depending on its source, it may have some minerals. It should contain fluoride, which is good for teeth and bones. But even if it had no “nutrients,” it would be still vital to life.
Beyond provision of nutrients necessary for our very existence, fiber (roughage), though not “nutritive,” is also important for good health; and we are increasingly aware of the importance of a group of “non-nutritive” substances known as “phytochemicals” in prevention and treatment of degenerative diseases. These components of the foods we eat will be discussed in the appropriate sections of this book.
What we eat, where we eat, and when we eat plays a dominant role in our quality of life—in our social customs, our recreational activities, our aesthetic values and our very desire to live and enjoy ourselves. Optimum nutrition provides more than the essential nutrients. We could consume adequate amounts of them by mixing a chemical potion in the laboratory and drinking it three or four times a day. Commercial liquid or powdered diets can sustain us for a long time, and hospitals can keep us alive for prolonged periods by injecting nutrients directly into the blood vessels; but bitter medicine does not play a role in our prescription.
Our program is based on the Prudent Diet, which was pioneered by The Joliffe Anticoronary Club in New York City a half a century ago. It is not very different from the typical American diet. You do not need to sacrifice your most treasured values for a few added years. Quality of life is as important as length of life. Good nutrition is a necessary ingredient for both. You may need to make some simple changes, but it is not necessary to sacrifice the pleasures of life. With fifty years of progress, we can now go beyond a formula for merely achieving nutrient balance. We include foods and supplements with protective effects apart from their nutritive values, yet appealing to your individual tastes.
With adjustments based on your personal profile, you can use our plan to significantly decrease your risks for nutritionally related diseases such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, cancer, anemia and osteoporosis. All of us are at some degree of risk for one or more of these afflictions, and more than half of us will die from their complications. None of the diseases is caused solely by poor diet; but, to the extent that diet is involved, you can lower your risks for them without radical changes in your lifestyle.
We are all subject to hazards beyond our control, but we do know how to manage our risks for the major diseases that afflict modern societies. Most of us do not have the incentive to make the necessary changes. We are creatures of habit, and no habits are more ingrained and more difficult to change than our eating habits. Our eating patterns are determined by our families, our ethnic backgrounds, our lifestyles, and perhaps more than anything, our taste preferences. By using the principles outlined in this book, we can still conform to our own individual preferences and those of our families; and, regardless of those aspects beyond our control and whether we are at low, intermediate or high risk for one or more of the serious nutritionally related disorders, the recommended eating habits will increase our prospects for avoiding them. The higher our risk, the greater our urgency will be. Is it worth the effort? Certainly! From a health standpoint, we have nothing to lose—and we can gain a great deal.
You may begin your journey by evaluating your individual risks for the nutritionally related diseases most threatening to your longevity and to your quality of life.