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The Wellness Column By Anchan Vegetarian
 

Nutrition and Food Planning Part 2

This is the continuation of last issue’s first installment on food planning, talking in detail about the constituents of our diet.
Protein
Proteins are the basis of many animal body structures such as muscles, skin, and hair. They also form the enzymes that control chemical reactions throughout the body. Each molecule is composed of amino acids. The body requires amino acids to produce new proteins and to replace damaged proteins.
Most meats such as chicken contain all the essential amino acids needed for humans. As there is no protein or amino acid storage provision, amino acids must be present in the diet. Excess amino acids are discarded, typically in the urine. For all animals some amino acids are essential, signifying an animal cannot produce them internally and some are non-essential. About twenty amino acids are found in the human body, and about ten of these are essential and, therefore, must be included in the diet.
A diet that contains adequate amounts of amino acids is particularly important in some situations, such as during early development and maturation, pregnancy, lactation, or injury (a burn, for instance).
A complete protein source contains all the essential amino acids; an incomplete protein source lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. It is possible to combine two incomplete protein sources (e.g. rice and beans) to make a complete protein source and characteristic combinations are the basis of distinct cultural cooking traditions. However, complementary sources of protein don’t need to be eaten at the same meal to be used together by the body. Sources of dietary protein include meats, tofu and other soy-products, eggs, legumes, and dairy products such as milk and cheese.
Minerals
Dietary minerals are the chemical elements required by living organisms, other than the four elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen that are present in nearly all organic molecules. Some are heavier than the four just mentioned, including several metals, which often occur as ions in the body. Most dietitians recommend that these be supplied from foods in which they occur naturally or at least as complex compounds, or sometimes even from natural inorganic sources (such as calcium carbonate from ground oyster shells). Some minerals are absorbed much more readily in the ionic forms found in such sources. On the other hand, minerals are often artificially added to the diet as supplements; the most famous is likely iodine in iodized salt.
Macro-minerals
Many elements are essential in relative quantity; they are usually called “bulk minerals”. Some are structural, but many play a role as electrolytes. Elements with recommended dietary allowance (RDA) greater than 200 mg/day are, in alphabetical order :
Calcium, a common electrolyte, but also needed structurally (for muscle and digestive system health, bone strength, some forms neutralize acidity, may help clear toxins, provides signaling ions for nerve and membrane functions).
Magnesium builds bone, causes strong peristalsis, increases flexibility, increases alkalinity.
Phosphorus, required component of bones; essential for energy processing.
Potassium, a very common electrolyte (heart and nerve health).
Sodium and Chlorine, both very common electrolytes are not generally found in dietary supplements, despite being needed in large quantities, because the ions are very common in food: typically as sodium chloride, or common salt. Excessive sodium consumption can deplete calcium and magnesium, leading to high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Sulfur, for three essential amino acids and therefore many proteins (skin, hair, nails, liver, and pancreas). Sulfur is not consumed alone, but in the form of sulfur-containing amino acids.
Trace minerals
Many elements are required in trace amounts, usually because they play a catalytic role in enzymes. Some trace mineral elements (RDA < 200 mg/day) are, in alphabetical order:
Cobalt required for biosynthesis of the vitamin B12 family of coenzymes. Animals cannot biosynthesize B12, and must obtain this cobalt-containing vitamin in the diet.
Copper is required as a component of many redox enzymes, including cytochrome c oxidase.
Chromium is required for sugar metabolism.
Iodine is required not only for the biosynthesis of thyroxine, but probably, for other important organs as breast, stomach, salivary glands, thymus etc.; for this reason iodine is needed in larger quantities than others in this list, and sometimes classified with the macro-minerals
Iron is required for many enzymes, and for hemoglobin and some other proteins.
Manganese is used for the processing of oxygen.
Molybdenum is required for xanthine oxidase and related oxidases
Nickel is present in urease.
Selenium is required for peroxidase (antioxidant proteins).
Zinc is required for several enzymes such as carboxypeptidase, liver alcohol dehydrogenase, and carbonic anhydrase.
Next issue we will take a look at water, vitamins and phytochemicals.
 


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Nutrition and Food Planning Part 2