What’s The Big Deal About Nutrition?

This is an excerpt from my book, soon to be published, one little thing. 

Define Nutrition

Dictionary.com defines nutrition in two ways, as the process by which organisms take in and utilize food material and the act or process of nourishing or of being nourished. The latter definition can and should include emotional and spiritual nourishment. We all learned the definition of nutrition in the third grade as the process of the metabolism of food to produce life sustaining energy. Unfortunately, this conversion of food into energy has a price tag, and the consequence is cellular damage, or oxidative stress, which is the underlying cause of just about every disease known to man.

How We Rust Inside

This is the oxidative stress story spelled out in an easy to understand format. When you truly understand oxidation, you may be empowered to change your life forever when you begin to choose to nourish yourself properly and efficiently.

When heat ignites with oxygen and wood, a fire burns. The byproduct of this oxidation is smoke, soot and ash, which are no good to anyone unless they are stranded on a deserted island, in desperate search of a rescue plane. When gasoline mixes with oxygen, it produces horsepower in an engine.The byproduct of this oxidation is carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can bring down any human if inhaled in high concentrations. When an apple is cut open and the nutrients and carbohydrates are exposed to oxygen, the apple turns brown and the kids toss it in the trash in the lunch room. If you wait too long to fry up the latkes after grating the potatoes and making the batter, the whole mess oxidizes and turns brown and mushy but nobody will complain because they appreciate how much work goes into making latkes.

You can see how many things in life involve the oxidation process. Let’s translate this concept to the metabolism of food. We eat food. The food passes through the gastrointestinal tract as we digest it and break it down into useful molecules for the production of life sustaining energy. This energy, or ATP, is produced in the mitochondria. I like to call this structure the “battery” of the cell.

When food molecules go through the chemical process of producing energy in the mitochondria, the byproduct is an infinite number of unstable electrons called free radicals. These electrons seek and destroy molecules, cells, tissue and eventually organs and entire body systems if left alone. Every cell in the body takes more than 10,000 free radical hits because free radicals are looking for an electron partner. Electrons are more stable when they travel in pairs, just like humans. When free radicals damage the body, this is called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is synonymous with aging, disease and eventually death. Don’t let this alarm you. Oxidative stress is as natural as a ripened leaf falling off of its branch in autumn, or a piece of fruit falling from the tree when it can no longer carry its own weight on the tree. Oxidation is a natural phenomenon, but the good news is that we can control the rate of our own oxidative process, allowing our leaves and fruit to stay on our tree a little while longer while we enjoy them and get good use out of them.

What Happens When We Rust

When free radicals hit joint tissue, arthritis inflammation and pain is the result. The entire immune system is highly susceptible to free radical damage and can eventually affect allergy symptoms, colds, flus and cancer cell growth. DNA, our genetic coding and the blueprint for how every cell replicates, is susceptible to free radical hits, causing a forbidden replication of abnormal cells, or cancer. Free radical hits to the skin from radiation and sun exposure cause wrinkles, freckles and dehydration. Are you starting to see the big picture?

What Happens When Athletes Rust

As more oxygen is pumped through respiration and moving through the chemical process, there is more potential for a higher oxidative stress level and more cellular damage can occur. Athletes breathe in more oxygen and have a higher energy output. Their fireplace is burning more wood at higher temperatures, increasing their oxidative stress levels. We see an enormous amount of oxidative stress damage in athletes simply because free radical hits will cause inflammation in the body and will damage cells faster than the body is able to repair this damage. We like to call these sports injuries repetitive strain injuries, stress fractures, tendonitis, sprains, strains and overuse injuries.

Reverse the Rust, Heal the Body

Once you understand the concept of oxidative damage, you can begin to understand how to slow it down, and your body can start repairing itself. Free radicals need an electron partner in order to become more stable in the body. Electrons in the form of antioxidants (against oxidation) live in colorful foods that come from the ground. I am not talking about red M &M’s or blue Skittles. When we eat large amounts of colorful foods of the rainbow that are pulled from the ground or picked from the tree or vine, their antioxidants work in synergy together to donate their electrons to the volatile and destructive free radicals. This has an overall effect of slowing down oxidation and the aging process in the body. This is why we are being urged by the government to eat a variety of 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, but this urgency seems to be falling upon deaf, apathetic ears.

As part of modern human civilization, we must once again learn the connection between our food supply and how it increases or decreases oxidative stress in the body. How food ages us more rapidly or slows down the aging process is the big idea behind great, energy producing, life sustaining nutrition. We have seemingly lost our way in the big endless forest of health depleting factory foods, in food politics, and in the media driven force behind the marketing of all of this confusion.

It takes a Village

Let’s find our way back to health together. Let’s pay attention to our adult and childhood obesity crisis. Let’s stop for a moment to think about our broken healthcare system and how we can get our collective act together one person, one family, one organization and one community at a time. Let’s open our minds to some answers that have been right in front of our noses our entire lives, because the solution is not rocket science. The solution requires us to pay attention to the people who know what they are talking about, to listen to our beautiful intuition, and to act accordingly by doing the right thing. Instead of abandoning those we love to the idea that perhaps they will someday do things differently in the future, take them by the hand, show them how much you love them, and feed them the knowledge that is required for them to make positive changes. Feed him lots of foods from the ground, put together in a way that won’t make him run from you like a frightened rabbit. Feed her with love and inspiration to do the right thing for herself and for her family. After all, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much. 

We’re all in this distressed boat together and we are starting to sink. The future of our planet and the humans who populate it are counting on us to finally get it right once and for all. Let’s all do the right thing in 2012. This is the big deal about nutrition.

Quote for the day: It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln