Good nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining good health as well as in the prevention and management of various diseases. In order to maintain healthy organs and strong bones, and to produce hormones necessary for the proper functioning of organs, the body needs carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. In consequence of dietary changes, both first world and third world countries are increasingly being affected by chronic diseases. In reality, diet-related chronic ailments such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis are the most common cause of death in the world today[ CITATION Pec03 \l 1033 ]. In this paper, we discuss the practical applications of nutrition in the management of various conditions.
Obesity is caused by consuming more calories than is needed by the body[ CITATION Ree11 \l 1033 ]. It can cause many other diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, hypertension and some cancers. Individuals who snack a lot or binge-eat are more prone to be obese. People with obesity should eat more low-energy-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits in order to lose weight. Such foods contain few calories and so one can eat large amounts of them and still take in few calories. High-energy-dense foods such as fried foods, eggs, sweets, butter and high-fat snacks should be avoided. Such foods often contain high cholesterol and saturated fat. Obese individuals should also avoid foods such as alcohol which only provide calories and little other nutrients.
Good diet can significantly reduce the cases of coronary heart disease. Nutrition intervention can be used as a primary prevention for heart disease. Intake of dietary fats considerably influences the risk of heart disease. In view of the fact that body weight and BMI are observed as risk factors for cardiovascular disease, low-energy-dense foods are also recommended in the prevention of this disease. Dairy products and red meat should be avoided since they contain saturated fatty acids which increase the levels of cholesterol. Hardened oils and deep-fried fast foods should also be consumed in moderation since they contain trans fatty acids. These foods should be replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids which can be found in soybean, sunflower oil, fatty fish and plant foods. Low fat foods have a positive effect on the heart function and blood pressure, consequently reducing the risk of heart disease.
Nutrition should be a key component in the prevention and treatment of cancer. The possibility of developing cancerous cells may increase or decrease depending on an individual’s diet. Increased risk of cancer is attributable to high intake of alcohol, aflatoxins and preserved meat. To prevent and fight cancer, individuals should eat a plant-based diet that contains an assortment of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts. Plant-based contain fiber which plays a key role in keeping the digestive system clean and moving cancer-causing toxins out of the body before they can cause harm. Red meat should be avoided since it lacks nutrients that have cancer-protective properties. It also contains high levels of saturated fat, which has been linked to high cancer rates. Antioxidants have been found to protect against cancer and to aid in optimal functioning of the body. Beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E are the major sources of antioxidants. Garlic, ginger, turmeric and a host of other spices have been found to have cancer fighting properties.
The increase in cases of type 2 diabetes is predominantly due to dietary factors that contribute to weight gain and obesity. Good nutrition significantly controls blood sugar levels. The key to managing diabetes is eating moderately, sticking to regular mealtimes, and eating an assortment of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Diabetics should eat more plant foods and healthy fats and cut back on refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks and unhealthy fats. They should also choose complex carbohydrates (starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) over simple carbohydrates (soda, snacks, white flour and white rice.). Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest hence one is able to stay full for a longer time and keep his/her blood sugar levels more even.
Although the risk of osteoporosis is largely determined by genetics, good nutrition plays a key role in building strong bones and helps to delay bone loss in the elderly. The risk of osteoporosis is increased by deficiency of Calcium and vitamin D especially in older people. Calcium is vital for strong bones while vitamin D enables the bones to absorb calcium. Intake of these two minerals is therefore recommended in the prevention and management of osteoporosis. Milk and other dairy products (yoghurt, cheese etc) are the main sources of calcium. At least two servings of these foods should be taken daily. Other sources of calcium include broccoli, kales, sardines, almonds and Brazil nuts. Exposure to direct sunlight is the most readily available source of vitamin D. Other sources of Vitamin D include: liver, eggs, fatty fish and milk. All these foods are recommended for the prevention and management of osteoporosis.
People living with HIV/Aids require to be particularly careful about their diet because their immune systems are severely weak and might not have the capacity to cope efficiently. HIV-infected people are often more at risk of contacting opportune illnesses due to their weak immune systems. Therefore, it is important for people living with HIV to eat defensively[ CITATION WHO03 \l 1033 ]. They need to eat an assortment of foods from practically all food groups. Plenty of fruit and vegetables are particularly recommended to fight infections since they contain essential vitamins and minerals. Animal products, such as fish, chicken, beef, milk and eggs should also form part of their daily diet in order to combat muscle loss. These foods also contain Vitamins A, B6, B12 and zinc which are all essential in the functioning of the immune system. Every meal should contain starchy foods such as maize meal oats, bread, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and rice. The diet of those living with HIV/AIDS should also contain beans, lentils, peas, peanuts and soya as they are good protein sources.
Peckenpaugh, N. J., & Poleman, C. M. (2003). Nutrition essentials and diet therapy (9, illustrated ed.). New York, USA: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Rees, P. (2011). Understanding Obesity. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from obesityinamerica.org: http://www.obesityinamerica.org/understandingObesity/index.cfm
WHO. (2003, May 15). Nutrient requirements for people living with HIV/AIDS. Retrieved May 3, 2011, from whqlibdoc.who.int: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2003/9241591196.pdf