How Nutrition Affects our Cells
Proper nutrition affects our cells in many ways…
Today’s health revolution has placed us squarely in the midst of a dramatic new understanding of nutrition and how it affects our bodies in ways that our ancestors could never have imagined. In the old days, studies of nutrition began as a way to understand what is needed for survival, to not get sick and to keep our bodies running in the most basic sense. Early research focused on determining the minimum amount of nutrients needed to prevent malnutrition or obvious diseases such as scurvy and rickets.
Today’s advanced technology gives us the ability to see and understand how nutrients affect our bodies, both on the outside and the inside, even at the cellular level. We are able to understand how a lack of essential dietary nutrients can lead to stress and sickness, low energy levels, premature aging and chronic disease both immediately and well into the future.
Proper nutrition affects our cells in many ways. Cells are the fundamental units of life, the building blocks from which everything is made. Cells are living organisms that communicate, react, and operate synergistically to keep your tissues and organs functioning at optimal levels. If your cells can’t operate as they should due to a lack of nutrients or energy, your body will quickly feel the effects. So you can see – healthy cells equate to a healthy body.
A healthy diet filled with optimal levels of essential nutrients provides the raw materials for the creation of new cells to replenish old and damaged ones that have been exposed to toxins or malnourished. Proper nutrition also protects new cells from damage, as well as supporting elevated energy production.
A variety of vitamins and minerals are important for supporting healthy cells. Whole foods are the best way to get these nutrients and one of the best whole food sources is whole grains.
A whole grain, such as a wheat grain, contains three main parts: the germ, or sprouting part of the grain; the endosperm, which contains the starch (calories) to support the young sprout during its early stages; and the bran, which is the protective layer encasing the sprout and its endosperm. In a whole grain food, all three parts of the grain are present; in a refined food product, like white bread, the germ and bran are removed, and only the endosperm is used.
Each of the parts of the grain has different purposes, and therefore different nutrients, all of them working together to provide well-rounded nutrition. Highly processed grains and other whole foods are missing important parts of their nutrient content, therefore missing value in supporting our health. Without the wide range of nutrients and antioxidants that whole foods can provide, cells are not able to function properly.
Healthy fats and proteins are also important, helping cells maintain structural integrity and strong protective membranes, produce energy, repair DNA when it’s damaged, communicate, connect and work well together overall.
Here’s a good example: After a meal, sugar (glucose) is taken into your body through the digestion process, entering the bloodstream. Your body responds by secreting insulin from your pancreas into the blood. When the insulin reaches one of the cells that needs glucose, it attaches to a protein (receptor) on the cell’s surface, which then opens a gate in the cell to let the glucose enter that cell. This glucose is then either used by the cell to produce energy or is stored for future energy production.
Cereals, grains, vegetables and fruits also contain molecules that help protect the fats in your cell membranes from damage. These protective nutrients include the vitamin E family, found in highest levels in the oils in whole grains, wheat germ oil, carotenoids like beta-carotene in carrots, lycopene in tomatoes, and vitamin C from citrus fruits.
Within each of our cells is a smaller membrane that contains our DNA. The cell nucleus maintains genetic integrity and serves as the storehouse of the blueprint from which our bodies are built from. DNA never leaves the nucleus. It is essential for life and for healthy function. Therefore you can see how important it is for our cells to maintain structural integrity to protect DNA. What can hurt DNA? Toxins, environmental pesticides and free radicals can all cause damage and mutation to the cells.
Healthy cells with strong protective membranes are supported by eating foods that provide unsaturated fat, protein, inositol, choline, antioxidant vitamins such as E and C, and carotenoids. Making organize, non-toxic, whole foods and micronutrients an important part of your diet also supports the health of your DNA and cell energy production. Nutritional support for healthy DNA also includes adequate dietary intake of folate and vitamin B12. Folate is found in high levels in green vegetables, grains and eggs, and vitamin B12 can be obtained from eggs, dairy, meat and fish.
We know that including whole foods, grains and healthy fats as part of a healthful diet is important. Now you can see just how deeply ensuring that you include essential nutrients from these foods will affect your health today and throughout your life.
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