Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. It is often defined as the total processes of ingestion, digestion, absorption, and metabolism of food and subsequent assimilation of nutrient materials into the tissues. A nutrient is a substance found in food that performs one or more specific functions in the body. Figure 1 below shows an overview of the different types of nutrients.

Functions of nutrients:

    1. Promotion of growth & development
      • Protein – promotes tissue growth and/or repair in muscle, soft tissues and organs
      • Calcium & phosphorus – important for skeleton/bone growth and/or density
    2. Provision of energy
      • Predominantly by carbohydrate and fats.
      • Protein only provides for 5-10% of energy
    3. Regulation of metabolism
      • Vitamins, minerals & proteins are present in enzymes that are essential to speed up chemical reactions, or our metabolism.

We have to take in these nutrients daily in order to carry out these functions. For sedentary individuals, the recommended energy requirement is around 2400 kcal and 1800 kcal for males and females respectively. To have a better idea of how much these numbers mean, a day of the meal of 1827 kcal can look like this:

Breakfast: 1 plate of plain fried economic bee hoon and kopi o kosong 378 calories (according to myfitnesspal.com, it’s a great website to track your calories intake). Kopi o kosong has only 5 kcals by the way.

Lunch: 1 plate of Hainanese chicken rice 666 kcal

Snack: 1 medium-sized apple 52 kcal

Dinner: Fish & Chips 731 kcal

When people say ‘I’m on a diet!’, what do they mean? Does it mean that they did not have a diet before? What is diet actually? In nutrition, diet is the sum of food consumed by a person or other organism (NIH MedlinePlus). This means that anything that you are actually on a diet now! The only difference is the type of diet you are on. It can be a well-balanced diet, bad diet, ketogenic diet or Dr Atkins’ diet. There is an abundance of various types of diet on the internet out there. But most important is what suits you and whether you are consuming the necessary nutrients. For example, a nutritional concern for a vegan diet is the intake of micronutrients especially for vitamin B12 and D, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids (Craig, 2009). This concern can be addressed if one is aware and take the appropriate actions such as consuming food with these nutrients or supplements. The point is, whichever diet you are on, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into, know the pros and cons and what you need to do to address those concerns.

After reading this article, I hope you have a clearer idea of what nutrition, nutrient, and diet are. There is no bad food, just a bad diet.

Grace Yong
Executive
Force 21 Academy