"AND God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed,
which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit
of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." Genesis 1:29
Why do we eat? Because we enjoy it. And we enjoy it enough that very few
would want to give up the habit if they could. Thank God He created us with the
ability to taste and smell and that He put such delightful flavors and aromas
into the food He has appointed for us to eat. But even if we didn't enjoy it we
would still have to eat. Food is needed to furnish fuel to supply energy to the
body to provide material to repair and build tissues and to supply substances
that act to regulate body processes
Any chemical substance found in foods that functions in one or more of these
ways is known as a nutrient. The seven basic classes of nutrients are
carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
Only carbohydrates, fats, and proteins provide energy or calories. Sugars and
starches are both carbohydrates. Carbohydrates and proteins yield about four
calories per gram, and fats yield about nine calories per gram. As these figures
show, fats are a much more concentrated source of energy. Fiber, long regarded
as a nonessential, is now recognized as an important body regulator. It helps to
control blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and also aids in colon hygiene. A
low-fiber diet is associated with increased risk of colon cancer, as well as
other bowel diseases.
When food is properly selected and prepared, so that the basic nutrients are
consumed in the correct ratios and amounts, we can be assured of good nutrition.
All natural foods contain all seven essential nutrients. However, the different
amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), fatty acids, vitamins, and
minerals are found in varying amounts in different foods. So we need to eat a
variety of food to get all the nutrients in sufficient quantities.
Malnutrition means we are not getting the proper intake of nutrients, or in
some cases that the nutrients are not utilized as they should be in the body.
Under-nutrition means there is a lack of certain nutrients. In underdeveloped
countries the most common problem is simply not getting enough food to eat or
not enough variety. Starvation is a tragic health problem for millions of people
in the world. Less frequent, but equally serious, are the problems of protein or
vitamin/mineral deficiency diseases. Usually, as long as people are getting
enough unrefined calories to eat, these diseases are not common.
Over-nutrition means too many nutrients. In developed countries it is usually
related to the excess consumption of refined foods. For millions of the well-fed
people of the world over-nutrition is the root cause of much premature death and
disease. The top three killer diseases in the U.S. each have strong contributing
dietary factors. They are heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Hypertension and
diabetes also have strong dietary links. The specific dietary excesses that tend
to promote or cause these diseases involve cholesterol, animal fat, too much
total dietary fat, too much sugar, too much protein, and too much salt.
Basically, just too many calories in general. It is possible to get a toxic
overdose of specific vitamins or minerals. Usually one would have to be taking
vitamin/mineral pills or highly concentrated foods for this to happen.
Obesity is one of the most common side-effects of over-nutrition. A
combination of proper diet and exercise is needed to correct the problem.
Briefly, the food in the diet should be low in fat and high in fiber.
High-protein diets are no more effective than any other diet except that there
is rapid initial water loss. Excess protein is harmful to the body in several
ways, in time it weakens the kidneys, heart, bones, and immune system. Instead,
eat a regular, balanced diet that is low in fat and sugar and high in fiber. In
terms of food this regimen means sticking to mainly fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, and legumes. Most people who are obese need to eat less. They probably
need to learn to accept being slightly hungry most of the time--at least until
their body adjusts to less food, and they become physically fit through an
We can briefly summarize what we have learned about proper nutrition thus:
"With a calm, thankful attitude and at proper times, eat a wide variety of
mostly unrefined foods, prepared in a simple, attractive, and palatable way, in
sufficient quantity to maintain ideal body weight and good health."
Our attitude about the food we eat and our attitude while eating is
important. If we are nervous or in a hurry or upset about something, the
digestive process is impaired. It is better not to eat at all, unless we can do
so in a positive frame of mind and take our time. Hurried eating tends to
overeating. Since digestion begins in the mouth, it is important to chew your
food slowly and well.
A good breakfast should come early in the day. There is no such thing as
"breakfast food" either. Many people enjoy potatoes, or beans, or
other vegetables, and a main entree at breakfast. Why not? Such food gives your
body the nutrients it needs to restore itself after the night's fast and sets
the nutritional tone for the day. Usually, another main meal should be consumed
no sooner than five hours later. Most people could get by very well on two meals
per day. Those who do not need many calories for their daily occupation or who
are overweight should try this two-meal-a-day plan. If a third meal is necessary
it should be lighter and smaller and at least two hours before bedtime. Eating
big meals late at night or before going to bed is not a good practice. Digestion
during sleep is not efficient because the metabolic rate is falling. Sleep can
be disturbed, and often one feels the effects the next morning. The same amount
of calories eaten in the evening are more fattening than if they were eaten in
the morning. This fact can easily be explained on the basis of the rise and fall
in the metabolic rate between morning and evening. Also, most bodies are
energy-conservation conscious, meaning that it is easier to store fat than to
get rid of it once it is there.
Eating between meals or having too many meals in a day interferes with
digestion. Sour stomachs and sour attitudes are often the result. Smaller,
lighter meals do digest more rapidly. The rule is that the stomach should be
allowed sufficient time to completely empty itself of one meal and rest for
maybe an hour before more food is eaten.
Factors that slow the stomach's emptying time are the fat content of the
meal, amount of food eaten, liquid drunk with the meal, and sedentary
occupations. Fruit or vegetable meals usually leave the stomach in about two
hours, whereas higher fat and protein meals take four to five hours.
To prevent overeating and indigestion there should not be too many varieties
of food eaten at once. It is true that we should eat a wide variety of food from
meal to meal and from day to day but three or four different kinds of food at
one time is plenty
A good variety of plain, unrefined plant food is more nutritionally balanced
than the animal products and man-made processed foods. Whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds contain high quality protein, a better
fatty-acid profile (thus decreasing the risk of heart disease and cancer), no
cholesterol, plenty of complex carbohydrates and fiber, and are rich in vitamins
and minerals and water. Animal products and man-made foods are often high in
fat, cholesterol, sugar, salt, and harmful additives, and are lacking in fiber.
Sometimes we cannot obtain an ideal diet. People shouldn't be made to feel
guilty about what they eat if they are doing the best that they can with what
knowledge and resources they have. Certainly it is not unhealthful to use some
refined products like white flour, sugar, or oil in small amounts to prepare
healthful and tasty dishes. A moderate amount of salt can be used by most
people. The problem is that the average American taste bud has been conditioned
through overuse to expect and demand far too much of these things. It would be
well to gradually re-educate people to require much less.
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in 1977 issued
these recommendations to all Americans: Reduce salt intake by about 50-85
percent, cut fat consumption by at least 10 percent, slash sugar ingestion by 40
percent, and limit cholesterol to 300 mg. daily (equivalent to one egg).
These guidelines suggest that major changes are in order for the average
American diet. The benefits of making such significant changes in the types of
food in the diet are amazing. The Adventist Health study has shown that pure
vegetarians (no animal products) have only one-third as many deaths from cancer
and one-fourth (as many deaths from coronary heart disease as non-vegetarians.
In these studies other variables such as tobacco and alcohol were accounted for,
so that we know that the tremendous health advantage of the pure vegetarian
group is due to the fact that they are not using animal products in their diet
These same studies have shown that the vegetarians who do not smoke or drink
have only 14 percent as many heart attack deaths and 9 percent as many cancer
deaths and live an average of 12 years longer than the general population.
Traditionally, most people measure the nutritional status of their diet by
the Four Food Group Plan. The four food groups are: Milk and milk products, meat
or protein, fruits and vegetables, and bread and cereals. The idea is to eat a
certain number of servings from each group every day to ensure balanced
nutrition. This plan does ensure that we will meet the daily requirements for
all nutrients. Its chief drawback is that it does not guard very well against
over-nutrition, which is the greatest nutritional problem in the U.S. today. We
can easily consume too much protein fat, cholesterol, and salt on this plan. Do
we really need four food groups when we can obtain all our
nutrients from just two groups--the fruit and vegetable and bread and cereal
group--just as the vegetarians do who are so much healthier than the
non-vegetarians? It is an elemental fact of nutrition science that there is no
such thing as an essential food. There are only essential nutrients. We can get
them all from two groups or four.
The chief concern then should be "What are the best sources
available to me to get the nutrients I need?" We now know the answer to
that question, "A well-balanced vegetarian diet that includes a variety of
fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds."
Although vitamin B12 deficiencies are very rare, even among vegetarians,
there is still a question as to whether or not there are any good vegetarian
sources of this vitamin. Small amounts of low-fat dairy products or a vitamin
supplement would take care of this. But there is evidence that the vitamin is
produced in the human body, and vitamin B12 is also found in some drinking
water, which may account for the rarity of such vitamin deficiencies.
The case in favor of the vegetarian diet can be summarized by the American
Dietetic Association, "The (ADA) affirms that a well-planned diet,
consisting of a variety of largely unrefined plant foods supplemented with some
milk and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarian diet), meets all known nutrient needs.
Furthermore, a total plant dietary can be made adequate by careful planning
giving proper attention to specific nutrients which may be in a less available
form or in lower concentrations or absent in plant foods. The (ADA) recognizes
that a growing body of scientific evidence supports a positive relationship
between consumption of a plant-based dietary and the prevention of certain
For people who want a better diet it is better to make changes gradually so
that the body has time to adapt. Other family members who are not so eager to
change their diet need time to adapt, too. A good strategy would be to start
decreasing and eliminating some of the worst junk food first and add in their
place more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Switch to low-fat dairy products
and omit fatty and processed meats. Cut out more of the refined, processed foods
like instant dinners, pastries snack foods, and soft drinks. Buy whole-grain
breads and cereals instead of the refined ones. Use less of the unnecessary
toppings dressings, and gravies that add so many calories to the meal, and when
you do use them look for low-fat or reduced-calorie varieties. Eat at home more
often, pack your own lunches and simplify your eating. Get some good
health-conscious, vegetarian cookbooks (some are not that healthful, as they
overuse cheese, eggs, and nuts) and start practicing and experimenting with new
dishes. But keep it simple.
"Blessed art thou, 0 land, when . . . thy princes eat in due season, for
strength, and not for drunkenness!" Ecclesiastes 10:17