Food and all the nutrient groups are vital for the body – without it we cannot survive. Carbohydrates are needed for energy (especially by the brain and red blood cells). Protein is needed to grow, repair and replace anything in and on the body.
Protein also makes-up enzymes, hormones, and parts of the immune system (antibodies) and helps regulate body fluid. Fat is needed for energy, insulation, absorption of vitamins A, D, E &K, to create hormones, maintain healthy skin, and protect organs.
When people fast or restrict their food intake for extended periods of time, multiple problems begin to occur. The metabolism slows down in an effort to save energy; body temperature decreases; muscle and brain tissue are broken down to make glucose the body needs to survive; the pH of the blood decreases, becoming more acidic as a result of body protein breakdown; there is an increase with obsessional food thoughts and behaviors; and the person often feels depressed and lethargic with mood swings and insomnia.
So how much food do we need to survive? About 2/3 of calories burned each day go simply towards maintaining the body (called the Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR). The BMR ensures the body can maintain body temperature, keep lungs, kidneys, liver, etc. working, keep the heart beating (100,000 times per day!), and keep the brain thinking.
Is that all the calories we need though? What about walking, talking, playing, laundry, dancing and running to catch the bus? The caloric intake we need can often vary depending upon how active a person is in their everyday life. And food is fuel, whether its for a marathon or a shop-a-thon.
The best way to ensure you are getting enough nutrition is to eat every 2-3 hours during the day. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as three small snacks. Remember, your body is a finely tuned machine, and just as you need to keep the tank of your car filled, you also need to fuel your body each and everyday for optimum performance.
Written by Kate Haisch, Registered Dietitian at Cielo House Moss Beach.