The seeming simplicity of our daily activities is greatly contrasted by the complexity of our true nature—quite a paradox, no doubt. It is simple in that, on the outside, the goals of our body may appear few. We internalize food, water, and oxygen while at the same time ridding ourselves of carbon dioxide and other waste materials. These operations support reproduction, growth, maintenance, and defense. Yet on the inside our body may seem very complex as various organs participate in a tremendous number of complicated processes intended to meet the simple goals previously mentioned.
Nutrition is just one part of this paradoxical relationship. The objective of nutrition is simple: to supply our body with all of the necessary nutrients, and in appropriate quantities, to promote optimal health and function. However, in practice, nutrition is far from that simple. There seem to be too many nutrients, controversial nutrients, and different conditions, such as growth, pregnancy, and exercise, to allow nutrition to be a simple topic.
Although we have long appreciated food, it has only been in the more recent years that we have really begun to understand the finer relationship between food and our body. Most nutrients have been identified within the last century or so and right now nutrition is one of the most prevalent areas of scientific research. This is to say that our understanding of nutrition is by no means complete. It continues to evolve in conjunction with the most current nutrition research. It seems that not a week goes by without hearing about yet another discovery in nutrition.
It is hard to believe that just a few decades ago the basic four food groups were pretty much all the nutrition known by most people. Today nutrition deeply penetrates into many aspects of our lives, including pre-ventative and treatment medicine, philosophy, exercise training, and weight management. Our diet has been linked to cardiovascular health, cancer, bowel function, moods, and brain activity, along with many other health domains. We no longer eat merely to satisfy hunger. Without doubt, nutrition has become a matter of great curiosity and/or concern for most of us today.
A few problems have developed along with this most recent illumination of nutrition. One such problem is that we may have generated too much knowledge too fast. Even though we, as humans, have been eating throughout our existence, the importance of proper nutrition seems to have been thrust upon us suddenly. We did not have time to first wade into the waters of nutrition science, slowly increasing our depth. The reality is that we may be in over our heads, barely treading water to keep up with the latest recommendations. Sometimes, all we can do is try our best to follow the latest nutrition recommendations without really having the background or accessibility to proper resources truly to understand the reasons behind the recommendations.
Although nutrition has become a very complex subject many authors still try to present it in an overly simplified manner. Perhaps they believe that people are not interested in the scientific details and merely wish to be told what to do. This book attempts to break that pattern. We will spend time laying a foundation in some of the basic concepts of science and of our body in hope that it will actually make nutrition a simpler subject.
I believe that deep down a scientist lurks within all of us. Everyday we ponder the effects of certain actions before performing them. This is the so-called cause and effect relationship, the very basis of scientific experimentation. Furthermore, since most of us give at least some thought to the foods we eat, we are all a special breed of scientist. We are nutrition scientists! A nutrition scientist is one who ponders the relationship between food components and their body. You do not have to work in a laboratory to be a nutrition scientist. All you need is simple curiosity and the dedication of your time to pursue a greater understanding of nutrition. This book is written in a question and answer format to satisfy your curiosity.
Fundamental questions regarding nutrition and our body will be posed and then answered based upon the most current research. If your educational background includes a solid foundation of biology and chemistry you may wish to skip the first few chapters. However, if your science background is weak or far in the past, you may find the first few chapters of service. So, here we go. Good luck and good science!
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