No matter who you are, you have to eat to survive. Not only that, but your body has certain nutritional requirements above and beyond simple caloric intake. Your body's physical needs mean that in order to maintain good health, you have to understand what nutrients your body needs, how much of each it needs, and what foods you can find it in. For most people, eating well is something that requires as much knowledge as skill. For example, a basic culinary education goes a long way toward helping you make sure the nutritional needs of you and your family are met. As someone who prepares meals for yourself and possibly for a family too, a little culinary education may be required to understand the basic elements of nutrition.
Almost everyone knows that the human body requires a certain amount of calories each day; too many will cause you to gain weight, and too little will cause you to lose it, in addition to losing valuable physical energy. However, many people's understanding of calories stops here. In actuality, a "calorie" is simply a unit of measurement, such as "inches" or "seconds".
However, calories measure the amount of energy gained from food, rather than a distance or length of time. In other words, the body requires a certain amount of energy, or calories, in order to function properly. When balanced properly with the amount of energy you expend in one day, calories are no more your enemy than are the vitamins and minerals you also get from food. Your body gets calories from three different sources: fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Just as calories are not your body's enemy, neither are any of these three elements. However, fats produce more than twice the amount of energy per gram than either protein or carbohydrates, making it much easier to consume too much energy when eating fatty foods; and all three contain are associated with very different nutrients than each other.
For example, vegetables and fruits, which are sources of carbohydrates, tend to be high in vitamin A, C, and an assortment of B vitamins, whereas meat, which is a source of protein and fat, tends to be higher in important minerals, such as iron. In general, a wide variety of these foods is important for total health, but a basic culinary education can help you more fully understand the necessary elements of a healthy diet. Although the vitamins and minerals found in food do not provide any calories, in other words you cannot get your energy from vitamins and minerals, your body requires them for very specific purposes. Anyone who has ever had low potassium levels in their body knows the painful muscle cramps that can result.
This is one of the reasons that foods high in potassium, such as bananas and avocados, are so necessary a part of your diet. Vitamin A plays an important role in your vision functions, and vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium properly. There are many more: your body requires a whole army of vitamins and minerals in order to function properly.
In order to select an array of foods that support total health, you will need to be able to weigh the nutritional value of different foods against one another. Planning a balanced diet, one that provides your body with all of the nutrients it needs, while staying within the range of calories that your body needs to maintain its energy requires a basic culinary education. Whether you take a few culinary classes, read a few books on nutrition, or start collecting cookbooks that contain healthful recipes, your understanding of basic nutrition will help you to plan a menu rich in the nutrients your body needs.
Andy West is a freelance writer for The Culinary Institute of Virginia College. Culinard offers two outstanding programs in culinary education. For more information please visit http://www.culinard.com .