Nutrition

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Nutrition is all about the supply and uptake of nourishment through food and drink. Science has unlocked the mysteries of the key components of food nutrition: carbohydrates, fats and oils, proteins, minerals and vitamins. So by the early 20th century, the British Medical Association had published the first recommendations for minimum dietary requirements in our daily food and drink - modern RIs (reference intakes) are simply updated versions of these. However, the British and US nutritional advice differs which weakens its weight.

Then there seem to constant twists and turns by the experts as to what's good or bad - so butter was bad and margarine and vegetable oils the best for heart and circulation but nowadays eggs are highly regarded, then a high carbohydrate diet and few eggs was pushed as ideal, but now carbohydrates and regarded as causes of diabetes and eggs are great. And while the official advice for a balanced diet contains little fat and loads of carbohydrates, some evidence suggests a high protein, high animal fat diet is good for you and tastes really good.

Our advice - so far as any can be given - is for a balanced diet that includes as much natural and unprocessed food as possible that maxes out on fruits, vegetables and nuts and keeps meat to a minimum, includes natural oils especially olive oil and meat with fats, then if you want bread make sure it is full of fibre and (ideally) home made. Perhaps, it also a matter of avoiding the really bad food, so making your own food for unprocessed ingredients, is the best advice - both in terms of health and taste.

It is important if you're following restrictive diets, e.g. veganism, vegetarianism, to ensure that you still get a diet that provides you with all the nutritional needs of the body. Yeast flakes are a good way to get some of those missing elements into a vegan diet.

Recommended Daily Amounts and Reference Intakes[1][2]

Reference Intake - UK Daily Value - US
Energy 8,400 kJ / 2,000 kcal 8,400 kJ / 2,000 kcal
Total fat 70 g 65 g
Saturates 20 g 20 g
Carbohydrate 260 g 300 g
Total sugars 90 g
Protein 50 g 50 g
Salt 6 g 6 g

High and Low Levels

For guidance on the best levels of nutrients in particular foods that you are buying, the guidance on the percentages (or g per 100g) is given as high and low levels. These are not absolute numbers because its the balance of nutrients taken over days and weeks that is important for your personal dietary health.

Table of High and Low Levels of Nutrients per 100g

Class High / g per 100 g[2] Low / g per 100 g [2]
Total fat 17.5 g 3.0 g
Saturates 5.0 g 1.5 g
Total sugars 22.5 g 5.0 g
Salt 1.5 g 0.3 g

If you're trying to cut down the saturated fats in your diet, the NHS advises you to limit eating foods with more than 5 g of saturated fat in 100 g, because they're often high in saturated fat[2]. Foods high in saturated fat include: bacon, biscuits, cakes, cheese, cream, fatty cuts of meats, pies and sausages. However, against this, some new ideas on nutrition suggest a low carbohydrate and high fat diet may be better for some people's health.

References

  1. FDA (2013) Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide (14. Appendix F: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients), U.S. Food and Drug Administration, January 2013, accessed 4 July 2016 [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 NHS (undated) What are 'reference intakes' on food labels?, NHS Live Well, accessed 4 July 2016 [2]

Further Reading

  • Davidson, A. (1999) The Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192115790.