The nutritional value of food refers to its capacity to nourish the body with the substances needed to live and grow. The body relies on food for fuel and to obtain the chemical compounds it needs to function. The greater the variety of nutrients the food contains, the greater the nutritional value of the food.
Types of Nutrients
The seven major types of nutrients are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, fiber, vitamins and minerals. The first five nutrients are considered macronutrients, which are the nutrients the body requires in relatively large quantities. The last two nutrients--vitamins and minerals--are considered micronutrients, which the body only needs in relatively small amounts.
The Value of Macronutrients
The body primarily uses carbohydrates and fats as fuel to supply the body with the energy, or calories, it needs for activity. The so called “good fats” also play a role in promoting healthy cholesterol levels, they assist in the regulation of some hormones. Fat actually comprises 60 percent of your brain’s tissue. Proteins are important because they are the body’s only source of essential amino acids. Amino acids are the “building blocks of life.” They are vital to nearly every function of the body. Fiber is a significant part of the diet because it helps to facilitate digestion and works to maintain good cholesterol. Water is fundamental to all life; the human body is 60 percent to 70 percent water.
The Value of Micronutrients
The chemical compounds of vitamins and minerals contribute greatly to the formation, growth, regulation, protection, repair and conversion activities the body must carry out to maintain health. There are many different classes of vitamins and minerals, each performing a unique function in sustaining or restoring the body. If the body is deficient in any of the micronutrients, it will result in health complications.
With such an abundance of processed foods on the market, it’s more important than ever to be health conscious about your food choices. Nowadays, it’s very easy to succumb to a diet rich in calories and little else. You could eat your way to obesity and still be malnourished. Your body needs more than calories to thrive; it requires a steady and balanced supply of all the nutrients in order to function properly. Humans need to be able to obtain nourishment without overloading our body with calories. The foods with the greatest nutrient density offer the greatest nutritional value.
Nutritional value can be measured in terms of a food’s nutrient density. A food’s nutrient density corresponds to the amount of nutrients in a food in relationship to how many calories it contains. It’s basically a calculation of cost versus benefits, the “cost” being the calories and the benefits being the sustenance the food offers in other nutrients. Foods that are relatively low in calories but rich in any combination of micronutrients, fiber, essential amino acids and polyunsaturated fats are considered nutrient dense and of great nutritional value.