Introduction to Nutrition (or why you are different from your car)
On first glance, nutrition looks like a pretty simple deal, doesn’t it? Your stomach is sort of like the gas tank on your Ford. The food you put into your stomach is kind of like the fuel you buy at the gas station. (And your mouth and esophagus are pretty much like the gas cap and filler pipe on your Ford . . . but let’s not dwell on that.)
So you get your fuel down there into your tank, then it moves through your alimentary canal (small and large intestines), which basically burn up the food and extract energy from it. And all that energy fuels your muscles and major organs and (if there is any juice left over) maybe your brain too.
To make this analogy even more valid, consider the fact that the gas you burn in your car comes from ancient fossils of living things, and most of the stuff you just ate was recently living too. Plus, all the stuff that both you and your car burn is made up of carbon.
So you see, you are just like your car. But hold on a minute. Because even though you might look like a car, the whole process your body uses to convert food into energy is really a lot more complex than any car’s fuel injection system could ever be. Even if you just ate a skid of pulled pork and have heartburn and it feels like it, your body is doing a lot more than simply burning stuff up. It took millions of years of human development for our bodies to develop all kinds of enzymes and chemicals that can digest all kinds of foods, from celery sticks to Whoppers. (Or if you don’t believe in evolution, Adam and Eve arrived on earth with all those enzyme-making capabilities already set up and ready to run.)
Here’s just one example of how clever our bodies are at digesting all kinds of stuff, not just one kind of stuff. Let’s only take a quick look at all the events that happens in your stomach, which secretes all the following gastric enzymes, and more, that start to break down the food that shows up there . . .
- Pepsinogen breaks down the protein in the food you eat into smaller particles like peptide and amino acids.
- Hydrochloric acid (ouch!) is made in your stomach too. It kills any bacteria that are still hanging around in that Taco Supremo you just ate and starts to break down foods so your intestines can process them further. If you have ever barfed and noticed that sour taste in your mouth (sorry to be gross here), that sourness is nothing less than hydrochloric acid.
- Mucin is soothing mucus goo that coats the stomach and protects it. You see, all that hydrochloric acid would damage your stomach’s lining unless there was a coating like mucin. It keeps your stomach from committing suicide.
- Gastrin is a hormone. The stomach makes it and as near as we can tell, it is there to stimulate the stomach to make hydrochloric acid. As I mentioned above, we are talking about very complex systems here, and gastrin is one little part of all that complexity.
Are You In Love with Nutrition?
Maybe you already were in love with nutrition and digestion, even before you started to read today’s post. And who could blame you, because there are many, many reasons to study nutrition and maybe even become a trained nutritionist. Here are just a few . . .
- As a nutritional counselor, you can help people lose weight if they want to, without depriving their bodies of needed nutrients.
- As a sports nutritionist, you can help athletes create diets that increase their performance, reduce fatigue, and enjoy other benefits.
- As a diabetic nutritionist, you can help people with diabetes live longer and better lives.
- As somebody who eats – and you do eat, right? – a knowledge of nutrition can help you maintain your ideal body weight, live longer, and even stay trim so you don’t resemble a Ford.
And how can you get started? StraighterLine’s terrific Introduction to Nutrition course offers you a flexible, inexpensive, and effective way to start studying about nutrition.
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