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Why Nutrition is Important

Is There Anything More Important Than Survival?

If you have ever observed or experienced an infant, minutes after she has been thrust into this world, root for her mother’s breast, latch on and suckle, you undoubtedly know why nutrition is important. Survival.

It can’t be more simply stated: We need nutrition to stay alive, procreate and preserve the species. Does the infant know all this as she extracts a perfect array of carbohydrates, fats and protein from her mother? Scientists tell us that she does, innately.

We know that the human animal is born with specific innate mechanisms that ensure survival of our species, one of them being the search for nutrients. Another survival instinct, we are told, is the sex drive, responsible for keeping us interested enough in the opposite sex to have relations and procreate. (Oh, is that what the sex drive is supposed to be for? I thought it was for putting gray hairs on the heads of parents with teenagers!)

The search for nutrients, or acquisition of nutrition, is so keenly enmeshed with our survival that societies revolve around the process of procurement and the celebration of the feast. Our ancestors that roamed the earth followed herds of specific animals indigenous to their area, primarily for food to survive and secondarily to use all aspects of the animal for clothing, shelter, tools and medicines. Subsequent celebrations of the hunt were often followed with elaborate dancing and mating rituals, thus, again, assuring the survival of the clan. These people did not need nutrition experts telling them why nutrition was important; they knew from a place deep inside them, a place where words are not needed, that their existence depended upon eating, and eating often.

Of course we now know, due to nutrition experts, why we need to eat often. As our ancestors just needed to follow the empty feelings in the pits of their stomach, i.e. hunger, we now have copious amounts information telling us why nutrition is important. We are taught early in our health courses that the body is a complex, interwoven web of chemical reactions, all of which require specific nutrients to work correctly. Thus we are taught that chemical reactions taking place in our digestive system prompt chemical reactions in our brains that send the over riding message: Go get something to eat!

And eat we do! The procurement of food is not nearly as challenging now, as made obvious by the adornment of each street corner with some manner of caloric availability. Of course, it is this caloric availability that has gotten us in trouble; as we still have our ancestors’ body of chemical reactions which operate in the exact same manner. The difference is, most notably, that we do not have to hunt for our food-it is never necessary to break a sweat due to physical excursion in a drive-through! Thus the chemical reactions that store extra, unneeded calories into fat are working in over drive, and outlets to burn this fat have to be planned and executed. Isn’t this flip-flop interesting? We have to plan and execute ways to keep our bodies lean as our ancestors had the opposite dilemma, planning and executing ways to stay fat! None-the-less, although it gets lost in our mostly cerebral existence, we humans are planning and executing the acquisition of nutrition for survival. Nutrition keeps us alive. What could be more important than that?

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