Nutrition and Health Value

A correct and adequate diet, apart from providing the energy and nutrients necessary for the maintenance of basic health, should also meet certain other objectives, to significantly improve our quality of life.

In this regard, when we speak of healthy eating, we consider that it should:

  • give us a feeling of well-being, as the act of eating implicitly carries with it various cultural and social characteristics that go well beyond the action of nutrition.
  • increase the efficiency of the body, contributing substances necessary for formation, growth and repair of bodily structures and substances that regulate body’s metabolic processes.
  • reduce the risk of disease, as, apart from covering nutritional requirements, it can provide substances with positive effects in the prevention and treatment of disease.


Nutrients are substances necessary for the proper functioning of the body and maintenance of good health. Some nutrients cannot be synthesised by the body and must be supplied by diet (certain amino acids, vitamins, etc.). Foods contain and provide both essential and non-essential nutrients that the organism can synthesise or manufacture.

  • Carbohydrates, fats and proteins provide the energy the body needs for maintenance of vital functions, growth and physical activity. They also form part of the structure of cells, organs and tissue.
  • Vitamins and minerals are necessary to control the metabolism, which has a regulatory role in diverse functions within the body.

Nutrients have:

  • Energy Functions: lipids or fats, carbohydrates and to a lesser extent, proteins.
  • Structural Functions: proteins, lipids, minerals and water.
  • Regulatory Functions: vitamins and minerals.


Protein is made up of amino acids. Specifically, eight of these are eight called essential amino acids. They cannot be synthesised by the body and must be supplied daily in the diet.

Therefore, a balanced diet should have:

  • 50% animal protein or of high biological value (so called because it contains all the essential amino acids).
  • 50% vegetable protein: legumes, cereals and dried fruit. To increase the biological value of these proteins, cereals and legumes can be combined in the same meals, as their amino acids are complementary.
Hidratos de carbono


Their main function is as a source of energy, they are the principal source of fuel for cells in the body. They are subdivided into:

  • Simple carbohydrates: which are digested and absorbed rapidly, quickly raising blood glucose (blood sugar). Simple sugars are found in pastries, desserts, sugar, sugary drinks, juices, dried fruit and derivatives.
  • Complex carbohydrates: require more time to be digested, so their absorption and passage into the blood occurs more slowly and gradually. Complex carbohydrates are found in legumes, tubers, bread, rice, pasta, cereals and vegetables and to a lesser extent in vegetables.

Eating complex carbohydrates every day  is recommended, limiting simple sugars to less than 10%.

Fibra alimentaria

Dietary Fibre

This is a heterogeneous group of substances, some soluble and others insoluble, the majority are carbohydrates. Fibre is not assimilated by the body.

Its main functions in the body are:

  • To produce the sensation of satiety.
  • To reduce the absorption of cholesterol and slow the absorption of glucose.
  • To stimulate and regulate bowel function.
  • To reduce the absorption of toxic substances.

Foods highest in fibre are legumes, cereals and whole grains, unpeeled fruits and vegetables.

Grasas o lípidos

Fats and Lipids

These are essential nutrients because they provide energy, essential fatty acids (that the body cannot synthesise) and liposoluble vitamins. Fats found in foods consist mainly of triglycerides and, to a lesser extent, of other complex fats such as cholesterol, phospholipids, etc.

Triglycerides are composed of fatty acids:

  • Saturated fatty acids are found in animal fats and coconut and palm fats, used frequently by the baking industry. They raise levels of LDL-cholesterol levels (the “bad” one for good health) in the blood, and in excess they are harmful to the body.
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids, found in olive oil, raise HDL cholesterol, the “good” one for good health.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in oily fish or fats from marine animals (omega 3) and seed oils such as sunflower, corn and soy (omega 6).
  • Trans fatty acids, found in margarine and the hydrogenated fats used in the fabrication of pastries and desserts as well as potato crisps. They raise levels of LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, and lower the HDL-cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol

Cholesterol is found in animal fats: egg yolk, milk, organ meats, seafood, etc. Its consumption increases the total blood content of cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad”) and should therefore be limited.

Phospholipids are key elements in the formation of cell membranes.



Vitamins have important regulatory functions in many processes in the body, but must be consumed in small quantities.

  • Water-soluble vitamins are found in vegetable foods, with the exception of B12, which is only found in food of animal origin.
  • Fatty foods are often good sources of fat soluble vitamins.

A varied and balanced diet usually covers dietary intake requirements throughout the different stages of life.



These can be classified according to the needs of the body:

  • Macrominerals: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulphur. Recommended intake for each is greater than 100 mg/day.
  • Trace Minerals: iron, zinc, iodine, etc. Recommended intake is less than 100 mg/day.

They play a part in the regulation of different metabolic functions: regulation of water balance, nerve function, maintenance of osmotic pressure, and enzyme constituents.

Some minerals also play an important role in the formation and maintenance of teeth and bones.

Vegetables and dried fruit are good sources of minerals, which should be supplied by a balanced diet.


There is no food that possesses all the nutrients needed by the body, except breast milk for the first months of life.

There are no good or bad foods as such, but rather those whose consumption is recommended more or less frequently or sporadically.

Depending on their nutritional value, food group can be classified as energetic, structural and regulatory.

To meet nutritional needs, foods must be eaten from all groups and in the right proportions.

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