Is food the same as nutrition?
Nutrition, food and diet are three fundamental pillars that play an important role in maintaining life and health.
The vast field of nutrition and food has undergone important advances in the world of research, and more and more is known about its impact on health. Today, it is estimated that more than a third of chronic or non-communicable diseases (obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases) are directly or indirectly related to diet, and can be both a protective factor as the risk of developing them.
In short, we have in our hands the power to decide how to eat, what foods to choose, how to prepare them, how much and how to consume them. In order to do that, it is important to know the difference between food and nutrition . In this post, Andrea Calderón, professor in the Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics Online at the European University, tells us in detail if food is the same as nutrition .
WHAT IS FOOD AND WHAT DOES IT CONSIST OF?
Food is the act of providing food to the body and its intake with the main purpose of nourishing us. It covers the set of actions necessary to maintain the life and health of a person or a group:
- The selection of food.
- Its preparation and cooking.
- The act of ingesting them.
That is, feeding ourselves not only refers to the specific act of eating food, but also involves a series of previous steps conditioned by our culture, customs, tastes … since it refers to the act of choosing the foods with which we want to eat, its organization and distribution within our diet, how we prepare and cook them, as well as their conservation.
WHAT IS NUTRITION AND WHAT DOES IT CONSIST OF?
Nutrition is the science that studies the set of physiological processes by which the body receives and uses the necessary materials (nutrients) to stay alive and perform all the functions necessary to live. It includes the set of relationships between humans and food: the use and assimilation of nutrients by humans, and attitudes, behaviors and eating habits.
Nutrition encompasses a wide range of fields of study:
- Eating of food.
- Food digestion.
- Nutrient absorption, transport, utilization and metabolism.
- Excretion of waste.
Nutrition must meet four primary goals:
- Provide the energy necessary to carry out vital functions.
- Provide the materials or nutrients necessary for the formation, maintenance and repair of the structures that make up our body.
- Regulate metabolic processes so that they develop properly.
- Ensure optimal quality of health and contribute as a protective or preventive factor against various pathologies. Previously, this last objective was not considered as such, and nutrition was only sought to achieve the nutrients and the minimum energy that we need to survive. Today, we know that nutrition has a much greater impact, and one of its basic objectives is to achieve the highest possible quality of life thanks to a healthy diet.
Consequently, nutrition must be adequate to:
- Avoid nutrient deficiency and its consequences: for example, protein-calorie malnutrition due to lack of energy and protein, osteoporosis due to vitamin D deficiency, iron deficiency anemia due to lack of iron …
- Avoid excessive intake of nutrients: for example, a high intake of calories, fat or carbohydrates can lead to overweight or obesity, and associated chronic diseases.
- Maintain weight and proper body composition: we must consume the daily energy we need to develop both our vital functions and to compensate for the energy expenditure that we have had during the day. In this way, we will maintain an adequate weight and a healthy body composition.
- Prevent the appearance of pathologies related to eating: a healthy, varied and balanced diet contributes to a better quality of life and health, as well as eating an unhealthy diet contributes to the development of multiple pathologies and increases the risk of morbidity and mortality from various causes.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FOOD AND NUTRITION?
These are the main differences between food and nutrition:
- Food intake proper
- It is a voluntary act
- It is related to food
And nutrition is:
- Supply of nutrients to the body to maintain life and health
- It is an involuntary act: digestion, absorption, transport and metabolism of nutrients and elimination of waste
- It’s related to nutrients
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE STUDIED A MASTER’S OR BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN NUTRITION?
The career opportunities of a Dietitian-Nutritionist (DN) after studying a Master in Clinical Nutrition , for example, are very wide, and can be classified mainly in the following fields:
- Clinical and hospital environment: the clinical DN can be dedicated to the nutritional approach in hospitals as part of the Nutrition Units and Services with functions: in the nutritional screening and follow-up of hospitalized patients both through nutritional assessment, as a dietary guideline, as well as support management enteral or parenteral artificial nutrition if required.
- The clinical nutritionist can also work in health centers, such as in private nutrition practice in different areas: general nutrition, obesity, nutrition in digestive diseases, allergies and food intolerances, oncological nutrition, nutrition in TCAs (eating behavior disorders) … within of a multidisciplinary team. As well as carrying out the nutritional intervention in women during pregnancy and during breastfeeding, as well as that of the baby (introduction of food, pediatric nutrition).
- Outreach and community nutrition: every DN can dedicate or play an essential role in nutrition education for the population through the dissemination, design and planning of campaigns, workshops, projects and public health policies, nutritional intervention in the community … from different perspectives.
- Sports nutrition: People who have studied the MASTER IN SPORTS NUTRITION REAL MADRID can dedicate themselves to the dietary and nutritional approach adapted to sport both in the general population and in high-performance athletes of any specialty, their role being essential for an improvement of body composition and sports performance.
- Research: DN has an important role in research in the field of nutrition and food, food technology, and nutrition in health, as well as in epidemiology and public health. Two growing fields within this area would be the study of omics and nutrition, highlighting nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics; and research on intestinal microbiota.
- Collective catering and hygiene and food safety: a field with more and more outlets for DN is collective catering: design and planning of collective menus for hospitals, schools, residences, the workplace … as in the field of hygiene and food safety , good eating practices, food handling, or designing the HACCP Plan in kitchens.
- Food industry and food technology: both in research in this field, as in the design of new food products, marketing, or in the different phases of food processing.
- Work environment: the DN has more and more opportunities in the work environment working within companies that advocate to improve the health of their workers with different functions such as: individualized consultation, workshops and talks, intervention in dining rooms and cafeterias, creation of material of Nutritional education…
- Teaching: teaching in nutrition and dietetics training.
- Others: the DN may have other professional opportunities as part of various nutrition institutions, societies or associations with related functions such as dissemination, creation of material, creation of nutritional education programs.
ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO STUDY NUTRITION OR FOOD?
Nutrition is a vast field, currently growing and expanding, with a multitude of opportunities and professional areas to which you can dedicate yourself as a Dietitian-Nutritionist. Therefore, my advice is to start from the basis that it is a science that is constantly updated, so it requires study and training throughout life like any other profession related to health.
Just as I consider that in any area that a DN can work, it is essential to develop communication and therapeutic skills, dealing with people and teamwork. In addition, a DN must have a true vocation since it requires constant updating and training, being interested in research and public health, and having a critical and reflective spirit to transmit the best possible nutritional education in any of the fields.