2.4.1. Nutrition

Undernutrition, Overnutrition and Malnutrition

Good nutrition equates to receiving enough (but not too much) of the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and water) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) so that the body can stay healthy, grow properly, and work effectively. The phrase “you are what you eat” means that  your body will respond to the food it receives, either good or bad. Processed, sugary, high-fat, and excessively salted foods leave the body unable to perform effectively. By contrast, eating a variety of foods from all food groups fuels the body by providing what it needs to produce energy, promote metabolic activity, prevent micronutrient deficiencies, ward off chronic disease, and  bolstering a sense of overall health and well-being.

Hundreds of years ago, when food was less accessible and daily life required much more physical activity, people worried less about obesity and more about simply getting enough to eat. In today’s industrialized nations, conveniences have solved some problems and introduced new ones, including the hand-in-hand obesity and diabetes epidemics. Fad diets gained popularity as more North Americans struggled with excess pounds. However, new evidence-based approaches that emphasize more holistic measures are on the rise. These new dietary trends encourage those seeking to lose weight to eat healthy, whole foods first, while adopting a more active lifestyle.

Functional Foods

Many people seek out foods that provide the greatest health benefits. This trend is giving rise to the idea of functional foods, which not only help meet basic nutritional needs but also are reported to fight illness and aging. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), formerly known as the The American  Dietetic Association, functional foods may reduce the risk of disease or promote optimal health. The AND recognizes four types of functional foods. They are: conventional foods, modified foods, medical foods, and special dietary use foods.[1]

The first group, conventional foods, represents the simplest form of functional foods. They are whole foods that have not been modified. Examples include whole fruits and vegetables (which are abundant in phytochemicals and antioxidants), yogurt and kefir (which contain natural probiotic bacteria that can help maintain digestive system health), and moderate amounts of dark chocolate, made with 70% or more cacao (which contains antioxidants).

Modified foods have been fortified, enriched, or enhanced with additional nutrients or bioactive compounds. Foods are modified using biotechnology to improve their nutritional value and health attributes. Examples of modified foods include calcium-fortified orange juice, breads enriched with B vitamins, iodized salt, cereals fortified with vitamins and minerals, margarine enhanced with plant sterols, and energy drinks that have been enriched with herbs (ginseng or guarana) or amino acids (taurine). It is important to consider that the health claims of some modified foods may be debatable, or entirely fraudulent. Check with a health professional regarding the effects of modified foods on your health.

Medical foods are created to meet very specific nutritional requirements. Examples of medical foods include liquid formulas for people with kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, or other health issues. Medical food is also given to comatose patients through a gastronomy tube because they cannot eat by mouth.

Special dietary use foods do not have to be administered under a doctor’s care and can be found in a variety of stores. Similar to medical foods, they address special dietary needs and meet the nutritional requirements of certain health conditions. For example, a bottled oral supplement administered under medical supervision is a medical food, but it becomes a special dietary use food when it is sold to retail customers. Examples of special dietary use foods include gluten-free foods, lactose-free dairy products, and formulas and shakes that promote weight loss.


  1. Functional Foods. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/functional-foods. Published July 5, 2018. Accessed April 15, 2018.


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Fundamentals of Health and Physical Activity by Kerri Z. Delaney and Leslie Barker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.