Nutrition Against Disease

Nutrition and Disease
Natasha Tovar
HCS308 Intro to Nutritional Concepts
Instructor Christine McMahon
June 08, 2016

What’s the Connection?

Most of the time, this question comes up when considering therapy and treatment options in lieu of a specific diagnosis; however, the connection between nutrition and disease begins even before we developed in the womb.  Let’s look at some examples.  According to the video file by Films on Demand, Food Safety and Disease Prevention (2011), many diseases that used to be prevalent in the disease department, were actually a cause of nutrient deficiencies such as a diet lacking vitamins or minerals.  After listing marasmus, goiter, pellagra, and kwashiorkor, they go on to say, “For example, goiter is a condition that causes abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland in the neck.  It’s caused by a deficiency of the mineral iodine” (segment 1).  This brings to mind the iodine fortification of regular table salt, in addition to other fortified foods.

Fortifying foods with iodine is essential because it is not naturally found in the diet in levels that are necessary to prevent diseases such as goiter.  There is some controversy among certain populations, however, in that they feel fortification gives a false sense of security which can lead to a lack of health promotion in nutrition.  As Sichert-Hellert, Kersting, Alexy, and Manz (2000) say, in an evaluation of the DONALD study, there was a significant change in the diets as a result of the fortification of salt and margarine.  Having the proper nutrients, such as iodine, which are not otherwise found in the diet, is another way to support our systems as science advances.  As a result, in conjunction with the advancement of science, there is greater longevity, better quality of life, and fewer instances of “dying too young”.  As we learn more about different minerals and vitamins that are connected to disease versus health, we can use this information to continue on the evolutionary track to excellence.

What is a balanced diet?

While fortifying foods that everyone consumes on a daily basis is essential to providing nutrients such as iodine, it still does not ensure proper nutrition.  In addition to having nutrients such as iodine fortified in regular food, nutrition is achieved through a balanced diet, and one great way of measuring this is the food pyramid.  Keeping a balanced diet in addition to eating foods that are nutrient-rich in minerals and vitamins is an excellent way to ensure our body has the nutrients necessary to fight disease.  The pyramid clearly indicates in order of importance, how many servings should be consumed in each food group.  Using the food pyramid is not necessarily exactly what every individual need, as there are different caloric needs and there are also allergies to be contended with; however, it is a common indicator of what is a healthy balance in one’s diet.  As we look at the pyramid below, we can see that there is an extremely small portion of fat compared to the rest of the diet.

the new food pyramid
Food Pyramids Photo Retrieved from URL:

The Food Pyramid concept has actually been updated three times.  As we can see here, the old, familiar pyramid has been replaced in 2005 by a different one.  In the new pyramid, it is easy to see in comparison how much of our diet should consist healthy whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meats and beans, and lastly oil.  The fatty section is really small compared to the rest, and the other items are listed in either total ounces or total cups.  There are many reasons this is more effective; for one thing, portions are easily misconstrued.  For instance, we can go to the restaurant and see that one serving of pasta is at least three cups of noodles with fatty sauces and meats on top of it, and then there will besides in addition to drinks, with a really high-caloric meal consisting of more than what one should actually be consuming in one sitting.  Another way that the 2005 model is more effective is that it includes the note that foods should be low in added sugars, and also the fact that trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided as they increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Choose My Plate

The food pyramid is a rather outdated way of viewing our nutrition; although it does show very well what the daily intake should be.  Choose My Plate is the newest way of viewing a balanced diet, being introduced in 2011.  Choose My Plate is the best way to view nutrition in that it shows how the diet should be balanced in every meal.  For example, one could have a “hearty breakfast” in their minds; however it would be filled with grains and dairy with little to no fruit, no vegetables, and most definitely no meat or beans.  According to Sizer and Whitney (2013), it is best to keep nutrition, especially protein, at an even level across all meals in order to be of the most effectiveness in disease prevention and healthy metabolism.  Using the food pyramid, we see that we need to have fruit, whole grain, dairy, meat, and even vegetables at all three meals.  It also shows how to balance it out by using portion pictures in the shape of the plate.  Below we can see how My Plate lays out in the picture.

Choose My Plate Photo retrieved from URL:


The final recommendation from Food Safety and Disease Prevention (Films on Demand, 2011), is to have plenty of superfoods in the diet.  This can be integrated into the daily servings of fruits, veggies, protein, grain, and even dairy.  Ten superfoods listed in this video file are as follows: Yogurt, Eggs, Tree nuts such as pecans walnuts or almonds, kiwi fruit, quinoa, beans, salmon, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and berries of all types.  Many are aware of superfoods such as berries, in that they are known for their antioxidants.  Antioxidants are intended to prevent or delay certain types of cellular damage according to NIH (2016).  NIH moves on to say that many common elements in antioxidants are high levels of vitamin C and E, carotenoids (like beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), and selenium.  While antioxidant supplements haven’t been known to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, a diet full of the superfoods has been known to be beneficial.

Superfoods Photo retrieved from URL:

The types of cellular damage that can be prevented or delayed are such damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress.  Free radicals cause oxidative stress; and oxidative stress, according to NIH (2016) is “thought to play a role in a variety of diseases including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration” (section 3).  They move on to say that the molecules of antioxidants (such as those found in the superfoods listed above) have actually counteracted the oxidative stress in the lab.  It can easily be concluded from this that superfoods should be integrated into our portions.  For instance, we could have berries for fruit, yogurt for the dairy, quinoa for grains, and the different vegetables and legumes mentioned as veggies and protein.  Overall, nutrition has a huge impact on disease prevention, and there is an easy way to ensure that we have proper nutrition by following My Plate, avoiding trans fats and saturated fats, and integrating superfoods in our plate throughout the day.






Food safety and disease prevention [Video file]. (2011). In Films On Demand. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from URL:

NIH. (2016). Antioxidants: In Depth. Retrieved from URL:

Sichert-Hellert, W., Kersting, M., Alexy, U., & Manz, F. (2000). Ten-year trends in vitamin and mineral intake from fortified food in German children and adolescents. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 54(1), 81-86 6p. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600897

Sizer, F. and Whitney, E. (2013). Nutrition Concepts & Controversies, Thirteenth Edition. Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Picture References

Choose My Plate Photo retrieved from URL:

Food Pyramids Photo Retrieved from URL:

Superfoods Photo retrieved from URL:


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