Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Health and nutrition for CSEC Physical Education Series

Published:Tuesday | April 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity".

Good health starts with making good choices, and good choices lead to good health habits as outlined below.

Physical Health

This deals with the condition of your body. Maintaining good physical health requires the following:

n Eating balanced meals

n Engaging in physical activity

n Practising good hygiene

n Getting enough rest

n Avoiding alcohol, drugs and smoking

Mental Health

The way that you cope with the demands of daily life defines your mental health. People who have good mental health usually have the following characteristics:

n The ability to handle stress effectively and solve problems.

n Openness to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

n The ability to adjust to change.

Social Health

This form of health is defined by the way you interact with people. How well you get along with others is important to your overall sense of well-being. Ask yourself the following:

n Are you considerate of other people?

n Do you show respect to other people?

n Are you dependable?

n Do you support your friends when they make good choices?

n Do you share your feelings with your friends?

All parts of your health are equally important to overall wellness. Wellness is a state of good health that is achieved by balancing your physical, mental and social health. Sports involvement is an excellent means of achieving overall wellness.

Nutrients and

food groups

Good health starts with a good diet. The body needs nutrients in order to prevent malnutrition, which is a state of unhealthy tissues and organs because of faulty or inadequate nutrition. Nutrients required by the body can be found in the six food groups. A healthy combination of foods from these six food groups will provide us with the energy we need to live, grow and repair ourselves. The food groups are:

n Staples

n Legumes

n Fruits

n Vegetables

n Fats and oils

n Foods from animals.

Nutrients are the substances in foods that are absorbed into the blood and transported to cells throughout the body. These nutrients are as follows:


This is a source of energy. Carbs are found in sweet and starchy foods, i.e., the staple food group. Active sport persons need 60 per cent of their diet to be from carbohydrates. Meals high in carbohydrates are known as high-energy foods, e.g., rice, pasta, yam, corn, cereals etc. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose. Excess glucose is then stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.


This is needed for cell building, blood making and for muscle and tissue repair and restoration. Proteins cannot be stored and are mainly found in the food from animals group. Examples are meat, dairy products, poultry, eggs, seafood and legumes (peas, nuts, beans). The body can also use protein as energy. It is believed that high protein leads to bigger muscles and quicker recovery after training. Proteins are broken down into amino acids.


Fats are used as energy with a mixture of glycogen, as it cannot be used on its own. The mixture depends on how intense the activity is and how long it will last. Fats are supplied from the fats and oils group and also from varying foods from animals. It is also found in nuts and some plants. The wrong type of fats may lead to high cholesterol. Fats are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol.

Vitamins and minerals

The body only requires a tiny amount of vitamins. Some vitamins, like A and D, can be stored in the liver. Some have to be consumed regularly, e.g. Vitamin C. The body will excrete excess amounts. Minerals are just as important. Vitamins and minerals are found in all types of food, but are particularly present in fruits and vegetables.

n Vitamin A - promotes healthy eyes and skin.

n Vitamin C - strengthens the immune system.

n Vitamin D - promotes strong bones and teeth and are essential for absorption of calcium.

n Calcium - promotes healthy teeth and bones.

n Iron - promotes blood production, prevents tiredness.

n Iodine - promotes production of thyroxin hormone, controls metabolic rate.


This is a substance called cellulose, which is found in plants. Fibre is a part of a healthy diet and is found in vegetables, wholegrain foods and other cereals. It cannot be digested by the body, but prevents constipation and bowel cancer. It absorbs poisonous waste from digested foods.


This makes up 70 per cent of the body's weight. It aids the digestive system. A lack of water could decrease the amount of food that is digested, resulting in fewer nutrients reaching the cells. Eight glasses of water must be consumed daily to replace water lost through sweating, urination and breathing.

The seven important nutrients must be part of the diet in the right proportions to make it balanced.

Next Week: Foods for health and athletic performance/eating disorders.