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Good nutrition helps keep you healthy.

Good nutrition helps keep you healthy.

Nutrition not only affects your body’s ability to maintain itself but also helps you manage your risk for developing disease. An occasional lapse in eating foods of high nutritional quality is unlikely to cause problems, but consuming low-quality foods, especially when practiced over time, can impact both your short-term and long-term well-being.


Your body uses dietary protein to repair tissue, build muscle, form immune and blood cells, synthesize enzymes and manufacture hormones. Proteins are made up of small units called amino acids, and, while you can make some amino acids inside your cells, others – the essential amino acids – must be provided by your diet. Eating too little protein or limiting yourself to foods that lack one or more of the essential amino acids leads to an eventual protein deficiency. Insufficient protein intake inhibits your body’s ability to make the proteins you need for good health and can lead to muscle wasting, a compromised immune system, lack of energy, liver damage and even death.


The starches and sugars you eat are your body’s main source of fuel. Consuming enough carbohydrates in your diet ensures you have the energy you need to go about your daily activities. In addition to amount, the kind of carbohydrates you consume can affect your health. Eating carbohydrates with a high glycemic index – a measure of how quickly the food raises your blood sugar level – can lead to poor insulin control if you are diabetic. It may also result in poor appetite control, as these foods, such as sugar, white bread, mashed potatoes and white rice, are quickly digested and may not allow you to feel full for long. In addition, carbohydrate foods that supply you with sugars but few or no other nutrients can cause you to gain weight or experience nutritional deficiencies.


Carbohydrates you cannot digest are known as dietary fiber. Although they don’t provide nutrients to your body, they play a role in maintaining your digestive health. The soluble fiber found in oats, beans, fruits and vegetables swells as it passes through your intestines, slowing down the absorption of food. This effect assists in controlling your blood cholesterol and glucose levels, helping reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or helping manage diabetes. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains and vegetables, adds bulk to your stool and helps regulate your bowels, preventing constipation and hemorrhoids. It may also reduce your chances of developing digestive system cancers. Foods of poor quality might lack one or both of these types of fiber, impacting your digestive health and making you more prone to disease.


Although dietary fat is a critical component of good health, eating too much or too many of the wrong kinds of fat results in serious health risks. High-fat foods of any kind can add excessive calories to your diet and predispose you to obesity. A diet high in saturated fats or cholesterol contributes to high blood cholesterol levels, to plaque buildup in your arteries and to heart disease. Healthy unsaturated fats, on the other hand, keep your cell membranes flexible and help regulate the amount of cholesterol circulating in your blood, which limits your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Vitamins, Minerals and Phytochemicals

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that support your health by assisting in a wide array of your body’s processes. Eating foods of low quality that lack some or all of the vitamins and minerals you need each day can lead to symptoms relating to the specific function of the missing nutrient. For example, too little vitamin C in your food impairs wound healing, lack of vitamin A diminishes your immune health and insufficient potassium or magnesium affects your blood pressure. In contrast, nutrient-dense foods supply abundant vitamins and minerals, as well as phytochemicals, which are plant-based molecules found in many fruits and vegetables. These compounds help ward off health issues such as cancer and inflammatory disorders.