Just as trees need nourishment, our bodies need consistent, loving care to grow a healthy future.

Tree of life

The humble tree can tell an interesting tale of its life by revealing its growth rings. A tree has within it a year-by-year record of the conditions in which it has thrived, struggled or declined. Lack of good nutrition due to soil or mineral changes, or lack of water during drought can hinder a tree's growth, but rarely does a bad nutrition season or year cause our shady friend to perish.

Like this, a bad season or year of nutrition has rarely a deceased human made. However, it often leaves its mark over an extended period. Over our lifetime we need a daily drip-feed of nutrition; things like minerals including calcium for strong bones and iron for good blood health, vitamins (both water and fat soluble), and macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and protein to ensure that our trunk is kept healthy and our branches grow strong. We also need those magical polyphenols found in fruit, vegetables and many other foods to keep our leaves shiny and to ward off parasites and bugs. Too much food may cause our trunk to split and increases the risk of future health problems.

Like trees, humans have the capacity to overcome small lulls in our nutrition where our 'rings' (read: blood tests, bone density, health status) grow sub-optimally. However, as gloomy as it sounds, if we spend too much time in a poor nutritional state it will likely lead to more lingering problems, and possibly even an earlier demise.

It is natural for humans to have small lapses when it comes to nutrition at different points in our lives. Some will be planned (like Christmas, birthdays and New Year’s Eve) but some will also be unplanned – the Sunday quiet ale that turned into a Sunday 11pm taxi home from the city. If our nutrition is optimal and our lapses mostly planned, then our rings will grow steadily with leaves vibrant and our future rosy.

To this dietitian, the effects of the drip-feed of optimal nutrition into the human body buoys the spirits, much like a viticulturist would find the drip-feed of nutrition and water onto a vine. It is most unfortunate that today’s media, such as popular newspapers, magazines and current affairs shows, do not share the same opinion. Instead, these media outlets prefer sensationalist headlines, like flooding rain and severe drought which puts listeners and readers at risk of wet drowned roots or premature death. In 2014, media has been awash with sensationalist articles and opinions from lots of people with only snippet comments from the specialised viticulturists and horticulturalists (read: medical doctors and Accredited Practising Dietitians) out there.

To fully appreciate what effect good nutrition has on the human body is akin to appreciating a tree thriving in rich soil with dense foliage and deeply coloured leaves. To avoid spending too much time in the poor nutrition wilderness, see your local Accredited Practising Dietitian.

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