Nutrition, as we know it, deals with the effects of components of food on the human body, beginning with the physiological and biochemical processes involved in nourishment. This includes how substances in food provide energy or are converted into body tissues, and the diseases that result from insufficiency or excess of essential nutrients. Some foods are considered healthy depending on their nutrient content while others are considered unhealthy.
Malnutrition occurs as a result of deficiencies, excesses or imbalances of nutrients; it may also be an outcome of food insecurity, or non-food factors. Nutrition is now seen as a major modifiable determinant of chronic disease, with scientific evidence increasingly supporting the view that alterations in diet have strong effects, both positive and negative on health throughout life. There are two major types of malnutrition namely:
- Undernutrition (inadequate nutrient intake), for example Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM) and micronutrient (such as iron, calcium, vitamin A and D) deficiencies.
- Over nutrition (excess nutrient intake), examples include obesity and chronic diseases (hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes).
In students’ context, adequate nutrition is vital for optimum health and increased productivity. Good academic performance may be difficult to achieve in the presence of health challenges. This can cause distractions and inability of students to concentrate on their studies. Research has shown that undernourished students are not able to take on physical work and sporting activities seriously, are less able to attend school and if they do, are less able to concentrate and learn. This shows that it is important for students to eat healthy and adequate diets which will promote their health, wellbeing and academic excellence. Healthy diets are diets which are rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, and have very minimal content of salt, sugars, preservatives, saturated and trans fats. Healthy foods undergo little or no processing and hence have minimal content of artificial additives.
Many students sometimes get overwhelmed by academic workload and deadlines they have to meet up with. This causes them to sometimes resort to consuming fast foods which are mostly excessively processed, hence unhealthy. This habit may seem convenient for them but may pose health challenges such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, in the long run. Multiple studies have also reported a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression. This will eventually lead to poor cognitive ability, impaired memory and consequently poor academic performance. Students must therefore endeavor to be deliberate and conscious of their dietary habits, make out time to prepare and eat healthy foods in order to stay healthy and excel in their studies.
Being health conscious and able to manage stress well, plays a vital role in achieving academic excellence during your studies as a student. Maintaining a balanced diet in every meal can assist a student to get all the required nutrients and health to manage during challenging times. Managing optimum health and wellness has a direct effect on academic achievement/success. Eating healthy can help your physical body handle pressure without failing or slowing down and students are encouraged to regularly exercise.
Academic challenges are inevitable and can cause enormous stress levels and anxiety and so ensuring that students maintain a sound mind is of utmost importance. One of the ways of ensuring that is by consuming well balanced diet and maintaining regular exercise weekly. A balanced diet means eating a diet / meal that provides your body with adequate amounts of nutrients and vitamins. A healthy lifestyle results in a healthy mind and that has a direct impact on student’s academic performance.
With that in mind the Food Evolution Research Laboratory (FERL) in collaboration with the Department of Applied Information Systems (3rd year students) developed an exciting App called Healthy Eating Routine (HER).
The FERL launched the HER App in October and this App (Android only, for now) is accessible to all UJ students .