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Many people will think: because we are hungry. This is true. But what are the reasons behind this? We eat so that we as children can grow, so we do not become hypothermic, so we can have energy for our everyday lives and renew ourselves. Every bite and every sip we take is transformed within our body – partly into energy, partly into new body substance. We all have an energy metabolism and an anabolism. No matter how old we are.
The human body consists of about 60 billion cells. Your baby finger holds more cells than there are people on our planet. The smallest cells are red blood cells, measuring 0.01 millimeters in diameter. The largest human cell is the female ovum. The diameter of this is about 0.2 millimeters, which means it is slightly smaller than the dot in this full stop. Every second (!) of our lives, about seven million cells are replaced by new ones. On average, each cell is replaced approximately every 30 days. The biologic reality, however, is that the different cells in our body renew themselves at different speeds. This means that our body is replaced by new substance about every four years.
Every cell contains about 10,000 enzymes. They are our body’s biological “workers”. Their daily tasks include transforming the food we eat, the drinks we drink and the air we breathe into body’s own material. These processes are known in biology as the “metabolism”.
Just like any other animal, the human body needs energy in order to “function”. We obtain this energy from our diet. This is why we classify foods by the amount of calories they hold.
Energy production for the body is one of the important tasks of food. Everything we eat and drink in the morning or for lunch is digested by the body and partly transformed into the energy we need in the afternoon to mow the lawn or read this article. Many energy-consuming processes in our body happen without us being actually aware of them: our heart beats constantly, new cells, hormones, antibodies and digestive enzymes are constantly being formed, and many more processes seem to take place “automatically”. In any case, without us actively contributing.
Apart from providing our body with energy, we also need to eat so that our body can regularly replace used-up cells. Our body needs certain building blocks in order to build various body parts (such as muscles, nerves and bones). These building blocks enter our body with the food we eat. This means that any bite of chocolate, apple, ham or lettuce, and any sip of red wine will partly serve to build new body material. In many individual steps, the digested food is broken down and converted in the various body organs.
This question is easily answered: energy metabolism is more important. As we can only live max. 30-40 days without caloric intake. Deficiencies in the anabolism, on the other hand, will not become apparent for years or even decades. To put it another way: When it comes to the energy supply, our body is not really bothered about the quality of the nutrient calories we consume. From a pure calories perspective, we could, theoretically, survive on soft drinks or chips for months on end. There is a snag, however: anabolism. It is the part of our metabolism that decides what our body is made of, how well it functions and how well we feel. This is why the term “calorie” does not actually say anything about the quality of our food. It simply describes the amount of caloric energy contained in our food and drinks.