Nutrition refers to the manner in which the body makes use of food. It not only includes eating the correct amounts and kinds of foods, but also the processes by which the body uses food substances for growth, repair, and maintenance of body activities. Nutrition also concerns the role that food plays in our lives and the many factors that determine our food choices.
Good nutrition during adolescence is very important for the achievement of full growth potential and optimal health as well as for the prevention of certain adult chronic (frequently recurring) diseases. Poor eating habits formed during childhood and the teen years may, in combination with other factors, increase the risk for chronic diseases later in life such as heart disease, osteoporosis (a disease that causes bones to become fragile), and some forms of cancer. Eating habits also affect the risk for immediate health problems including iron deficiency anemia (a blood disease), high blood pressure, and tooth decay.
Food is basic to survival, and people have built-in mechanisms in their bodies that work to control how much they eat, when they eat, and what they eat. In addition to these built-in mechanisms, there are many other factors that affect the way people eat. What, when, and how much people eat is greatly influenced by emotional, social, cultural, and economic factors. However, eating too much, too little, or not eating some of each type of food can make people unhealthy.
Good nutrition is a complex issue that not only has immediate benefits but also is an investment in a person's future health. Adolescence is a critical period for establishing the foundation for healthful eating patterns.