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What we eat has a large impact on our health. The impact is so great that it can cause, contribute to or worsen a health condition. It is important for students to understand that the decisions that they make now may not be problematic next week, but they can cause serious problems in the future. Many health conditions are influenced by genetics. If your mother has high blood pressure, you are at a higher risk for having it. Therefore, controlling your diet now may prevent the problem. Students often do not talk about these issues with their families. They do not know that someone in there family has a health condition. If they do know, they are often not educated about its causes, symptoms and affects on a person’s life. This lesson is meant to help children learn about their family health histories. It will provide them with the opportunity to research a disease that has affected their family and/or is a disease that they may be at risk for. They will see how nutrition impacts this disease and they will discuss what a person can do to eat more healthily. This will give them an opportunity to put together all the knowledge they gained in the nutrition unit.

Discussion: How nutrition affects our health

The students have already learned about how essential nutrients are to our health To Drink or Not to Drink and Growing Essentials). They help our bodies function normally and healthily. They learned that to get all the nutrients our bodies need, we have to:

•Eat a variety of foods from all five of the foods groups (Food Groups and the Food Guide Pyramid)

•Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and get 5 to 9 servings a day (Fruits and Vegetables Inside and Out & 5 to 9 a Day)

•Eat a healthy breakfast and eat breakfast every day (The Importance of Breakfast)

•Choose healthy snacks (Snack Math)

•Read the nutrition label to ensure that the foods we eat provide nutrients (Reading Nutrition Labels)

•Drink Vitamin C-rich drinks, milk and 100% fruit juice instead of sugary drinks (To Drink or Not to Drink)

•Hydrate our bodies with water (The Importance of Water)

What happens when we do not get the nutrients we need?

•Example: Without enough Vitamin C, our immune system will be week. We can’t fight off viruses or bacteria, such as the common cold or an ear infection.

•Example: Without protein, we can’t build strong muscles.

There are lots of other examples. What do the kids remember?

What happens when we don’t eat unhealthy foods in moderation? In other words, what happens when we eat too much sugar, salt, fat and cholesterol?

•Example: If we eat unhealthily and do not exercise, we become overweight. Being overweight can lead to a variety of health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

•Example: Not eating a diet low in sodium and cholesterol can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Are all diseases caused by or a result of poor nutrition?

•NO! Many diseases have no relation to nutrition. Eating healthily simply helps us survive and fight diseases if we contract them.

Determining risk for diseases: Nutrition as Prevention

Eating well now can mean less chance for health conditions in the future. Look at your parents or grandparents; do they have any health conditions? Genetics can play a part in our chances for getting certain disease. Genetics are characteristics that we inherit from our parents. For example, your eye color, hair color and height are probably similar to your parents’. Health conditions also run in families. Parents pass on certain health risks to their children. Eating well can help us lower our chances for many diseases.

It’s important to know your risk factors and understand how eating healthy can help you now and later in life. To help you with this, you will do the family tree exercise and then research a condition that someone in your family has that is affected by nutrition.

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