Food is fuel?

  • For those who are just starting to think about their diet (i.e. beginners in the field);
  • For people who view food primarily as fuel;
  • For those who do not pay attention to the quality of food products;
  • For those who want to challenge themselves and make changes to their diet.

Don’t expect complex biochemical adventures.

Nor do you expect impossible mathematical equations.

Take a piece of paper and pen and write down the first thing that comes to your mind when you ask: What is food to me?

Then continue reading the lines below.

Going back in the time, food has had a variety of meanings for me. Some positive, and others decidedly undesirable. Among them have been: enemy, comfort, fuel, just calories, cause of excess fat, fear, difficulty, enjoyment.

I’m glad the negative ones are in the past, and to date food is a friend to me and far from being characterized by calories alone. Because it’s not just fuel, it’s so much more.

I wondered what other people thought about this and took a little poll in our PirateTea community.

I was very surprised to find that the majority of people recognise the importance of food, that it provides information, enjoyment and is more substantial and profound than the definitions such as ‘calories’, ‘energy’ and ‘fuel’.

If you believe that food is a “daily intelligence test”, a “basis of existence”, “communication” and “like the sun and the air”, then the things in this article are probably very familiar to you.

However, if you are one of those for whom food is simply fuel, then it might be worth considering that in addition to calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates, food also carries information, water and micronutrients.

Food and nutrients

The food we eat is made up of different substances. Some of them are well known, others not so much (or at least people don’t think about them). Those which are mainly associated with food and characterise it are: proteins, fats and carbohydrates (macronutrients).

But food also contains water, vitamins, minerals (micronutrients) and other important components that have no caloric value but contribute to essential body processes.

Fuel or something more

The main macronutrients are broken down to other substances that are absorbed by the body and go for their intended purpose. Proteins – to amino acidscarbohydrates – to glucose, and fats – to fatty acids.

Many people misunderstand the importance of paying attention to food choices. For them it is enough to have some sources of fat, of protein and  carbohydrates, but they do not care about their quality of the food.

And in fact, it is extremely important and the better the quality of the food, the better will be the physiological response of the body when the food is digested. And this is where the notion that food is just fuel loses its meaning. Because food is also information.

The statement “Food as fuel” is associated with the caloric value it carries.

But micronutrients do not contain calories, they are not fuel, and yet they have an important role for our bodies. Let’s consider the functions of magnesium, calcium, chromium, B vitamins for example. All of them (and they are a very small part of the whole picture) are involved in processes that contribute to good health – regulating blood pressure, maintaining good communication at the cellular level, controlling blood sugar, transporting other minerals, helping with protein synthesis, and so on.

Where the misleading information comes from?

When it comes to nutrition, diets and ways to get in the shape we want, most people fall into little trap: they start associating food only with their appearance and body image, without paying attention to how their diet affects their inside and they focus only on calories, protein, carbs and fat.

These are the terms that are mentioned most often. “How many calories are you taking in daily?”, “How much protein are you eating relative to your body weight?”, “How many carbs are you eating?”.

We eat foods before they break down to the substances in question (macronutrients). And yes, we eat foods to have energy for life processes (i.e., fuel), but we should also eat in a way that makes us feel good, maintain good health, and have a fulfilling life.

And this no longer just means “energy”, but knowledge – how foods affect the body, how different micronutrients affect the body as participants in important processes (directly or indirectly).

Food as fuel – the dangers of this belief

Often, when someone thinks that food is just fuel, he makes basic mistakes – he eats the same products for a long periods of time, he monitors only calories and macronutrients, he does not balance his choices between nutritious food and junk food.

In this case, it is very easy for important vitamins and minerals to become deficient and for the individual to not get enough through food, and separately not considering including them as a supplement.

And when key vitamins and minerals are in insufficient amounts, our body (which is not a car, but a complex and ever-changing system) cannot function optimally.

Iron deficiency can lead to immune and endocrine system dysfunction, zinc deficiency can lead to skin problems and stunted development in children, vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteroporosishormoneimbalance, depression and more.

The problem is really serious and as long as we look at food only as calories and energy, it is unlikely to be solved.

Food is health and activity

In the world we live in, we are overloaded with “foods” we don’t need. But our busy lives, the need for quick energy (sugar) and shiny packaging often influence many people and they forget what the main function of food is – to help keep us healthy and active.

Today’s modern diet may be appealing to many, and also tasty, but the ‘foods’ in it do not fulfil the function we have mentioned.

Foods are complex combinations of chemical substances that are needed for the energy needed to sustain our vital processes, to build tissues, hormones, neurotransmitters, that are involved in communication between different systems in the body.

The more quality the sources of food we choose and the closer our diet regimen is to our body’s needs, the better for us.

If you don’t feel energetic, happy, if you have digestive problems, or your blood pressure fluctuates, if your muscle tone is weak, then maybe your food choices need to be changed.


It may sound a bit controversial to some, but nutrition has its spiritual side.

I believe that when we make an effort to make optimal choices more often, to pay attention to the quality of our diet, we contribute to loving ourselves, our bodies, our loved ones.

Why to our loved ones? On the one hand, If we feel good, it will be reflected in our relationships with others.

And on the other hand there is the act of preparing food.

I know it’s not for everyone and it’s not always possible, but it’s nice to have cooking our own food to be be a real thing (even if it’s a small part of one’s life).

We put energy into cooking our own food, and it’s no coincidence that great chefs say that it always shows when a dish is made with desire, love and respect.

Of course, food can also be the enemy, but I think it has become clear that the choice is up to us.

There is no way (or at least it’s hard, hardly achievable) to make the optimal choice always and at all costs. And it is not necessary.

It’s important that we strive to give our bodies truly whole foods most of the time, or if we have a choice of not so quality foods, that we choose less processed.If this is fulfilled, the rare occurrence of something “unhealthy” is neither fatal nor cause for concern.

Take the list we started with at the beginning. Will you change anything of what is written on it?

Food is…

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