We’re all familiar with the term 'nutrients.' We have our macros, which are proteins and carbs, and our micros, which are multi-vitamins. What more do we need? To answer that, let’s look at nutrients a little more closely.
Nutrients consist of macronutrients, micronutrients, and water.
Macronutrients are those that are eaten in large amounts. They consist of:
The micronutrients, which are consumed in smaller doses, consist of:
Aside from these macros and micros, water is considered a nutrient in itself because the body cannot survive without it.
All these nutrients are considered essential for our body to survive. However, the human body isn’t capable of producing everything it needs in order to survive, and that is why diet is important.
All of these nutrients must be consumed in adequate amounts daily, whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your health.
Why your body needs nutrients
What role do nutrients play in our everyday body functions? What makes them so essential? Here's a look at the six categories of nutrients and why we need them:
A familiar name in the world of fitness, proteins are considered the building blocks of the body. And we don’t just mean muscle building; every cell in our body contains protein, from muscles and bones all the way down to skin and hair.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which the body produces naturally and some that are acquired from food.
Sources of protein: Fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, soy, dairy products, nuts, beans, etc.
While most individuals with a goal to lose weight shy away from carbs, they are just as essential as protein.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. While it is true that limiting simple carbs like white bread and rice is beneficial for weight loss and won’t deter your daily needs much, complex carbs are the more essential nutrients. They are necessary to support the function of various systems in the body, such as the nervous, immune, and digestive systems.
Moreover, without carbs, we wouldn’t have sufficient energy to go about our day. A good 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calorie intake should come from carbs.
Sources of carbohydrates: Brown rice, vegetables, wholewheat pasta and bread, quinoa, oats, etc.
Fats don’t necessarily mean they make you fat, as long as you are watching what you eat. As with carbs, this nutrient comes in two forms: unsaturated fats and saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are further broken down into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are naturally occurring in foods and are essential to carry out processes such as cell growth, nutrient absorption, maintaining heart health, brain function, and hormone production. In fact, 20 to 35 percent of your total calories in a day must come from fats.
Saturated fats are those that are processed heavily and are present in foods laden with oil, including fried snacks and processed meats. This is what you should avoid. Not only do they contribute to weight gain, but they are also extremely harmful to your heart.
Sources of fats: Fish, nuts, oils such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, and seeds.
Vitamins are essential for various reasons, such as protecting the immune system, preventing certain diseases, improving the health of skin, bones, hair, and teeth, etc. There are 13 essential vitamins that the body can take in through food or supplements.
These are divided into fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble vitamins (Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins).
As the term implies, fat-soluble vitamins are those that require adequate fats in the body to absorb them. Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed easily, and the excess gets flushed out with urine.
Supplementation isn’t necessary if your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. However, deficiencies are common. In this case, supplements can prove beneficial.
Minerals are organic compounds that help regulate metabolism and maintain hydration levels. They are essential for various functions in the body.
Minerals can further be divided into major minerals and trace minerals.
Major minerals are magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, sulfur, and phosphorous. Meanwhile, trace minerals include iron, zinc, iodine, fluoride, copper, chromium, selenium, and manganese.
Most minerals are consumed through food. If your diet includes a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, chances are you are consuming sufficient amounts of minerals.
Water is possibly the most essential nutrient of them all. You may have noticed that your health is different even when you are dehydrated.
Considering the majority (more than 60 percent) of the body is made up of water, no cell can function without it. Water is essential to transport nutrients, flush out toxins, provide lubrication and hydration, and prevent constipation.
Water is best consumed in its purest form. No amount of tea, juice, or coffee can replace it.
Now that you have the scoop on all the essential nutrients for the body, it’s time to integrate knowledge into everyday life.
Be sure to consume a balanced diet and always stay hydrated for optimal health. Your health is no joke or minor factor. Keep yourself healthy and stay safe.
Q. Do you take in adequate nutrients?
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