What are “essential nutrients”?
Essential nutrients are often the nutrients that the body can’t make on its own or if it does produce them the quantities aren’t sufficient. These nutrients are crucial for growth, the normal functioning of your body and the prevention of diseases. Ideally, you should consume these nutrients in the form of food instead of pills.
These essential nutrients can be broken down into two categories: micronutrients and macronutrients.
The nutrients that need to be consumed in large amounts are macronutrients. Proteins and carbohydrates are macronutrients, and are the primary building blocks of your diet, while fats provide the body with energy. Micronutrients are required in tiny quantities by the body and include vitamins and minerals.
Here are the six main groups of these essential nutrients and how they’re useful.
Carbohydrates are vital for a healthy body. Carbohydrates make the primary source of energy and thus act as fuel. According to the Mayo Clinic, the central nervous system and brain largely depend on carbohydrates for their energy requirements and also protect against various diseases.
Carbohydrates should, therefore, make up 45-65 percent of our daily calories, recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It’s true that white bread and pasta are sources of carbohydrates, but it is also important to note that the type of carbs matters. Some carbs are better and healthier than the others. Sources such as beans, whole grains, and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits can be substituted for grains and products that have added sugar.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body that live in every cell in the body from head to toe. An astounding 16 percent of average body weight is from protein. Our body primarily uses proteins for growth, body maintenance, and health.
All the hormones, antibodies and every other important substance in the body is composed of protein. But it isn’t used as an energy source unless it is absolutely necessary.
You must know that amino acids are the units that make up proteins. The amino acids that the body doesn’t produce are called essential and have to be consumed in food. These amino acids are required by the body to function correctly.
We, fortunately, don’t need to eat all amino acids at once. Our body can make complete proteins from the variety of foods we eat in a day.
Eggs, meat, and fish are rich sources of essential amino acids. The plant sources include beans, nuts, some grains, and soy.
The amount of protein one requires depends on a variety of factors like activity, lifestyle and the age of a person.
But note that according to the Mayo Clinic, there haven’t been enough studies to prove that protein diets are healthier or can influence weight loss in spite of their growing popularity.
Even though fats are essential for healthy body functions, they have a bad rap because people think fats cause significant weight gain. Consuming fats is very important if you want a healthy body.
According to Harvard Medical School, fats are required to carry out normal body functions like vitamin and mineral absorption, building cells, muscle movement, and blood clotting.
Fats provide us with calories that fuel our body.
Healthy fats in our diet help us to balance blood sugar, decrease the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. They also improve our brain function, are potent anti-inflammatories and may also lower the risk of arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
You probably already know about unsaturated omega-3 and omega- fatty acids. These unsaturated fats are vital as they provide the essential fatty acids that the body can’t make. These healthy fats are found in seeds, nuts, fish, vegetable oils like olive, avocado, and flaxseed. Coconut oil is a rich source of plant-based fat in the form of medium chain triglycerides that provide benefits like faster utilization by organs as fuel as well as appetite control.
It’s better to avoid trans fats and limit the intake of saturated animal fat like butter, cheese, red meat, and ice cream.
There are 13 essential vitamins that our body needs to perform its various functions. These vitamins include A, C, B6, and D.
Each vitamin plays a vital role and not getting insufficient amounts of them can lead to many diseases. It’s been found that many Americans don’t get enough of these essential vitamins and end up having health problems.
Vitamins are vital for healthy skin, bones and vision. They may lower the risk of prostate and lung cancer. Vitamins like vitamin C are also potent antioxidants; they boost our immune system and catalyzes body healing.
It is often advised to eat a balanced diet. A well-balanced diet consists of various food items and full of vegetables and fruits. So if you eat a balanced diet and have a healthy digestive tract, you won’t likely need to take vitamin supplements.
Minerals, like vitamins, are required to support a healthy body. They are needed to build strong bones and teeth, regulate metabolism and also help the body to stay hydrated. Some of the most commonly known minerals are calcium, zinc, and iron.
Calcium strengthens bones, assists in nerve signal transmission, maintains healthy blood pressure and muscle movements. Zinc boosts our immune system and is vital for a healthy immune system and proper wound healing. Iron helps the blood carry oxygen and is involved in hormone creation.
The reason why almost every medical professional advises us to drink a lot of water is that they know how important it is. We can survive weeks without food but won’t last a few days without water. It is the main thing that our body is made of. And about 62 percent of our body weight is water.
Water is a part of significant biochemical reactions that take place in the body. It improves not only our brain function but also our mood. It hydrates the body, flushes out toxins and acts as a nutrient carrier throughout the body.
Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and impair significant physical and mental performance.
Ironically water isn’t the only source of water. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also great sources.
To know whether you’re properly hydrated, you can check the color and volume of urine. Infrequent urination and dark yellow urine indicate that your body needs more water.