6 Essential Nutrients Your Body Needs
As you probably know, your bodies need food to function properly. But have you ever wondered why? The answer lies in the nutrients that food provides. Nutrients are the building blocks that your bodies use to grow, repair, and maintain themselves. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to survive.
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, and your body needs all of them to function properly. Nine of these amino acids are considered essential because your body cannot make them on its own, and you must get them from your diet.
Protein is important for your body to:
- Build and repair tissues, such as muscles, bones, skin, and organs.
- Make enzymes, hormones, and other important molecules.
- Support a healthy immune system.
- Provide energy when carbohydrates and fats are not available.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The amount of protein you need depends on your age, gender, and activity level. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
Sources of Protein
There are many foods that contain protein, including:
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds
- Grains, such as quinoa and brown rice
How to Include Protein in Your Diet
To ensure you get enough protein in your diet, try to include a source of protein with every meal. For example, you could have eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch, and fish for dinner.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to eat a variety of plant-based proteins to get all the amino acids your body needs. Some good sources of plant-based protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients in your diet. They are found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Carbohydrates provide your body with energy, which is essential for you to function and carry out your daily activities.
What Do Carbohydrates Do?
Carbohydrates are a source of energy for your body. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is used to fuel your cells. This energy is necessary for your body to carry out functions like walking, talking, and even breathing. Also, carbohydrates help improve your brain function and mood and protect against disease.
Different Types of Carbohydrates
There are three main types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fibers. Sugars are found in fruits, honey, and some dairy products. Starches are found in foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta. Fibers are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Are Carbohydrates Good or Bad?
Carbohydrates are not inherently good or bad. It depends on the type of carbohydrate and how much you consume. Simple carbohydrates like sugar can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels and may not provide long-lasting energy. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables are more nutritious and provide sustained energy.
How Much Carbohydrates Do You Need?
Generally, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of your daily calorie intake.
Fats are molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. They are a type of lipid, which means they are not soluble in water. Unlike carbohydrates and proteins, fats are not used as the body’s primary source of energy. Instead, they are stored in adipose tissue and used for energy when needed.
Types of Fats
There are different types of fats, including saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are typically found in animal products such as meat, butter, and cheese. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are found in plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. Trans fats are found in processed foods and are created through a process called hydrogenation.
The Role of Fats in the Body
Fats play several important roles in the body. They provide energy, help absorb vitamins and minerals, and are involved in the production of hormones. Fats also help insulate your body and protect your organs. However, it’s important to consume the right types of fats in moderation, as consuming too much can lead to weight gain and health problems.
Choosing Healthy Fats
When it comes to choosing fats, it’s important to focus on healthy options.
- Healthy Fats: Healthy fats include unsaturated fats (Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) such as those found in avocados, olives, seeds, nuts, and fish. These types of fats can help reduce inflammation in the body and have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and other health problems.
- Unhealthy Fats: Unhealthy fats include saturated and trans fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and other health problems. These types of fats are found in processed foods, fried foods, and animal products such as meat and butter.
Vitamins are tiny substances that your body needs to grow, develop, and stay healthy. They are called “essential” because your body cannot make them on its own, so you have to get them from the foods you eat.
Types of Vitamins
There are 13 different vitamins, and each one has a unique job to do in your body. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin A helps you see in the dark and keeps your skin healthy.
- Vitamin C helps your body heal when you get a cut or scrape.
- Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium so your bones can stay strong.
- Vitamin E helps protect your cells from damage.
- Vitamin K aids blood clotting and the building of your bones.
- The B vitamins help your body produce energy and transport oxygen and are important for the nervous system.
Where to Find Vitamins
You can find vitamins in many different foods. Here are some examples:
- Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and cantaloupe
- Vitamin C: oranges, strawberries, broccoli, and bell peppers
- Vitamin D: salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and fortified milk
- Vitamin E: almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and avocado
- Vitamin K: spinach, broccoli, and lettuce.
Why Vitamins Are Important
Vitamins are essential because they help your body work properly. If you don’t get enough of certain vitamins, you can get sick. For example, if you don’t get enough vitamin C, you can get scurvy, which can make you feel very tired and cause your gums to bleed. Not getting enough specific vitamins can lead to health problems and disease.
Minerals are inorganic substances that your body requires in small amounts to carry out various functions, such as building strong bones and teeth, regulating body fluids, and producing energy. They are different from vitamins, which are organic compounds that your body requires in small amounts to function properly.
Types of Minerals
There are two types of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are minerals that your body requires in larger amounts, whereas trace minerals are needed in smaller quantities.
Some common macrominerals include:
- Calcium: essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, and also plays a role in muscle function, nerve transmission, and blood clotting.
- Magnesium: important for regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
- Potassium: helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals.
- Sodium: important for regulating fluid balance and blood pressure.
Some common trace minerals include:
- Iron: necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood.
- Zinc: plays a role in immune function, wound healing, and cell growth and division.
- Iodine: required for the production of thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism.
- Selenium: acts as an antioxidant and is important for thyroid function.
Food Sources of Minerals
The best way to ensure that you are getting enough minerals is to eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods. Here are some food sources of minerals:
- Calcium: dairy products, leafy green vegetables, almonds, and fortified foods like tofu and orange juice.
- Magnesium: leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
- Potassium: bananas, avocados, potatoes, and spinach.
- Sodium: processed foods, table salt, and some condiments like soy sauce.
- Iron: red meat, poultry, fish, beans, and fortified cereals.
- Zinc: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, and nuts.
- Iodine: seafood, dairy products, and iodized salt.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, seafood, meat, and poultry.
Water is an essential nutrient that the body needs to function properly. It makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. It is involved in many bodily functions, including regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells, and removing waste products from your body. It’s important to stay hydrated by drinking enough water and other fluids throughout the day.
These six essential nutrients are important for overall health and well-being. Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. If you’re concerned about your nutrient intake, consider talking to a registered nutritionist or healthcare professional.