Essential nutrients are compounds that the body cannot produce or cannot produce enough of. According to the World Health Organization, these nutrients must come from food and are vital for disease prevention, growth and good health.
Although there are many essential nutrients, they can be divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are eaten in large amounts and include the main building blocks of your diet (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) that provide your body with energy. Instead, vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, and small doses are very helpful.
In total there are six essential nutrients that we must consume daily to enjoy good health.
Macronutrients are the big essential nutrients. They are found in almost all foods and provide the largest volume of calories. These are made up of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Protein is having its moment, and not just among people who play sports. This nutrient is essential for good health. Protein provides the building blocks of the body, and not just for muscle. Every cell, from bones to skin to hair, contains protein.
16 percent of a person’s body weight comes from protein. It is mainly used for the growth, health and maintenance of the body. All hormones, antibodies, and other important substances are made of protein. It is not used to fuel the body unless it is necessary.
These are made up of different amino acids . Although the body can create some amino acids on its own, there are many essential amino acids that can only come from food. A variety of amino acids are necessary for the body to function properly. The good news is that we don’t need to eat all the amino acids at once. The body can create complete proteins from the foods you eat throughout the day.
Although meat, fish, and eggs are good sources of essential amino acids, we can also get protein from plant sources such as legumes, soybeans, nuts, and some grains. The exact amount of protein you need daily depends on a variety of factors, including our age and physical activity.
Carbohydrates are necessary for a healthy body. Carbohydrates fuel the body, especially the central nervous system and the brain, and protect us against disease. Carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories.
Before opting for white bread or pasta, keep in mind that the type of carbohydrates we eat is important. Some carbohydrates are healthier than others. It is recommended to choose whole grains, legumes and vegetables and fruits rich in fiber instead of refined grains and products with added sugar.
Fats often get a bad rap, but recent research has shown that healthy fats are an important part of a healthy diet. Fat supports many of the body’s functions, such as vitamin and mineral absorption, blood clotting, cell formation, and muscle movement.
Fat has a lot of calories, but those calories are an important source of energy for the body. It is recommended that 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat.
Including healthy fats in the diet can help us balance blood sugar levels, lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and improve brain function. They are also powerful anti-inflammatories and may reduce the risk of arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The most famous unsaturated fats are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids . Unsaturated fats are important to the body as they provide essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce. We can find these healthy fats in nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetable oils (such as olive, avocado, and flaxseed).
Experts recommend avoiding trans fats and limiting your intake of saturated animal fats like butter, cheese, red meat, and ice cream.
On the other hand, the smallest essential nutrients are the micronutrients. These are practically made up of vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are nutrients that a person needs in small doses. Although the body only needs small amounts of them, a deficiency can cause health problems.
Vitamins are vital to prevent disease and stay healthy. The body needs these micronutrients to support its vital functions. There are 13 essential vitamins that the body needs to function properly, including vitamins A, C, B6, and D.
Each vitamin plays an important role in the body, and not getting enough can cause health problems and disease. Many people don’t get enough essential vitamins, and these are essential for healthy vision, skin, and bones. Vitamins can reduce the risk of lung and prostate cancer, and are powerful antioxidants. Some, like vitamin C, boost the immune system and help the body heal.
If we eat a varied and well-balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits, and have a normally healthy functioning digestive tract, we probably don’t need to take vitamin supplements.
Like vitamins, minerals help maintain the body. They are essential for many bodily functions, including the formation of strong bones and teeth, regulation of metabolism, and proper hydration. Some of the most common minerals are calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, sodium, potassium, and chloride.
In addition to strengthening bones, calcium helps with nerve signal transmission, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and muscle contraction and relaxation. Iron supports the creation of red blood cells and hormones, while zinc stimulates the immune system and wound healing.
We can go weeks without food, but we cannot last more than a few days without water. Water is absolutely crucial for every system in the body. It’s also the main thing we’re made of. About 62 percent of body weight is water.
Water improves brain function and mood. It acts as a shock absorber and lubricant in the body. It also helps eliminate toxins, bring nutrients to cells, hydrate the body and prevent constipation. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and affect concentration and physical performance.
We don’t have to just drink water to stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables can also be a great source. The best way to know if we are properly hydrated is to check the color and volume of urine. If we do not pee and it is pale yellow or almost transparent, we need more water.