Imagine a human body being like a car. For a car to function properly it needs the right amount of fuel, engine oil, transmission fluid, breaks fluid, water in the radiator and so on.
If just one of these things is missing the car will start to crumble. It can still go on for a while but as you drive it, more and more damage is done. Eventually at one point the car breaks.
The cost of fixing initial problem would have been few dollars. Once it breaks, the repairs may run well into thousands of dollars.
With human body it’s very similar.
In order to function well and maintain optimum health your body needs nutrients – the right amount and in proper proportion.
If you are not getting enough of some nutrients then you may get away with it for a while. But sooner or later your body will issue you a bill in form of poor health.
Depending on how negligent you were fixing it may cost few bucks or run into thousands, similarly as with the car example.
6 Types of Essential Macro-Nutrients
The food we eat provides us with all essential nutrients. Here are the main groups:
Each group then contains many different types of nutrients. Apart from these human body also needs fiber.
Benefits of water are obvious. Our bodies are made 70 per cent of water. It is the single molecule that is most abundant in most organisms. Body needs regular supply of new water to maintain metabolic processes and to detoxify waste.
When it comes to fiber we don’t need it directly.
It is ingested and then expelled mostly unprocessed. But it is still very important for us. We need fiber to keep the bowel moving. Without it all other food would just get stacked in the bowel leading to constipation.
Now let’s have a look at other nutrient groups and their functions.
Vitamins are molecules that our bodies can’t manufacture so they must be supplied by food. For example most known of all is Vitamin C. Most animals can manufacture it, but people can’t.
Vitamin C is needed in number of metabolic processes. Famous disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency is called scurvy.
We don’t hear much about it nowadays but in the middle age it was devastating, especially among sailors.
Vitamin C can be found mostly in plant foods. Sailors spend many months on sea without fresh fruit and vegetable. As a result they developed chronic Vitamin C deficiency that resulted in scurvy.
Vitamins are divided into two main groups:
A. Water Soluble Vitamins
First group are Vitamins soluble in water. They are Vitamin C and all B Vitamins like B1, B2, B3, etc.
Consuming high amounts of these vitamins isn’t usually a problem because any excess is easily expelled by the body through urine
B. Fat Soluble Vitamins
Second group are Vitamins soluble in fats. Here belong Vitamin A, D, E and K. They are also very important for a range of metabolic processes.
However, excessive amounts can be dangerous.
Your food should contain enough of them, but not too much. It’s important to know food nutrition information in order to get the right amount of these vital nutrients.
Objective here is the proper balance – not too much and not too little.
You also should be cautious when taking extra supplements. Always make sure that you are not overdosing yourself with these types of vitamins.
Minerals are chemical elements needed by our bodies to produce various tissues. They also take part in many metabolic processes.
The most known mineral is Calcium. It is used to grow bones and teethes.
Human bodies need a lot of Calcium primary during the childhood. Adequate Calcium intake is important also during adulthood to maintain the bones.
Another mineral needed in great amount is Potassium.
It is used by the body mainly to maintain proper blood acidity levels. It plays role as electrolyte, transmitting nerve signals. Potassium is also responsible for proper muscle functions.
Some of the other important minerals used in lesser, but still important amounts for your health, are iron, zinc, phosphorus, sodium, manganese or selenium.
Your body extracts minerals from food not in their pure element form. They are bound with other atoms making molecules. Mineral absorption greatly depends on their chemical form. Naturally occurring forms are best.
You should be aware of this when taking supplements to achieve optimum health benefits. Minerals in organic forms like gluconates or citrates have higher absorption rates than oxides.
Proteins and Amino Acids
The last group of nutrients we will talk today are proteins. You probably heard this word in connection with meat. The meat eaters usually have no lack of proteins.
In fact, most people today eat too much protein.
The issue becomes more relevant for vegetarians. Plant based food contains lesser amount of protein than meats. Also the composition of plant proteins is often incomplete for human needs.
Proteins are made of amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make. These must be supplied in food. Most meats contain all essential amino acids. This, however, doesn’t apply to plants.
Again, it’s crucial to be aware of this and know all your plant’s food nutrition information. This will help you create well balanced diet and achieve optimum health.
If you are a vegetarian then you must watch more closely what you eat and make sure you have adequate intake of all essential amino acids.
We will be talking more in detail about each nutrient type in our next articles. If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear them in the comments below.
Until next time!
One Handy Tip
To make sure your Diet is nutritionally balanced use our FREE Nutrition Calculator in Excel. It includes:
- Massive database with 1923 Food items
- For each Food item content of 60 Nutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Macronutrients and Amino Acids)
To download a Sample of our Nutrition Calculator, click the button below:
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