WHERE TO FIND THE 6 ESSENTIAL SOURCES OF NUTRIENTS
"You are what you eat" is a common phrase that originated back in 1800, but it took the researchers decades to determine what exactly a person needs to eat daily to stay healthy. Healthy eating helps individuals to live longer by keeping the body from suffering chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, but it also increases the overall standard of life by boosting both mood and energy levels. The director of clinical nutrition in New Yorks' Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Rebecca Solomon, CDN, RD, says that "food is our body's fuel. If we don't use high-grade fuel, we can't expect high functioning." A smart diet is required to maintain the sleep cycle as well as a healthy weight.
That is why, one needs to ensure that they intake the right nutrients in the right quantity that is essential for good health, reproduction, and growth. There are certain compounds that the human body cannot produce, or produce in sufficient quantities. These are called nutrients, and they come from several foods. The W.H.O (World Health Organization) divides these nutrients into two major categories, micronutrients, and macronutrients. Micronutrients are minerals and vitamins that are consumed in small quantities, but they are essential for the successful functioning of different body processes. Whereas, macronutrients are relatively consumed in larger quantities and they include fatty acids and fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Hence, all essential nutrients can be grouped into six main groups of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the body and the sole source of fuel for the brain and the Central Nervous System. The carbohydrates are broken down by the body into glucose, that the cells need to create energy. Carbohydrates look after several bodily functions such as storing energy in the body, preserving muscles, promoting digestive health, and influencing diabetes and heart health.
Carbohydrates should at least make up 45-65% of the total daily calories. However, there are several types of carbohydrates, some are healthier compared to the others. The sources of good carbohydrates include whole grains foods like cornmeal, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, whole-wheat bread, and likewise.
Protein is regarded as the second most essential source of energy. Amino acids join together in order to make long chains, that are called proteins. They act as the main building blocks of the body for creating tissues like hair, bone, skin, and muscle. Proteins also help in multiple reactions of the body, such as the production of antibodies, hormones, and enzymes.
On average, 16% of the total body weight of an individual is from protein. It is primarily used for body maintenance, health, and growth.
While the body is capable of creating some amino acids, some essential ones can only be found in food. A healthy diet should contain 12-20% of proteins. However, the exact percentage depends on the age and the daily activities of an individual. Some of the healthy sources of proteins include eggs, fish, meat, and plant sources such as nuts, soy, beans, and a few grains.
Fats are used by the body for energy when there are no carbohydrates available. People need fats for insulation, to protect their organs, muscle movement, building cells, blood clotting, and to help their body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and minerals. Fats are found in both solid and liquid forms. Even though fats are high in calories, they are an essential source of energy for the body. W.H.O recommends the daily calories that any individual intakes from food should remain under 30%.
Healthy fats can help in balancing blood sugar, minimize the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, cancer, arthritis, and any heart disease, and improve brain function.
Healthy fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are found in avocados, seeds, nuts, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and fatty fish for Omega-3 fatty acids.
These micronutrients are required by the body to stay healthy, ward off diseases, and support its functions. The body requires 13 essential vitamins including vitamins D, B6, C, and A. Each vitamin has a unique role to play as they are essential for healthy bones, skin, and vision. Vitamins help in lowering the risk of prostate and lung cancer. They are also powerful antioxidants. There are two types of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble.
A diet that is rich in lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits, contains all the essential vitamins needed by the body.
Minerals are micronutrients that help the body to balance water levels, improve bone health, maintain healthy nails, hair, and skin. They are also required for various other important bodily functions like metabolism, nerve signal transmission, and more. Some common minerals are zinc, iron, and calcium. Foods such as nuts, lentils and beans, dark leafy greens, fish, shellfish, mushroom, whole grains, milk and yogurt, beef and lamb, and tofu are rich in minerals.
Water is the most essential nutrient that keeps the body running. Water consists of 62% of the total body weight. Staying hydrated is important as it improves brain function as well as mood. It also acts as a lubricant and shock absorber in the body. Water helps to prevent constipation, hydrate the body, carry essential nutrients to the cells, and flush out toxins.
Everyone should have 2 liters of water every day. Along with that, they can also have fruits and vegetables that have rich water content. Without an adequate intake of water, the body fails to carry out its functions properly.
In conclusion, eating a balanced diet daily that consists of whole grains, healthy fats and proteins, vegetables, and fruits, is the perfect method of intake of these six essential nutrients. These macronutrients and micronutrients are vital for the body to stay healthy and function normally. However, the amount of nutrients each individual requires depends on their activity level, weight, height, and age. It’s always best to consult a nutritionist to plan a proper diet.
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