Food is vital for human body. Apart from eating food, it is very important that we eat healthy, nutritive and balanced diet containing all essential nutrients. Now what are these nutrients, their purpose and in what foods can we find them is the question that arises.
The food you eat is a source of nutrients. Nutrients are defined as the substances found in food that keep your body functioning as your body needs nutrients to: Maintain basic functions, fuel your energy, repair & maintenance, and help you grow.
There are 6 essential nutrients that our body requires and they are Water, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat, Vitamins and Minerals. Below are a brief description of each nutrient and their importance.
Water: ½ to ¾ of the human body consists of water. Water carries nutrients to your cells and carries waste from your body. It regulates body temperature. Water dissolves vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients. It also lubricates the joints.
Carbohydrates: Carbs are also known as sugars and starches (glucose, fructose and sucrose). They are the principle energy source for our bodies. We require adequate carbohydrate stores for our body to function properly. Carbs travel in our blood and are stored in muscles as glycogen. We can get carb’s from corn, bananas, breakfast cereals made with whole grains, potatoes, green peas etc.
Proteins: Proteins are made up of Amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of our bodies. Making up muscle, organs and tissues. The body stores protein for muscle growth, excess protein is converted to fat and stored. The body uses only protein as a main energy source if it is in distress. We can get protein from seafood, white meat poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt, beans, soy, etc.
Fats & Oils: Fats are the storage form of energy in our body. They are stored around our organs and under the skin for protection and warmth. Fats are the body’s energy source secondary to carb’s. Fats are incredibly rich energy source providing nearly 10 times more energy than other nutrients. There are good (unsaturated) fats and bad (saturated) fats. Saturated fats tend to come from animal products and unsaturated from plants. It is important to regularly consume fat in your diet.
Vitamins: Vitamins are found in most of the foods that we eat. It regulates the metabolism and help release energy from digested foods. It allows the body to process carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Some vitamins also help the body produce blood cells, hormones, chemicals and genetic material. Vitamins help prevent diseases. They also help protect the body from heart disease and cancer. There are 13 most well defined vitamins. There are two types of vitamins:
Minerals: Minerals are inorganic substances which mean that we don’t get them from plants or animals. Minerals come from the earth. There are 14 minerals which have been shown to be critical to human health. They include calcium, chromium, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc.
Dietary Fibre: Dietary fibre is derived from plant foods only for example lentils, beans, cereals, fruit and vegetables. Dietary fibre speeds up the rate of bowel movement and increases the bulk of faeces. It is also said to prevent many diseases particularly in cancer. It is often seen that people suffer from nutritional deficiency when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients.
Some of the common symptoms include tiredness, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, weight loss or gain. If the deficiency is not timely corrected the symptoms may get more serious and affect the skin, bones and eyes. Hence the best way to avoid a nutrient deficiency is to eat a well balanced nutritional diet.
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