6 Essential Nutrients You Need

Nutrients are classified as essential because the body cannot make them, yet they are needed for various vital processes, including growth, repair, disease prevention, and good health. There are 6 essential nutrients you need.

Most of these nutrients can be found in supplement forms, however, the World Health Organization insists that they be obtained completely from food if you have a varied diet.

There are 6 essential nutrients that everyone should be consuming. These are classified mainly into micronutrients and macronutrients.

This article explains more about the different categories and why you need them.

Macronutrients

These are the nutrients you need in more significant amounts. They should be the primary pillar of your diet and your main energy source.

They include:

Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient in the human body. It’s the building block of tissues, muscles, bone, hair, skin, and any other cell in the body.

Proteins are made up of various amino acids, some of which the body can produce on its own, while others have to be obtained from the diet.

Protein has various roles in the body, including tissue growth and repair, maintaining body Ph and fluid balance, producing hormones and enzymes, and promoting structural framework.

Some best protein sources include legumes, such as beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, and some grains.

Fats

Fats are an important part of a balanced diet. They are a source of essential fatty acids which the body cannot make by itself, such as omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

Fats are also necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, as a source of energy, and for proper cell functions.

They can be classified into saturated and unsaturated fats. While the body requires both types of fats, too much saturated fats can be harmful to your health. Research shows that saturated fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that no more than 30 percent of your daily calorie requirement should come from saturated fats.

That being said, your source of saturated fats is also essential. Animal products are a major source, but also the worst to consume followed by plant sources such as coconut oil.

Unsaturated fats are the best type to consume. In addition to a healthy diet, they can help maintain healthy weight, lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, lower blood sugar levels, and support brain health. The best sources include nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, and flaxseed.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugar molecules that are broken down to release glucose when digested. Despite the negative notion of carbohydrates, they are your primary energy source. They help fuel your heart muscles, brain, kidneys, and central nervous system.

The issue comes down to what type of carbohydrates you consume and how much.

Carbohydrates are classified into three groups:

1.   Starches

Starches are also known as complex sugars, because they consist of many sugar molecules that are joined together. They are the commonly consumed type of carbohydrates.

Starchy carbs are often found in legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and butter squash.

However, the starches consumed today are highly processed with minimal nutrients. This speeds up their digestion causing a spike in blood glucose. High glucose in the blood can cause fat storage leading to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

2.   Sugars

Sugars are also called simple carbohydrates. They are easily broken down in the body to release energy. They are found naturally in foods such as vegetables and fruits.

Sugars are also available in processed foods such as candy, soft drinks, table sugar, and syrups. However, you should avoid the latter as much as you can.

While carbohydrates have their benefits, the type of carbohydrates you consume matters the most.

Always avoid refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, and consume the healthy forms in moderation.

According to the dietary guidelines for Americans, carbohydrates should make up to 45-65 percent of your total calorie intake per day. These can include whole complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruit.

3.   Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest.

Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugars. However, fiber remains intact. This helps regulate how your body uses sugar, which controls hunger and maintains glucose levels within normal.

Fiber also increases bowel movements and prevents constipation; it may even lower cholesterol and promote fullness, which may cause you to eat less, leading to low-calorie intake and weight loss.

Also, when fiber gets in the colon, it helps feed the good gut bacteria, increasing their number and diversity, thus promoting a healthy digestive system and strong immunity.

All whole plant food contains fiber, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are essential nutrients that the body needs, but in smaller amounts. They include:

1.   Vitamins

Vitamins help the body fight disease and stay healthy. There are 13 essential vitamins, and each performs different functions to promote proper body functions. They include vitamins A, D, E, K, and B vitamins.

Vitamins such as vitamin A, C, and E also offer antioxidant benefits and may help lower cancer risk, fight inflammation, improve vision, support skin health, and generally boost the immune system.

However, with the high consumption of processed foods today, most food products lack these vitamins. And even though some people may opt for supplements, natural sources are healthy and contain other added nutrients.

A well-balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits should keep your requirements met.

2.   Minerals

There are two groups of minerals that you need. Major minerals, which the body needs in large amounts, and trace minerals, which are required in small quantities.

Major minerals include calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and chloride. Trace minerals include copper, manganese, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, fluoride, and cobalt.

Minerals help the body function and stay healthy by keeping your heart, bones, muscles, nerves, and brain working properly. They are also essential for the production of hormones and enzymes.

You can meet your minerals requirement by incorporating various foods into your diet, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.

3.   Water

Did you know that you can go days without food, but you may not survive without water? That’s how important water is. In fact, 62 percent of your body weight is made up of water. That’s why any slight dehydration can result in poor physical performance and concentration, headaches, and fatigue.

Water is essential for transporting nutrients and oxygen into the cells, aiding digestion, cushioning joints, preventing constipation, flushing out bacteria from the bladder, normalizing blood pressure, improving brain function and mood, and protecting tissues and organs.

Final thoughts on essential nutrients you need:

When you consume the various essential nutrients you need, you ensure proper body functions, and set yourself on the path to good health and wellbeing.

These nutrients include proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and water. Making sure you consume these on a regular basis will keep your body running in good shape.

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