In essence, an essential nutrient is a compound or substance that our bodies cannot produce, but need to maintain proper functioning. There are also nutrients that the body only produces in low doses, thus they are also classified as essential in nature.
The top six essential nutrients that the human body needs are as follows:
Carbohydrates are synonymous to energy. It is not only the primary energy source of the body, but that of the brain too. It is impossible for the body to reach its full potential without the energy-giving benefits of carbohydrates. There are many sources of carbohydrates- grains, breads, fruits, sugars, and starchy vegetables. When it comes to consumption of grains, make sure that 50% is made from whole grains. Fruits and whole grains are filled with fibers- substances that reduce the incidence of heart disease as well as help in maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
Proteins are building blocks of cells and play an important function in the repair and recovery of damaged tissues. The basic units of protein are called amino acids. There are almost 20 types of amino acids, nine of which are essential in nature. Essential amino acids are protein building blocks that the body cannot produce on its own, and thus should be obtained from daily diet. According to health experts, ten to 35% of daily calorie intake should be comprised of proteins coming from both plant and animal sources.
The human body needs macronutrients in large doses. We are made up to 60% of water. In fact, most of the nutrients that travel along the bloodstream mainly consist of water. Urine that facilitates the exit of waste materials is also made up of water. Other important functions that heavily rely on water are as follows:
– Temperature regulation
– Proper digestion
The amount of water that needs to be consumed daily will depend on many factors such as physical activity and temperature. On average, an adult is recommended to drink up to 3 liters of water.
In order to function properly, the body needs healthy doses of fat from different food sources. Fats play a variety of roles in the body including hormone production and regulation, tissue growth, and vitamin absorption. Fats also keep cell membranes intact as well as protect the organs from trauma and other accidents. Little known fact is that fats contain up to 9 grams of protein per serving. There are three types of fats namely saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat.
Among all fatty acids that serve as basic fat units, there are two fatty acids identified to be essential: Omega-3 and Omega-6 unsaturated fatty acids. According to the USDA, it is ideal to obtain up to 35% of the daily calorie needs from fats- most preferably those that are unsaturated in nature. In addition, Omega-3 and Omega-5 fatty acids should account for 10% of the total fat intake. Saturated fat consumption should be eliminated, or at least, reduced over time. Lastly, the intake of trans fat should be minimal, if not eradicated, to avoid the development of serious chronic health conditions.
Vitamins are classified as micronutrients, which means that the body only needs them in small amounts. The primary role of most vitamins is that of catalysts meaning they assist the synthesis of enzymes that in turn stimulates metabolism. Vitamins are grouped into two, namely:
– Water Soluble
B-complex vitamins such as Vitamin B, B2, B12, and B6 and Vitamin C are categorized as water-soluble vitamins. As the name implies, they readily dissolve in water.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble in that they are only absorbed by the body in the presence of fats.
To get optimum health benefits from vitamins, we are recommended to consume fruits that feature both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. For those who are not keen on eating fruits, supplements take their place and are also known to boast other beneficial nutrients.
Minerals are basically inorganic substances that assist in vital body processes. There are two types of minerals; those that are needed in large doses also known as macrominerals and those required in minute quantities or microminerals.
– Macrominerals include magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium.
– Microminerals include zinc, selenium, molybdenum, manganese, iron, copper, iodine, and chromium.
When taken in high doses, microminerals is considered toxic and may have possible detrimental effects. The water we drink as well as the plants that we eat contains varying levels of minerals, as these substances primarily originate from the soil.