The significance of the 6 Vital Nutrients:
What is it in our food that keeps our body ticking? Why do nutritionists suggest a “balanced” diet to stay healthier? Why do certain foods make you feel better and some make you suffer?
The basic building blocks for our cellular structure comprise of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins and minerals. They support functions that supply energy (in the form of calories), enable growth, fire our metabolism, and keep us healthy and alive. Out of these our body requires carbs, proteins and fats in larger quantities to fulfill its vital processes and functions hence these are labeled as macro nutrients. Vitamins and minerals, though critical, are needed in smaller amounts, and hence called micro nutrients.
Each nutrient has a specific essential role in the complex body machine so a prolonged deficiency of any nutrient from your diet leads to imbalances that stoke up diseases and other ailments.
The Need for PROTEIN?
Protein, made up of amino acids, is the “growth and repair” nutrient that not only builds new cells and organ tissues but fixes damaged ones throughout your body
“Essential” amino acids need to be derived from diet whereas “non essential” amino acids can be produced by the body internally. Protein from animal sources contains all of the essential amino acids whereas plant based protein lacks most of them.
Sources: Protein is found in nuts, seeds, beans, meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, eggs, soybeans, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables.
The Need for CARBOHYDRATES?
Carbohydrates are organic compounds that are either simple (sugars like fructose (fruits), lactose(milk), and sucrose(table sugar)) or complex (plant starches found in vegetables, fruits, etc.). The RDA of 45-65% of calories needed daily, should come from carbs, especially the complex carbs that contain valuable nutrients and fiber.
Carbohydrates, upon digestion, provide the body’s primary energy source – glucose. Glucose is
Did you know that fiber is also a type of indigestible carbohydrate that promotes healthy bowel movements by allowing waste to move more quickly through your gut and can also absorbs cholesterol?
Sources: Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.
The Need for FAT:
Fat (lipids) provides insulation for the body, padding around internal organs and are a concentrated source of energy. Fats broken into essential fatty acids are crucial for absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and to maintain cell membranes. Fats are important in our diet, particularly triglycerides and cholesterol. Triglycerides are the main form in which fats stored in the body.
As per RDA, 20-35% of calories should come from fat.
Sources: Types of fats are monounsaturated, saturated
The Need for VITAMINS and MINERALS:
Vitamins are complex organic compounds found in small amounts in most foods. As they do not contain calories they do not provide energy but are important for metabolism and for our organs to work properly. There are two types of Vitamins: water soluble and fat soluble.
B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B-6, biotin, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin B-12 are water soluble and are easily disposed off through the urine avoiding any toxic build up. This means that the body doesn’t store it and we need to replenish these every day through diet. They form energy, build protein and collagen, help release energy from food, prevent neural tube birth defects, are needed for DNA and RNA synthesis and play
Vitamins A, D, E, K, are fat soluble, get stored in fat cells and have to be transported through your body through a protein escort. Fat-soluble vitamin A is necessary for vision, vitamin D helps build strong bones, vitamin E functions as an antioxidant and vitamin K aids clotting of blood. Too much of these vitamins in our system can lead to toxic build-up.
Vitamin A: milk, butter, cheese, eggs, chicken, kidney, liver, liver pate, fish oils, mackerel, trout, herring.
B vitamins, especially B12 and B6: meat, poultry, yeast extracts, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, bananas, potatoes, dried apricots, dates, figs, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, pulses, fish, brown rice, wheat germ, wholegrain cereals, avocado, herring, salmon, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Folic acid: Animal liver , beef, lamb, pork, green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, fresh orange juice, tomatoes, wheat germ (wholemeal bread and cereal) and wholegrain products (pasta and brown rice).
Vitamin C: Fresh fruit and vegetables.
Vitamin D: Oily fish, liver, and cod liver oil.