The Functions of Nutrients
There are six categories of essential nutrients which are required for human survival. These are carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals as well as water. The greatest way of getting these nutrients into your body is by following a varied, healthy and whole foods diet which features an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, non-fat dairy products as well as healthy fats. Dietary requirements are different depending on how old you are and whether or not you’re a man or a woman.
As human, we derive the majority of our energy from carbohydrates. Together with providing fuel for physical activity and exercise, these nutrients also power the body’s involuntary functions, including:
- Breathing, and
- Digestive processes.
Food that is considered to fall into the carbohydrate nutrient category include:
- grains and grain products,
- fruits and vegetables,
- dairy products
- and legumes.
You should be getting 40 – 60% of your calorific intake from carbohydrates.
Skin, muscle and bones are dependent on dietary protein for these parts of the body to grow normally as well as to develop. Getting enough protein is not often a challenge in industrialized countries such as the United States.
Complete proteins that come from animal sources contain all the amino acids that your body needs in order to function normally. Plant sources of protein only contain incomplete proteins. This means that some amino acids are not present.
If you do not eat much meat, chicken or fish consume a number of different protein-rich plant foods, for example
- and whole grains.
This is to make sure that you have the best combination of amino acids.
You may have the notion that lipids, or fats, are dietary enemies. However, they are as necessary to the body’s normal functioning as are the other vital nutrients. Dietary fat assists with the absorption of vitamins, supports the health of cell membranes and helps to maintain the body’s immune system. Make the wise choice of healthy, unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nut oil. Don’t choose saturated fats from fatty meats as an overabundance of these in your diet could lead to coronary heart disease.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are defined as ‘micronutrients’. This means that the body needs them in exceptionally small quantities. Vitamins are organic compounds that are produced by living beings. On the other hand, minerals are inorganic elements that have their origins in the earth.
Vitamins and minerals sustain the body’s biochemical processes. Each of these vitamins and minerals has a different function. These functions include regulating a person’s metabolism, guarding the cells from oxidative stress and synthesizing hormones.
Making up 60% of the weight of your body, water is extremely important for the normal functioning of all the systems of your body. Water assists with cleansing your body of wastes and toxins, carrying essential nutrients to your cells, lubricating your joints and helping to regulate your body temperature.
While the rule of thumb is to drink eight glasses of water daily, this is not supported by scientific evidence. Another rule that works well for many people is – drink half of your body weight in ounces. Eg – is you weight 160 pounds drink 80 ounces of water every day. If your urine output is approximately six cups per day, your urine is slightly yellowish or clear – and you don’t often feel thirsty – your water intake is likely sufficient.
Most individuals should be able to get all the nutrients – both macro- and micronutrients – from the food that they eat. If you rather want to take vitamin and mineral supplements, consult your doctor if you have any queries about what you need to be taking.
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