A healthy and balanced diet is the key to a healthy body and life. Having a balanced diet is necessary for you to get the right amount of nutrients your body needs. Nutrients help to provide our bodies with energy, are necessary for body structures, and help to regulate our bodily functions.
To stay healthy our bodies needs natural whole foods that are packed with nutrients. Without these seven nutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, water, vitamins and minerals – our bodies would not be able to survive. In this blog post we will go through each nutrient, where to find them, and why each one is important for your health.
Carbohydrates are used for energy. They are broken down into glucose in your gut and are used as fuel for all respiration. Carbohydrates have been blamed for causing weight gain, but this is a huge myth. The truth is that some of the world’s healthies foods are high sources of carbohydrates. While refined carbs may be unhealthy in high amounts, whole food sources of carbs are extremely healthy. Carbohydrates can be found in sweet and starchy foods like bananas, lentils, quinoa, beans, potatoes, and rice.
Fats are also another source used for energy. Your muscles use a mixture of fats and glycogen to perform movements. Glycogen is the principal stored form of carbohydrate energy (glucose) which is reserved in your muscles. This mixture of fats and glycogen depends on how intense the exercise is, how long it lasts, and ultimately how fit you are. For example, if you start jogging, your muscles will start to use more glycogen then when you are walking. Healthy fats can be found in avocados, eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, extra vegetable oils (like olive, avocado, and flaxseed). Coconut oil also provides a great source of plant-based fats.
Protein are known as the building blocks of our bodies. Normally when we think of protein we think of muscles, but every cell, from your skin to hair, contains protein. Even all of your hormones, antibodies, and other important substances are composed of protein. Our bodies also need protein to build cells, to make blood, and to restore and repair tissues. Proteins are made up of different amino acids. While our bodies are able to create some amino acids on its own, there are many essential amino acids that can only come from food.
While meat, fish, and eggs are good sources of essential amino acids, you can also get protein from plant sources like beans, soy, nuts, lentils, and some whole grains.
Vitamins are essential for supporting the immune system and staying healthy. The body needs these micronutrients to support its functions. There are thirteen essential vitamins that the body needs to function properly, including vitamin A, B, C, and D. Each vitamin plays an important role in the body, and many Americans are not getting enough of them. If you eat a varied, well-balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits, and have a normal and healthy functioning digestive tract, you are more than likely getting a sufficient amount of vitamins from your diet!
Much like vitamins, minerals help to support the body. They are essential for many body functions, including strong bones and teeth, regulating your metabolism, and staying properly hydrated. Some of the most common essential minerals are calcium, iron, and zinc. You can find sources of minerals within food, but often times supplementation of minerals is helpful.
You can go for weeks without food, but you can’t last than a few days without water. Water is so incredibly important for every system in your body. It’s also the main thing you are made from – about 62% of your body weight is water! Water helps to support brain function and mood. It also helps to flush out toxins, carry nutrients to your cells, hydrates your body, and promotes healthy digestion.
Fiber is a substance called cellulose formed within the cell walls of plants. You cannot actually digest it. It passes straight through the gut and is excreted. There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber which dissolves in water and insoluble fiber that doesn’t dissolve. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive tract, and you can find sources of fiber in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and bran.
Categorize Your Nutrients
With nutrition, we often group nutrients by size or what they do within the body. Let’s start with the two main groups, micronutrients and macronutrients. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are called macronutrients because they’re large, and energy nutrients because they provide the fuel your body needs. Vitamins are minerals are called micronutrients because they’re so much smaller in comparison. This doesn’t mean they are less important – they are still essential for your health, but in smaller amounts. Water and Fiber are typically left alone in their own group.