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How to Get Necessary Nutrients from Your Diet?
We all know we should be eating healthier...
But with so many fad diets and “experts” recommending a plethora of ways to stay healthy, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand what we should be putting into our bodies.
What are Essential Nutrients?
According to the World Health Organization, essential nutrients are vital for staying fit and healthy. These nutrients are compounds that the human body can’t make (or can’t make enough of) itself, so they to need come from food or supplements.
Getting the right nutrients is essential for our bodies to function. They help combat disease, promote growth, and are vital in almost every aspect of our health and wellbeing.
Macro vs. Micro
The nutrients our bodies need are generally broken down into two main categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are the primary “building blocks” of a healthy diet and include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These nutrients give your body the fuel and energy it needs to carry out daily tasks, from a full-body workout to merely getting out of bed.
Micronutrients include things like vitamins and minerals, which can be consumed in small doses. These nutrients provide our bodies with a range of benefits, helping with digestion, bone development, eyesight, and so much more!
While these macro and micronutrients are present in almost everything we consume, almost 50% of Americans take dietary supplements for their vitamin and mineral needs thanks to the modern emphasis on overprocessed foods making it tough to get sufficient micronutrients via food alone.
That said, putting a bit more effort into the foods that go onto your plate can make a huge difference in ensuring you get the nutrients your body needs from a more natural source. Avoiding highly processed foods and opting for colorful fruit and veg, for example, is a great way to pile your plate with healthier options that enable you to get the necessary nutrients in your diet.
Protein is a vital “building block” in a healthy diet and is part of the fundamental build-up of every single cell in our bodies, from the bone to the skin to your fingernails. Not to mention it’s vital if you want to build muscle!
In fact, around 16% of an average person’s body weight is made of protein.
Protein itself is made from a collection of different amino acids, many of which the human body is simply incapable of making itself, and all of which are vital. But, thankfully, you don’t have to eat all the amino acids in your diet, as our bodies can create complete proteins from the food you consume during the day.
Meat, fish, and eggs are the most common protein sources in the human diet. But you can also find a concoction of amino acids in plant-based foods such as beans, nuts, soy, and some grains.
Carbs have been getting a bit of a bad rep in recent years, with dietary “low-carb” crazes suggesting cutting out carbohydrates will aid weight loss. But despite the hype, carbohydrates are actually essential in the human body.
Carbohydrates are a fuel source for the body and are particularly important in providing energy to your central nervous system and brain. They’re also essential in protecting you against diseases.
It’s recommended that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of a person’s total daily calories, so cutting the carbs might actually be doing more harm than good!
But there is a little truth in the anti-carbs craze, in that highly processed carbs (such as white bread or pasta) are often packed with refined grains and have loads of added sugar that won’t benefit the body.
For this reason, a healthy diet should center around healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, and fiber-rich fruits and veggies.
But aiming for healthier carbs doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite dishes. Making more foods at home will enable you to control what goes into your diet. For example, it’s really easy to make flour tortillas at home with no added sugar. Use a high-quality tortilla press to achieve that restaurant-quality wrap without the unnecessary extras!
Like carbs, fats are often toted as something to avoid, but they’re also vital nutrients for a healthy, balanced diet.
Fats might be high in calories, but these calories provide most of the energy your body needs to function, including:
- Absorbing vitamins and minerals
- Blood clotting
- Building cells
- Muscle movement
- Balancing blood sugars
- Decreasing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
- Improving brain function
- Lowering the risk of arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease
That said, we’re not recommending you immediately eat 2-gallons of Ben & Jerries... The fats we’re talking about are unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as these provide essential energy sources that your body can’t generate itself.
You can find these sorts of healthy fats in plant-based foods, including nuts, seeds, vegetable oils (olive, avocado, or flaxseed), and fish. Coconut oil is particularly beneficial as it offers medium-chain triglycerides, which offer extra perks, including faster utilization by your organs, plus aiding in appetite control.
Trans fats and animal-based saturated fats such as butter, cheese, red meats, and ice-cream offer far fewer benefits. These are the sorts of fats you should be avoiding!
Although most of us know that vitamins are essential in a healthy diet, and may take multivitamin supplements, understanding which vitamins are necessary for a healthy body is vital.
There are 13 necessary vitamins that the body needs to function properly, and each plays a vital role. These include Vitamins A, C, D, and E, among others.
Although not getting enough vitamins can cause numerous health problems and diseases, most Americans simply aren’t consuming enough. Eating a balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables is the best way to get your daily portion of vitamins without taking a pill.
Root vegetables are impressively high in Vitamin A, so opt for sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, and spinach for a Vitamin A boost.
Vitamin C can be found in fruits such as oranges, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, and mango. Many veggies – including red and green sweet peppers, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes – are also rich in Vitamin C.
You might know that sunlight is an excellent source of Vitamin D, but it’s also a good idea to regularly consume foods rich in this micronutrient, such as fatty fish, fortified orange juice, and swiss cheese.
For extra Vitamin E, cultivate a diet rich in nuts and seeds, avocado, and tomato-based foods.
Just like vitamins, minerals are vital in numerous body functions. One of the most well-known minerals we need in our diets is calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Other minerals also work to regulate your metabolism and retain water for proper hydration.
Our bodies require multiple minerals, but the main three are calcium, iron, and zinc.
Nuts and seeds are generally packed full of essential minerals to help the body stay strong and healthy. Other mineral-rich foods include shellfish, eggs, beans, avocados, and even unrefined cocoa.
A varied diet
No matter the latest health craze, it’s vital to ensure your diet offers a balance of the necessary nutrients your body needs. Skipping healthy fats or carbohydrates might seem like an attractive idea to lose weight fast, but restricting your diet in this way will only mean that your body isn’t getting what it needs to function properly.
Aim for plenty of fruit, veggies, and whole grains, with lots of colors, to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need, and you’ll be able to enjoy a happier, healthier life in no time.
About the Author
Liam Conrad operates an apple orchard with his father and is a freelance writer. Nearby schools often visit their orchard for lessons about fresh apple juice’s benefits and how to make it from scratch.