The variety of products in the vitamin and nutrient aisle of your grocery store or pharmacy may be confusing. Which ones you need depends on your diet and lifestyle, but there is a handful that you can only get through food or supplements since the body cannot make them. Here in this article, we will be covering all the nutrients that your body needs essentially to function but cannot produce.
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are molecules in food that all living things need to make energy, grow, develop, and reproduce. They are broken down into their basic components so that the organism can utilize them. Nutrients are the substances necessary for the body’s fundamental activities. Since the human body is incapable of producing nutrients, they must be consumed. They perform many functions including supplying energy, contributing to bodily structure, and/or governing chemical activities inside the body. These fundamental functions enable us to sense and react to our environment, move, excrete waste, breathe, develop and reproduce.
Nutrition also addresses how dietary choices might prevent the chance of disease, what occurs when a person consumes too much or too little of a nutrient, and how allergies function. They are divided into two kinds; Macro and micronutrients. Together, macro and micronutrients provide your body with what it needs to function properly. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the responsibilities and duties they play in your body.
Essential nutrients are those that cannot be synthesized quickly enough or at all to fulfill daily requirements. They must be received from external sources, such as food or nutritional supplements. Each of the six key nutrient categories is necessary for your body’s growth, development, and continued health.
Macronutrients are required in greater quantities than other nutrients, thus the name “macronutrients.” They are also referred to as essential as the body doesn’t produce them but does need them. Macronutrients provide energy in the form of calories. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. A portion of the carbohydrates we ingest is turned into glycogen, a kind of starch that is stored in the liver and muscles for later use as an energy source, although your body may use other macronutrients if necessary. There are three macronutrient categories: carbs, lipids, and proteins.
Carbohydrates are the best fuel for the body. Carbohydrates are not synthesized by the body but are broken down during digestion to supply energy for physical activity and energy for normal physiological operations. The body has an easier time turning carbs into energy that can be used right away than it does with fat or protein. Carbohydrates may be either complex or simple. The difference between the two is their chemical structure, which determines how rapidly the body absorbs sugar as per research.
|Simple Carbs (Bad Carbs)||Complex Carbs (Good Carbs)|
|(Monosaccharides and disaccharides): They are composed of one or two sugar units and may be metabolized rapidly by the body and quickly raise blood sugar. Juice or sweet candies might cause blood sugar and energy to surge fast and then decrease.||(Polysaccharides and oligosaccharides): consist of lengthy chains of sugar units that take the body longer to break down and utilize. Complex carbohydrates have a more consistent effect on blood sugar levels.|
Functions: For your brain, muscles, and cells to work, they all need carbs. Among the primary functions of carbohydrates are,
- Glucose obtained from carbs is an excellent source of energy for the brain, CNS, and red blood cells.
- Complex carbohydrates (especially fiber) not only give the body energy, but they also help keep the digestive system and cholesterol levels in excellent nick.
- Glucose can also be stored in the body as glycogen in muscles and liver for later use, such as after fasting.
- They also keep the appetite under control as they are metabolized more slowly than other foods, causing a feeling of fullness in both the brain and the stomach.
Food Sources: Carbohydrates in foods occur in various forms, including the following
|Simple Carbs||Complex Carbs|
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Recommended Intake: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that 45 to 65% of our daily calorie intake comes from carbs. Similarly. They also propose limiting sugar consumption to fewer than 10% of daily calories, whereas the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the American Heart Association (AHA) advocate a limit of less than 6%.
Protein is derived from a Greek term that means “of fundamental significance,” which is an excellent description of these macronutrients, which are also referred to as the “workhorses” of life. It enjoys a period of widespread popularity, and not only among those who exercise. However, there is a valid explanation for all of the excitement. Unlike carbohydrates, proteins are not a direct source of energy; rather, they function as building blocks for other bodily systems. It accounts for a surprising 16% of the typical person’s body weight.
Functions: Protein is essential for the maintenance of a healthy body. Proteins serve as the body’s principal supply of amino acids, which are necessary for the growth and maintenance of muscle and a number of other key organs and tissues. Proteins are also crucial for keeping healthy skin, hair, and blood. They are also used in the regeneration and repair of muscle and tissue. Additionally, they maintain an acid-base equilibrium in the body. Without the proper amino acids, your body will be unable to create enzymes and hormones.
Food Sources: The nutritional value of a protein is determined by the number of essential amino acids it contains, which varies by dietary source. Our body produces 11 amino acids. There are 9 amino acids that the body cannot produce (termed “essential amino acids”), hence they must be consumed via food. These amino acids may be obtained from many forms of protein. Essential amino acids are Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids in the correct proportions. Examples are fish, meat poultry, and edamame. Incomplete proteins offer some, although not all, of the essential amino acids. Numerous plant-based proteins are incomplete. However, when ingested together as complementary proteins, you may get all the necessary amino acids.
The following sources of protein are tabulated,
| ||Egg whites|
| ||Chicken, turkey/ beef, lamb, and pork|
| ||Shrimp, salmon, and cod fish|
| ||Milk, yogurt, and cheese|
| ||Chickpeas, lentils, and black beans|
| ||pumpkin and almonds|
| ||Tofu, edamame, and tempeh|
Fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and cheese are complete proteins, containing all essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins, such as grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, should be consumed in a broad range to guarantee adequate amino acid intake.
Recommended Intake: The intake of protein usually varies with one’s health. Age, gender, and exercise level influence more precise protein recommendations. Some individuals will intake additional protein to achieve certain fitness or health objectives. The USDA advises that we take between 10 and 35 % of our daily calories from protein sources. So, the daily protein consumption ranges from 0.75 to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.
In spite of the negative connotation that is sometimes attached to fats, as they are high in calories but still, new studies have shown the need to include healthy fats in one’s diet. According to Harvard Medical School, fat is essential for numerous bodily activities, including absorption of vitamins and minerals, blood coagulation, cell formation, and muscular action.
Not all fats are equal. Some fats are healthier than others and may even contribute to excellent health. By understanding the differences, you can choose which fats to avoid and which to consume in moderation. However, excessive calorie consumption in the form of saturated and trans-fat has been related to several diseases, particularly heart disease and diabetes. Different kinds of fat may be consumed on a daily basis. Saturated and unsaturated fats are two types of dietary fats:
- Saturated Fats: Solid fat gets its name from the fact that saturated fat is solid at normal temperatures. Animal products including milk, cheese, and meat are the most common sources.
- Unsaturated Fats: At room temperature, unsaturated fat is liquid. It consists mostly of plant oils. If you consume unsaturated fat instead of saturated fat, your cholesterol levels may improve. Unsaturated fats include monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.
|Polyunsaturated Fats||Monounsaturated Fats|
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Other types of fat include
- Trans Fats: This fat has been processed by a process known as hydrogenation. This procedure extends the fat’s shelf life and makes it hard at room temperature. Some animal-based foods include trace levels of trans fats that occur naturally.
- Total fats: Total fat contains saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and trans-fat.
Functions: Harvard School of Public Health reports that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats enhance blood cholesterol levels, decrease inflammation, and regulate cardiac rhythms. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal blood coagulation and brain cell membrane formation. Additionally, these fatty acids protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and stroke. Include foods containing healthy fats, such as salmon and avocado. Although certain forms of dietary fats may be healthier than others, they are an essential component of the human diet and play a role in hormone synthesis, cell development, energy storage, and the absorption of key vitamins.
Food Sources: The healthiest forms of fat are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Good sources of these fats include
|Saturated Fats||Unsaturated Fats|
|Nut butter||High-fat dairy products|
|Canola oil||Beef/Pork/Lamb/ Fatty fish|
|Peanut oil||Processed meat, such as hot dogs|
|Corn oil||Baked products such as pastries|
|Sunflower/Soyabean oil||Coconut/ Palm oil|
According to experts, saturated fats are less beneficial than unsaturated fats and should be consumed in moderation. According to research in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, over intake of saturated fats is one of the primary causes of obesity and associated problems in adults.
Recommended Intake: The Dietary Recommendations for Americans suggest that 20–35% of your daily calories should come from fat, with no more than 10% of it being saturated fats. But the World Health Organization stated that it should be less than 30%. For example, if your calorie demands are 2,000, you need between 400 and 700 calories, or 44 and 77 grams, of total fat.
Functions: It has been studied that water is required for almost each and every function of the body, including the brain, to function properly and cleanse toxins out of the body. Without it, nothing could enter or leave the body, chemical processes wouldn’t happen, organs wouldn’t be cushioned, and body temperature would vary. Water enhances cognitive function and mood. It also aids in eliminating impurities, transporting nutrients to cells, hydrating the body, and preventing constipation. Even moderate dehydration may cause fatigue and impede mental and physical function. We have already gone through great depth on water intake and outflow in our dedicated article here.
Recommended Intake: Many people advocate drinking 2 litres, or 8 glasses, of water per day. However, water may also be obtained through foods like fruits and vegetables, which makes up around 20% of the total recommended intake.
The other types of nutrients that are required by the body are micronutrients. Micronutrients are the nutrients your body requires in low quantities, which are generally referred to as vitamins and minerals. In contrast to carbs, lipids, and proteins, micronutrients are not sources of energy (calories). Rather, they aid in the process as cofactors or components of enzymes. Macronutrients are measured in grams (g), whereas micronutrients are measured in milligrams (mg) or micrograms (g) (mcg). There are 16 necessary minerals and 13 important vitamins. Nearly 30 vitamins and minerals the body cannot produce in adequate quantities are referred to as “essential micronutrients.” Your body produces numerous non-essential nutrients in order to carry out its functions.
Depending on their function, several micronutrients also have a role in preventing and combating illness. Similar to macronutrients, a variety of variables may affect the number of micronutrients required by humans. Individuals may utilize Dietary Reference intake as a tool for determining how much food they should eat.
Several essential vitamins are not consumed in appropriate quantities by a large number of Americans.
There are two types of vitamins:
- Fat-Soluble: Certain vitamins do not dissolve in water. These are stored for future use in the liver and fatty tissues. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are key fat-soluble vitamins. They serve an essential position in the normal functioning of the immune system, bone formation, eyesight, and cell damage prevention.
- Water Soluble: The majority of vitamins are soluble in water. They are difficult for the body to keep and are excreted in the urine when taken in large quantities. They serve as an essential part of energy production. Since they are not stored in the body, it is essential to consume sufficient amounts from a variety of dietary sources.
The following table summarizes the function, food sources, and recommended intake of these vitamins in the adult population.
|Water-Soluble Vitamins||Function||Food Sources||Recommended Intake for >19|
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|Fat-Soluble Vitamins||Function||Sources||Recommended Intake for19>|
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Functions: Each vitamin performs an important function in the body, and vitamin deficiency may result in health problems and disease. Vitamins are essential for keeping bones healthy, skin, and vision. Vitamins are needed to produce red blood cells, synthesize bone tissue, and maintain vision, neurological, and immune system function.
Some vitamins may aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. A meta-analysis of seven studies indicated that appropriate dietary consumption of vitamins E, C, and A is related to a 24%, 17%, and 12% reduction in Alzheimer’s disease risk, respectively. In addition, a review of 22 research found that sufficient calcium consumption reduces the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease and all other causes.
What causes are related to their deficiency? Read our article here.
Minerals are solid, inorganic substances that crystallize and are categorized according to how much we need. Trace minerals, such as molybdenum, selenium, zinc, iron, and iodine, are needed in amounts of less than a few milligrams. Hundreds of milligrams of microminerals divided into potassium, sodium, and phosphorus are needed. They are also divided into two kinds,
Macro minerals: These are needed in greater quantities than trace minerals. The followings are the essential macrominerals and their functions, along with recommended dosage,
|Nutrient||Functions||Sources||RDA adults > 19 years|
|Calcium||Required for appropriate bone and tooth structure and function. Contributes to muscle and blood vessel contraction||Milk products, leafy greens, broccoli||2,000–2,500 mg|
|Phosphorus||Part of bone and cell membrane structure.||Salmon, yogurt, turkey||700 mg|
|Magnesium||Contributes to nearly 300 enzyme processes, including blood pressure control||Almonds, cashews, black beans||310–420 mg|
|Sodium||Maintains electrolyte balance necessary for blood pressure and fluid maintenance.||Salt, processed foods, canned soup||2,300 mg|
|Chloride||Usually with sodium. Balances fluids and makes digestive juices||Seaweed, salt, celery||1,800–2,300 mg|
|Potassium||Ionic liquid that maintains cellular fluid balance and facilitates neuron and muscle activity.||Lentils, acorn squash, bananas||4,700 mg|
|Sulfur||The amino acids methionine and cysteine make up this part of all living tissue.||Garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, eggs, mineral water||None stated|
Trace Minerals: Trace minerals are important for the health of your muscles, the function of your nervous system, and the repair of damaged cells. Iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and selenium are some of the other trace minerals that your body needs. Trace minerals and several of their roles, food sources, and RDA are:
|Nutrient||Function||Sources||RDA adults > 19 years|
|Iron||Assists in the delivery of oxygen to muscles and the production of certain hormones.||Oysters, white beans, spinach||8–18 mg|
|Manganese||Contributes to the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol||Pineapple, pecans, peanuts||1.8–2.3 mg|
|Copper||Required for the production of connective tissue as well as for appropriate brain and nervous system function.||Liver, crabs, cashews||900 mcg|
|Zinc||Essential for optimal development, immunological function, and wound healing||Oysters, crab, chickpeas||8–11 mg|
|Iodine||Helps with thyroid regulation.||Seaweed, cod, yogurt||150 mcg|
|Fluoride||Development of bones and teeth||Fruit juice, water, crab||3–4 mg|
|Selenium||Important for thyroid health, reproduction, and oxidative damage defense.||Brazil nuts, sardines, ham||55 mcg|
Following are the summarized functions of all the essential nutrients,
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| ||Provide the body with a convenient source of energy and structural components for the production of cells.|
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| ||Regulate bodily processes and encourage proper body-system function.|
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Nutrients And Aging
Aging is associated with a number of changes in the body, including muscle atrophy, skin thinning, and decreased stomach acid. Some of these changes may increase your susceptibility to nutrient deficiencies, while others may impair your senses and quality of life. Learn more about such deficiencies in this article here.
Nutrients Obtained Through Supplements:
Supplements may be a component of a balanced diet, but they are no substitute for consuming a variety of foods.
- Fats: For fat, it is best to consume via food like fish, etc. as mentioned above. But if you don’t consume fish, you can consider taking an omega-3 supplement, which is commonly available over the counter.
- Protein: Protein supplements are among the most popular dietary supplements worldwide. People use them for a variety of purposes, including building muscle, losing weight, and improving their overall health and well-being. It has even been proven that when used properly, protein powders can be an effective means of gaining muscle mass and increasing protein intake.
- Carbohydrates: Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Waxy Maize, and Cyclic Dextrin are all regarded to be fast-acting or simple carbohydrate supplements.
- Vitamin & Minerals: Although vitamins, minerals, and water is essential nutrients, they do not supply calories. The safest and most efficient approach to achieving appropriate vitamin and mineral consumption seems to be through food sources and secure methods. (1)
Multivitamins are the most often used supplement to increase nutrient intake. These are dietary supplements containing several required nutrients in a single serving. They are available in grocery stores and pharmacies. Your dietary requirements may vary depending on your age, gender, and health problems. Various forms of multivitamins account for some of the variations. There are formulae designed exclusively for women and those over 50, for instance. The majority of vitamins lack the required amount of minerals, such as calcium. If they did, the tablets would be too huge to swallow. It is not certain as per studies if taking more than the recommended levels of certain micronutrients from food or supplements confers extra health advantages. (1)
Consult your physician if you’re worried that you’re not receiving enough nutrients from foodstuff. They may conduct tests to see whether you are deficient in nutrients or nourishment. If so, they may suggest a nutritional supplement. Before using a new supplement, consult your physician.