How the Body Uses Nutrients
The main fuel for the body is carbohydrates, fat and protein. These nutrients are provided through a variety of food sources. Once consumed, the nutrients are digested by the gastrointestinal system and taken up into the blood stream where it is then directed to the tissues for uptake by individual cells.
Carbohydrates are the most efficient energy source. It is converted into glucose during the digestive process and with the assistance of insulin is used immediately. It is the preferred food for the brain and when not utilized is stored in the liver as glycogen. The body stores enough glucose for 1-2 days use. Additional glucose can be converted to fat for long-term storage in adipose tissue.
Fats are converted into fatty acids when digested. These fatty acids are used for the maintenance and health of the body and are involved in a number of functions such as absorption of certain vitamins, brain development and the production of cells. Fat is stored in adipocytes and this makes up the adipose or fat tissue. This tissue insulates the body and provides the body with fuel when glucose is not available.
Protein is converted to amino acids when it is digested. This is the material needed to develop muscles, hormones, heal and repair. Protein can also be converted into glucose and stored as fat when the body does not immediately utilize it.
Glucose is utilized for energy by the body. It is either taken directly from a recently digested meal or from glycogen, which is stored in the liver. Once this source is used up, then the fat storage is tapped into. An individual with up to 30% body fat has enough energy stored for over 40 days use. During periods of starvation when fat is no longer available, non-essential proteins are utilized for energy such as muscle. Death is imminent when essential proteins are the only remaining source of energy.
Understanding how the body utilizes nutrients is important in planning your diet. It must contain the right balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats to meet your nutritional needs and to reach your health goals. Weight loss, weight gain, competitive athletics, outdoor adventures, pregnancy and other states have unique nutritional requirements. In order to achieve the best possible outcome, you must provide your body with the appropriate fuel. Remember the goal of good nutrition is to maintain a healthy body so you can function at the highest level possible and in the case of pregnancy give your child the best health “head start” in life.
I hope this article has provided you with information that will help you make wise choices, so you may:
Live healthy, live well and live long!
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