Essential Nutrients

Essential Nutrients
The crucial part of healthy eating is a balanced diet. A balanced diet - or a good diet - means consuming from the different food groups in the right quantities. Nutritionists say there are five main food groups - grains, fruit, vegetables, protein foods (lean meat, poultry, beans, eggs, fish, nuts etc.) and dairy products- which supplies the body with what it needs to remain healthy. Fats, sugar and water are sometimes described as food groups however the first two components are readily contained within the 5 major groups and water is a different focus. The major groups provide the essential nutrients the body needs to function.

Macronutrients are the structural and energy-giving caloric components of our foods that most of us are familiar with. These are the compounds consumed in large quantities, which provide the bulk of our energy. They include carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Fiber is also a macronutrient but serves a different function than providing energy. The U.S dietary guidelines recommend a balanced daily diet consisting of 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein, 20-35% fat and 25-35 grams of fiber. This is a general guideline and should be adjusted depending on an individual’s health and fitness goals.

Micronutrients are those food components that are needed in small amounts to support the body’s functions. These include vitamins and minerals. Their presence is needed in the exact amount; too much or too little can lead to problems. For instance, excessive amounts of sodium can contribute to hypertension while a low amount of vitamin D and calcium may cause problems with the bones.

Protein, carbohydrates and fats are our energy nutrients; they contain the fuel our bodies need to function effectively. Vitamin and minerals are required as micro-building blocks to maintain a strong and healthy body. We burn calories all the time, like a car burns gasoline to run. Our bodies need energy for every function from the beating of the heart, to brain processing, talking, walking and of course exercising. Without an energy source we would wither and die quickly. We can survive a long time with a deficiency in micronutrients but like water eating away at a rock, the effects will be seen over time. We are just realizing the roles micronutrient play in preventing chronic problems such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Macro and micronutrients are not only the foundation for a strong body but also one that functions well over the long haul. Remember the goal of good nutrition is to maintain a healthy body so you can function at the highest level possible.

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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