Did you know that your body relies on a lot of different elements to function normally? These elements are known as nutrients; they help to maintain optimal health.
Nutrients are split into two categories: micronutrients and macronutrients. Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, are things that the body needs in small doses. Macronutrients, like water and protein, are needed in larger amounts.
To gain a better understanding of nutrients, this guide will take you through the six ‘essential’ ones.
Protein is a macronutrient that helps to build and maintain a strong body. It is also required for muscle maintenance and recovery, which is why you probably hear fitness enthusiasts talk about protein a lot.
For the most part, you can manage your protein intake through your diet. Foods that provide great sources of protein include:
- Beans and legumes
- Dairy products
Some people also choose to take protein supplements if their diet doesn’t support their intake.
Vitamins are micronutrients that support a whole range of bodily functions. The area they support will depend on the vitamin in question. This can include anything from supporting the immune system to aiding calcium absorption.
There are 13 essential vitamins to be aware of that divide into two categories: fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed along with fats and stored in the liver and fatty tissue. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body.
Fat-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K.
Water-Soluble Vitamins: Vitamin C and all eight B Vitamins.
Eating a diet rich in greens and protein will help to meet your vitamin intake. However, those lacking in a certain vitamin have the option to take a vitamin supplement. There are also many supplements that target specific areas, like turmeric tablets, which are used to support healthy digestion. Whatever you decide will be based on specific requirements, but support is always out there!
Water is incredibly important for your body. Long story short, it helps all body functions to work properly. This includes removing any waste and preventing dehydration.
As you may have guessed, the best way to get water is by drinking it naturally. If you don’t like drinking it on its own, squeeze in a drop of lemon to add some flavour.
Minerals are another macronutrient required for optimal health. They are split into two groups: major minerals and trace minerals.
Major Minerals: Magnesium, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Chloride.
Trace Minerals: Iron, Zinc, Manganese, Selenium, Copper, Iodine, Fluoride.
Once again, minerals can be obtained from the foods you eat. The mineral you acquire will depend on the food, but a diet containing the following should help:
- Red meats
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
Thanks to diet culture, we have been conditioned to believe that all fats are bad. However, this isn’t always the case. Fats are essential to the body and are needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
It’s all about focusing on a balanced diet and getting more of the ‘good’ fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). These can be found in:
As always, remember to eat fatty foods in moderation and avoid trans fats as much as possible.
Carbohydrates are important to your body for many reasons. The main reason relates to your energy levels, as carbs break down into glucose to then be used for energy.
There are two groups of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly and used for energy. Complex carbohydrates are higher in fibre and digested more slowly.
Examples of foods that contain complex carbohydrates include:
- Brown rice
- Whole grains
Now that you know more about the six essential nutrients, it should be easier to incorporate them into your diet and give your body what it needs. If you feel as though you need extra support or want to safeguard your nutritional intake, there are many supplements out there to assist you.