By Jarueba Taylor
Nutrients are the basic food requirements of living organisms needed to survive. They provide nourishment that insures body maintenance, growth, and a way of life. All living things need nutrients for their survival.
Nutrients are broken down into two main categories. The two categories are micro nutrients and macro nutrients.
Micro nutrients are nutrients that are needed by the body in relatively small amounts. Examples of micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Whenever you take a multivitamin or mineral you are helping supply your body with micro nutrients. Even though micronutrients are needed in relatively small amounts, a deficiency in macro nutrients can lead to very big problems.
Macro nutrients are nutrients that are needed in pretty large amounts. When you think of macro nutrients, think of various types of foods. Macro nutrients are the building blocks of the body. They provide energy, build muscle, balance hormones, and create an optimal environment for growth. Macro nutrients also provide micro nutrients for the body but the amount will vary based on the types and amounts of macro nutrients a person is taking in. Macro nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and water. Now let’s take a closer look at the macro nutrients.
Protein is considered the” building blocks of life”. Protein is responsible for building, maintaining and repairing all your body’s cells. Protein is made from chains of the 22 amino acids. Amino acids are chemical compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen molecules. There are 22 different amino acids.
(Cannot be made by the body and must be obtained thru food)
Conditionally Non Essential
(Can be produced by the body as long as the body is in a healthy state)
(Can be produced by the body)
Amino acids are broken down into two categories. The two categories are essential and non-essential amino acids. There are eight essential amino acids. They are essential because the body cannot produce them. The other 14 are non-essential because they can be produced by your body. Of these 11 non-essential amino acids, 7 can be considered conditionally non-essential. This means the body can produce these amino acids if it is healthy and in a well state of being. Apart from playing a key role in the creation and maintenance of healthy cells protein also has other key roles in the body. They assist in the production of antibodies, enzymes and hormones, helps your blood clot and regulates a number of important processes in the body. Protein is essential when trying to diet or gain muscle mass. For optimal muscle building you should try to ingest .75-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For dieting purposes it is even more important to keep protein intake high. 1 gram or above per pound of bodyweight is a good standard when dieting. When it comes to dietary needs protein is often the most overlooked macro nutrient.
Most sources of protein come from animal sources. Meats, fishes, eggs, and protein supplements are all high protein sources. There are also good non meat sources of protein also like beans, tofu, tempeh, cheeses and vegan proteins are all good non meat sources of protein.
Carbohydrates are often used as your body’s primary energy source. They are constructed from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Carbohydrates can be either simple or complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbs differ from complex carbs because they contain one or two sugars molecules while complex carbs containing three or more sugar molecules. The less sugar molecules the easier it is for the body to digest, but unfortunately the worst it is for you also. Some simple carbs are sodas, candy, artificial syrups, cookies and cakes.
Complex carbs have more sugar molecules making the digestion process longer and slower. This longer digestion process is better for the body by keeping it in a more stable state. This makes complex carbs a much healthier choice for people. Another indicator of how complex a carbohydrate is the amount of fiber in it. The more fiber the carb has, the more complex the carb will tend to be. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that cannot be digested and instead of providing energy it keeps blood glucose levels under control, promotes good bowel health and protects you from certain diseases. Some complex carbs are oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, beans and vegetables.
Fats are the third macro nutrient. Fats tend to get the worst reputation out of all the macros but are very vital to human survival. Here are just a few benefits of fats:
- Better brain function and mood
- Better skin, hair and nails
- Better weight management
- Better hormonal management and production
Dietary fats are all constructed from a combination of carbon and hydrogen. They are can be broken down into four main types; monounsaturated fats (where carbon atoms are bonded to the hydrogen atoms at all but one point), polyunsaturated fats (where carbon atoms are not bonded to hydrogen atoms at two or more points), saturated fats (where all the carbon atoms are bonded to hydrogen atoms) and trans fats (originally unsaturated fats that have a carbon atom added to them either artificially or naturally).
With the exception of man-made trans fats, all dietary fats are beneficial to your health and have numerous roles in the body. Monounsaturated fats keep your blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels under control whilst also protecting you from cancer. Polyunsaturated fats are key for brain health and also keep support strong bones, healthy skin and good vision. They are also known as Omega-3 and Omega-6’s. Some of the best sources of Omega 3’s are fatty fishes and nuts.
Saturated fats support your vital organs, keep your immune system healthy and strengthen your bones and cell membranes. Too much saturated fat can however be detrimental to your health. The key is to try and have a good balance of all fats.
Most people don’t view water as a macronutrient but it actually is probably the most important of them all. The human body, which is made up of between 65 and 78 percent water (lean people have more water in their bodies because muscle holds more water than fat), is in need of constant water replenishment. Most people walk around in a constant state of dehydration or slight dehydration all of the time because they do not consume enough water. Water is crucial to your health. Without water the body would perish in a very short time. It makes up, on average, 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. Your body also depends on water to break down macro nutrients and help transport micro nutrients to various parts of the body.
Nutritional supplements are used to supplement the deficiencies in our diet. For optimal health we need all the nutrients we can get. Since no matter how well we eat, our diets most of the time, do not provide all the nutrients we need, nutritional supplements fill those gaps. Nutritional supplements can help boost our immune system, provide us with energy, help remove toxins from our bodies, improve our athleticism, and help improve our overall fitness. To take full advantage of what dietary supplements can offer, you must choose the right health supplements to take. Choose supplements that will ultimately improve your health and that are aimed at your health goals. It is also crucial to understand what you are taking and how it may affect you. It is only by taking your choice seriously will you be able to live a fuller, and better life. If you’re not sure what you’re doing its always best to get professional help, that can guide you in the right direction. Understand that supplements provide many health benefits but they should not replace proper nutrition and nutritional practices. Some popular nutritional supplements are whey protein, branch chained amino acids, nutritional bars, fish oils, and energy drinks.
When trying to be in optimal condition it is best to make sure you are taking in proper nutrients. You want to make sure you are getting a good supply of micro nutrients from vitamins and minerals. You also want to make sure you are taking in the right amount of macro nutrients. Think of macro nutrients as foods. Make sure that you also consume adequate amounts of water with your micro and macro nutrients.