Must Have Nutrients!
Healthy Living

Must Have Nutrients!

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 4 Oct 2014 - 11:57.

Having a healthy diet is sometimes easier said than done. Our body needs nutrients to stay healthy, provide energy, repair and support tissue growth and also for metabolic activities. This is accomplished by consuming a diet that supplements our body with all the vitamins and nutrients needed every day. Each nutrient has specific functions and is made available to the body tissues through the processes of digestion and absorption. Most foods contain many different nutrients, no single food, provides all the nutrients required. The best way, therefore, to ensure the body gets all the necessary nutrients is to eat a variety of foods. Nutrients that we take are classified as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins or minerals.

Macro and micro-nutrients: The nutrients needed by the body are broadly classified as macro and micronutrients. The nutrients which are needed in large quantities are known as macro nutrient and these include energy-giving carbohydrates and fats and body-building proteins.

Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts and are gained widely through vitamins and minerals.

Hence to promote a health heart, mind, and immune and skeletal systems start incorporating nutrients into your daily diet which include the following:

Carbohydrates: 4 kcal per gram

Carbohydrates are one of the main dietary components and can be grouped into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars whereas complex carbohydrates include starch and dietary fibre.  Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity and its primary function is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. Without carbohydrates, the body could not function properly. We should get between 45 to 60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and natural sugars.

Sources: whole grain cereals, oats, fruits and vegetables, legumes

Proteins: 4 kcal per gram

Proteins are made up of chain of amino acids which are the building blocks of the body. These amino acids are used for building and repairing muscles and are also needed for our healthy immune system, for making hormones, red blood cells, tissues and healthy hair. Protein can also act as a source of energy when carbohydrates and fats are not available. The average person needs about 0.8 – 1gram of protein /kg body weight.

Sources: egg, chicken, fish, milk and milk products, pulses, nuts and seeds

Fats: 9 kcal per gram

Though people have a notion that fat consumption is bad and should be avoided, fats are necessary as energy providing nutrients and must account for 20 – 30 % of our daily calorie intake. Dietary fat should be a part of your healthy diet, as it is essential in maintaining hair and skin, provides a cushion to our vital organs, is necessary for the production of hormones and vitamins.

Sources: Omega-3-rich foods like fish, walnuts and vegetable-based oils, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish

Calcium

Calcium is essential for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth and is good for nerves and muscles as it regulates muscle contraction, including the heartbeat. It also plays a key role in normal blood coagulation (clotting). Adequate intake of calcium can prevent you from conditions like osteoporosis, high blood pressure, rickets, and premenstrual syndrome.

Sources: dark leafy vegetables, milk, curd, paneer (cottage cheese), ragi, poppy seeds, products fortified with calcium

Sodium

Sodium is an essential nutrient in any balanced diet as the body needs sodium to maintain proper electrolyte balance, blood pressure and nerve function. Sodium deficiency leads to the diarrhea, vomiting, confusion, headache and dizziness. The recommended dietary intake of sodium for an average adult is approximately 2400mg. Consumption of high levels of sodium can have many negative health effects, such as hypertension, heart complications, water retention and can affect your kidneys hence monitor your salt intake.

Sources: table salt

Vitamin D

The easiest way for your body to get the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is through 15 minutes of direct sun exposure .This immune-boosting vitamin is essential for healthy bones and neuro-muscular function.  Inadequate vitamin D levels may lead to reduced bone density, poor muscle strength, and increased risk of autoimmune condition.

Sources: fortified dairy products, egg yolks, cod liver oils and oily fish like sardines and salmon

Magnesium

Magnesium plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes and is required for the proper growth and maintenance of bones. Magnesium is also required for the proper function of nerves, muscles, and many other parts of the body.

Sources:  Dark green leafy vegetables, Nuts and seeds like sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, avocados and whole grains

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin and is an essential nutrient especially for those following a strictly vegetarian diet. Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis and those who don't have adequate intake of B12 in their diet can experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, poor memory, dementia and depression, megaloblastic anemia, neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.

Sources: animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

The best way to add these vital nutrients is by having a diverse and balanced diet.

References:

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.