The human body requires different nutrients in order to thrive and survive. Without sufficient quantities of these essential nutrients, various bodily processes can run less efficiently or shut down entirely. For this reason, you want to be familiar with the essential nutrients that you should be incorporating into your diet, some of which are highlighted below.
Protein is well-known for being one of the most important nutrients your body requires to survive, and it is becoming common for individuals who consider themselves fitness enthusiasts to supplement with protein.
In fact, a study showed that over 25 percent of the total individuals that go to the gym use some form of protein supplement.1 Therefore, it is clear that people recognize the importance of this nutrient. With that being said, protein is required for much more than simply building muscle.
In fact, every cell in the body contains a certain amount of protein. Studies have shown that taking up to twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein is safe and a good goal for those looking to achieve optimal intake. This number roughly translates to anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of daily caloric intake.2
There are plenty of different sources of protein that you can get into your diet without compromising your health. In fact, over the course of the last few years, dietary guidelines have begun to shift from recommending specific percentages to eating healthier protein sources. After all, you don’t want to consume a lot of protein through unhealthy food options.
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While meat contains a lot of high-quality protein, you can also find protein in plant-based foods. For instance, you can find it in whole grain bread, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and dairy products. By getting a wide range of these foods in your diet, you should be able to improve the overall composition of your diet and the number of nutrients you consume.
Fats are another essential nutrient that you want to be sure to get into your diet. Unfortunately, fats have a negative connotation among the general public which has led to a lot of low-fat or non-fat food options entering the marketplace, stripping the food of much nutritional value.
For instance, when you consume low or non-fat yogurt, you are digesting a highly processed and sugar added product. On the other hand, full-fat yogurt supplies you with a low sugar option that requires little processing, meaning it contains more healthy bacteria to balance gut flora.
While there are certainly bad fats that you want to avoid, there are also good fats that you should strive to incorporate into your diet. Good fats typically come from healthy food sources such as nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fish.
While you might think it would be wise to simply avoid all kinds of fats, your body requires them for various functions and tasks. For one, polyunsaturated fats are essential fats that the body requires for normal functions and cannot produce on its own. They serve various functions including helping protect nerves, build cell membranes, and even deal with inflammation throughout the body.3
Other essential fats you’ll want to incorporate into your diet are omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in various foods including flax seeds and different types of fish. There are three distinct forms of omega-3 fatty acids including ALA, EPA, and DHA.
Each is essential to your body in different ways. You will generally find DHA and EPA through fish and seafood sources. Meanwhile, you can get ALA through plant oils. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for various bodily tasks including maintaining the immune, endocrine system, and respiratory systems.
As noted above, you want to stick to consuming healthy fats through your diet. Some of the healthiest sources of fats come from nuts and seeds. You can also use various healthy oils extracted from nuts, seeds, and fruits including olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil. Another great source of healthy fats is fish.4
While there are carbohydrates that are less optimal for your diet, carbohydrates, in general, are a requirement for a healthy diet. Carbohydrates effectively work as the fuel for your body.5 Therefore, you want to be taking in enough carbohydrates through your diet.
However, you should stick to consuming complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates. Pasta, white bread, and other refined carbohydrates are known as simple carbohydrates which are rapidly broken down by the body and can cause blood sugar spikes. Consuming too much of these simple carbohydrates can result in inflammation.
Instead, you want to replace these with complex carbohydrates which are the key to optimizing your health. Complex carbohydrates can do everything from protecting you from disease to keeping excess weight off. The best forms of complex carbohydrates are leafy green vegetables, different fruit, fiber-rich vegetables, and fiber-rich grains.6,7,8
Vitamins are essential micronutrients that your body requires for basic functions. There are 13 distinct essential vitamins that the body requires through diet alone. These vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate.
A majority of people simply do not get enough of each of these vitamins through their diet alone. This has led to an increase in various diseases and health problems among the population. To take in enough of these essential vitamins, your diet requires variety from some of the most essential food sources including fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains. By taking in a diverse range of foods each and every day, you should be able to improve your essential vitamin intake.
Minerals are other essential nutrients that the body requires to function properly. Like vitamins, minerals play a critical role in hundreds of bodily functions. Not getting enough can upset a delicate balance in the body.9
Some of the most important minerals for the body are calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, potassium, sodium, and zinc. Each of these minerals plays a specific role in maintaining various functions throughout the body. There are two distinct groups of minerals that the body requires: trace minerals and major minerals. Each of them is equally as important but the major minerals are required in larger quantities.
Some of the best ways to incorporate minerals in your diet are through fresh vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, lean protein, unsaturated fats, and dairy products. However, some of the required minerals are more difficult to obtain through diet alone and may, therefore, require additional supplementation. These hard-to-obtain minerals include magnesium, calcium, iron, and potassium.
As you can see, the body requires many nutrients to function properly. A healthy diet should include a steady intake of all of these essential nutrients. Through this, you should be able to optimize various bodily processes and ultimately your health.
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