Nutrients are substances that are consumed by an organism to keep it alive and healthy. There are six different classes of nutrients, carbohydrates, protein, fats, water, vitamins, minerals. The first four (Carbohydrates, protein, fats, water) are called macronutrients because they make up the bulk of our diet and is what our body uses to produces energy. The last two (vitamins and minerals) are micronutrients because they are only needed by our body in small amounts, but play a large and diverse role within our bodies.

Macronutrients:

  • Carbohydrates- Are the starches and sugars within plants, they are processed by our bodies into glucose, which is the main energy source for our brain and body. It breaks down into two categories, complex and simply carbohydrates.
    • Complex Carbohydrates (starch)- Complex carbs breaks down slowly into glucose by our body avoiding spikes to blood sugar. They are found in starchy vegetables, seeds, beans, and grains, they provide long lasting energy, aid digestion, and make up the bulk of our diet.
      • Fiber- Fiber is the indigestible part of plant based foods. It can be found in both complex carbs and natural sources of simply carbs, it slows down the absorption of other nutrients, makes you feel full, adds bulk to your stools, and helps to prevent constipation.  It’s broken down into two categories, soluble and in soluble fiber.
        • Soluble fiber- Combines and dissolves with water in the stomach and forms a gel, slowing digestion making you fill full for longer. This slowing of digestion may also positively affect blood sugar levels.
        • Insoluble fiber- Doesn’t dissolve in water and stays relatively intact through your gut adding the bulk to your stools. It does however suck up water making your stools softer and easier to pass. They also aid digestion by having a mild laxative effect.
    • Simply carbohydrates (sugars)- Are carbohydrates that are processed by the body quicker than complex carbs. Found in fruits and vegetables, they provide your body with quick energy and contain large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Unlike refined sugars they are good for you.
      • Refined sugars- Sugars that have been processed down from their natural state. Often called “Empty calories” because they contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are the one of main culprits to weight gain, and type-2 diabetes.

 

  • Protein- Is important for the repair, growth, and maintenance of our tissues, organs, and cells. The main parts of protein are amino acids. Most people, at least in America, get more than enough protein in their diet. Excess protein, as well as all excess calories that aren’t used, are stored in the body as fat.
    • Amino acids- There are 22 different amino acids used by our bodies, 13 of them are produced by our body and the remaining 9 comes from our diet and are called essential amino acids. There are complete proteins and incomplete proteins, depending on if they have all the essential amino acids or not.
      • Complete proteins- Are proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids. Animal proteins like meat, eggs, and diary are complete proteins.
      • Incomplete proteins- Are proteins that lack one or more essential amino acids, like plant proteins, who rarely have all 9 amino acids. But different plant sources lack different amino acids, so different plant sources can be combined in one’s diet to obtain all the essential amino acids. For example, rice and beans eating together form a complete protein source.

 

  • Fats- Fats, also known as lipids, are always getting a bad rap. Mostly because they are called the same thing that people want to avoid…fat. But fats plays important roles within our body. It’s another major energy source, it provides our brain and body with important nutrients, it aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and because it takes longer for it to be processed by your digestive system it satisfies our hungry for longer. That being said all fats aren’t the same. There are three deferent categories for fats, saturated, trans, and unsaturated.
    • Unsaturated fats (the good fats)- Unsaturated fats are fats that have less double bonds in the fatty acid chain making them liquid at room temperature. The more double bonds fats have the more solid they are, that’s why saturated fat is more solid than unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are the good fats that bodies need. There are two categories of unsaturated fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
      • Monounsaturated- Has one double bond in the fatty acid chain, and is found in nut, seeds, avocados, and olive oil.
      • Polyunsaturated- Has two or more double bonds in the fatty acid chain, so they’re a bit more solid than monounsaturated, but still liquid at room temperature. There are main two categories of polyunsaturated fats omega-3 and omega-6.
        • Omega-3- Are found in oily fishes and some plants like purslane, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and other nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. It plays a huge role in brain function and is also great for your heart. But sadly most Americans get very little of it, if any in their diet, which paired with our general unhealthy lifestyle, may be a reason behind our large rates of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
        • Omega-6- Are found in most vegetable oils, like corn, soybean, and cottonseed. They are needed by your body, but most Americans, because of all the fried foods we eat, have two much of it in their diet. Most have an unbalanced oil ration in their body, with omega- 6s more than doubling the amount of omega-3s in our system. But if you cut out fried foods and get more omega-3s in your diet you’ll be good.
    • Saturated fat (the ugly [not so good] fat)- Saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Most saturated fats are from animal sources, but can also come from plant sources, like coconut and palm oil. Diets high in saturated fats have been linked to certain chronic diseases, most namely heart disease. This doesn’t mean you should eliminate saturated fats out of your diet completely, a healthy human with a well balanced diet can effectively process saturated fats in one’s diet if it’s kept within a reasonable amount. (Just food for thought, there are tribes of humans whose diet largely consist of saturated fats and they still live into ripe old ages.)
    • Trans fat (the bad fat)- Trans fat is the product of unsaturated oils that have been partially hydrogenated by the addiction of hydrogen to the liquid oils, thus making vegetables oils solid. Companies use it in their products because it’s cheap, it improves favor, and improves the shelf life of the product. Saturated fat isn’t that great for you, but trans fat is horrible for you. Our bodies have a very difficult time processing it, so if large amounts are consumed over long amounts time it’s just dispersed around our body, clogging our arteries. Try your best to say away from trans fats all together. Also just because something says “No trans fat per serving” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have trans fat in it. It just means it has least than .5  grams per serving, allowing the companies to bend the rules in their favor.

 

  • Water- With the human body being more than 60% water and the human brain being around 70% water, it’s no wonder why water is so important in our diet. Not only does it play a vital role in the body’s natural detoxification process, but it also aids joints health, helps regulate our body temperature, protect our tissues and cells, it also aids weight loss by making you feel full. Surprising, almost 75% of Americans are dehydrated. Prolonged dehydrated can lead to fatigue, headaches, joint pains, weaken metabolism, etc. You get it from the fluid you drink and in foods like fruit, vegetable, and soups. You should drink 8-ounce glasses of water a day, and one more glass for every 25 pounds you’re overweight. That should be the minimum amount you drink, I drink much more and always have a glass of water, tea, or juice when sitting around, and I also drink plenty of water when exercising. Remember your urine should be clear.

 

Micronutrients

  • Vitamins– Are organic substances that are made by plants or animals. They are essential  for a healthy functioning body. If the macronutrients are the fuel for the body, vitamins and minerals are the grease that keeps the wheels turning. Each vitamin has their own unique function within the body and there are two categories, water and fat soluble.
    • Water soluble- Water soluble vitamins are vitamins that are absorbed through water and the excess is flushed out through your urine.
      • B- B vitamins main function is to help your body effectively process the food you eat and turn it into energy, but also has other roles like keeping your skin and eyes healthy. They can be found in nuts, beans, leafy vegetables, grains, and meats.
        • B-1 (Thiamin)- Vitamin B-1 helps your body process carbohydrates and fats, and is also important for maintaining healthy skin.
        • B-2 (Riboflavin)- Vitamin B-2 also helps with processing fats, along with processing proteins. It is also plays a large role in tissue repair and the proper function of the eyes, helping them adjust to light.
        • B-3 (Niacin)- Vitamin B-3 is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system, gastrointestinal system, and also maintaining healthy skin. Along with helping your body process fats.
        • B-5 (Pantothenic acid)- Vitamin B-5 is important in the processing of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. It is also important for the proper functioning of the adrenal gland. A deficiency in vitamin B-5 is rare because of it being widely present in many different food sources.
        • B-6 (Pyridoxine)-  Vitamin B-6 is one of the more important vitamins in your body (not to say others aren’t important) and plays a part in most of the body’s functions by processing amino acids and essential fatty acids.
        • B-7 (Biotin)- Is important in the processing of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. You can get it from your diet and it’s also produced by your body’s intestinal bacteria.
        • B-12 (cobalamin)- Vitamin B-12 is important in the processing of carbohydrates and fats. It also plays and important role in our nervous system by being involved in the production of the nerve covering called myelin.
        • Folic acid- Folic acid helps process proteins and amino acids.  It’s also important in the process of cell division, by being needed for the production of DNA and RNA, and since it’s important for healthy cell production it’s useful for our immune system by affecting the amount of white blood cells. It’s also important for tissue regeneration and deficiencies are linked to many mood and mental problems.
        • C (Ascorbic acid)- Vitamin C has many roles within our body, most notably its role in the proper function of our immune system. But it also helps us resist diseases, plays an important role in hormone function by being needed by the adrenal gland which also helps us handle stress, it’s important for the growth and repair of tissue, bone and cartilage health, it’s acts as an antioxidant, and also helps prevent the oxidation of the other antioxidant vitamins A and E. It can be found in most fruits and vegetables.
    • Fat soluble- Fat soluble vitamins are vitamins that are absorbed through fat and are stored within the body. You can get too much of fat soluble vitamins but it’s rather difficult unless taken in large amounts and is even harder to overdo if you’re only getting them through food.
      • A- Vitamin A is plays an important role in the function of our immune system, improves our resistances to infection, it’s linked to cancer prevention may slow the development and spread of cancer, it’s an antioxidant, and it’s also important for promoting healthy cell growth making it important for healthy skin and eyes. It can be found in eggs and most animal livers, but thinking fully beta-carotene a vitamin A precursor, which means your body makes vitamin A from it, is found in most fruits and vegetables. Vitamin A can be destroyed by heat, so raw consumption of fruits and vegetables is ideal for getting vitamin A.
      • D- Vitamin D, which is also considered a hormone because our body produces it from the sun, is mostly important in aiding our body’s processing and uptake of calcium and phosphorus. In addition it has been shown to possess anticancer properties when combined with calcium, while also affecting our mood and biological rhythm. Vitamin D is low in food sources, but our body readily produces all it needs when exposed adequate amounts of sunlight.
      • E- Most of vitamin E’s contribution to the human body stems from the fact that it’s a powerful antioxidant and anticarinogen. It also helps protect vitamin C and A, along with polyunsaturated fats in your body from oxidation. It’s shown to protect the body from toxics and may even slow the aging process by prolonging the live of our cells. It can be found in vegetables high in fats, natural vegetables oils, nuts, legumes, and leafy vegetables. It’s also easily damaged by heat and processing.
      • K- Vitamin K main role in the body is the production of coagulation, which is the function of blood clotting in the body. It helps stop bleeding so your body can began to repair the damaged area. It may also have affect on behavior and the prevention of osteoporosis. It can be found in a wide variety of foods, like leafy greens, meats, and some vegetables, but it’s also produced by our intestinal bacteria.
  • Minerals- Are inorganic substances that come from the earth and are absorbed by the plants through the soil or water.
    • Macro- meaning your body needs larger amounts compared to trace minerals.
      • Calcium- Calcium’s best known role is its job in maintaining the health of our bones and teeth, where 99 percent of it is stored in our body. But it also plays a major role in other functions in the body like helping the transmission of nerve impulses, fat and protein digestion, blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of the muscles, and it also aids the absorption of other nutrients. It can be found in leafy greens, dairy products, and seafood that have small bones, like sardines. There are also other factors in calcium intake, like the need for vitamin D and magnesium that help the absorption of Calcium, and also exercising and heavy lifting is needed for maintaining healthy dense bones.
      • Phosphorus-Phosphorus’s, like calcium, best known role in the body is its job in maintaining the health of our bones and teeth, where again most of it is stored, which is a little bit less than calcium. Phosphorus aids almost everyone of our body’s important chemical reaction. It helps the processing of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. When combined with fats, it becomes phospholipids in our blood, which becomes part of our cell structures. Phosphorus also aids the in the storing and producing of energy, and the proper absorption of B vitamins, and helps balancing our body’s pH ratio.  You can, however, get too much of phosphorus, and most of us do because of phosphorus present in almost all foods and being especially high in carbonated drinks, meats, dairy products. Too much phosphorus can lead to calcium loss and in turn brittle bones and/or osteoporosis, but a well balanced diet that limits meat and dairy, and lacks carbonated drinks easily fixes this problem.
      •  Potassium- Potassium is important for proper cell health, being that it is the main mineral inside the cells, it plays a major role in the fluid balance and enzymatic reactions within them.  It also helps process glucose in glycogen for storage, proper muscle contractions, hormone secretion, nerve transmissions, and maintaining proper blood pressure. It can be found in many foods including meats, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
      • Magnesium- Like calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is needed for healthy bones, which is also where half of it in your body is stored. Magnesium is also very important in maintain the proper function of nerves and muscle relaxation. You see, the muscle contracts when calcium enters, and it relaxes when it leaves and is replaced by magnesium. Magnesium also helps to create energy by breaking down sugars in the liver. It can be found in a good amount of foods and is high in nuts, seeds, grains, and meats.
      • Sodium- Sodium helps balance body fluids and blood pressure, as well as help with muscle and nerve functions. But most people get too much of it in their diet.
    • Trace- meaning your body needs them in small amounts.
      • iron- Iron, present in our cells, mostly the red blood cells, help carry oxygen around our body. It also helps maintain a healthy immune system. It’s found in meats, eggs, leafy vegetables, and diary.
      • Iodine- Iodine is important in the health of the thyroid gland, where most of it is stored. It is found in high amounts in seafood and sea plants, like kelp, it’s found in low levels in fruits and vegetables.
      • zinc- Zinc is important in the synthesis of RNA and DNA, proper wound  healing, it may help protect us from harmful substances, and it may also boast our immune system. It is found in most foods, being high in meats especially liver, grains, legumes, and eggs.
      • Chromium- Chromium is important in the processing of glucose and in the production of insulin. It’s found in meat, brewer’s yeast (yeast bread and beer), leafy vegetables, and grains.
      • Selenium- Selenium is an antioxidant and may protect us from cancer, heart disease, other chronic diseases, but more studies are needed on the subject. It can be found in meats, organ meats, and seafood.
      • copper- Copper helps in maintaining the myelin and healthy bones, the absorption of iron, and taste sensitivity. It’s found in meats, nuts, legumes, and grains.
      • Manganese- Manganese helps your body process protein and fats, and effective use energy. It also helps maintain bone health, reproduction, proper nerve function, and proper functioning of the immune system. It’s found in nuts, seeds, grains, and most fruits and vegetables.

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