7 Essential Nutrients and How They Benefit the Body

Our bodies are not self-sustaining; our various systems need each of the seven types of essential nutrients to keep functioning. These are substances that our bodies cannot manufacture, so we have to get them from outside sources.

Maintaining sufficient amounts of each is one of the keys to staying healthy. The food and water we consume contains these vital ingredients we need to keep our bodies going. Below are seven essential nutrients and their functions.

Water

Our bodies are mostly water, usually ranging from 50 to 75%, depending on age and sex. Water is absolutely essential to the healthy function of our bodies and has a long list of tasks it performs, from general cooling to transporting energy and nutrients.

Probiotics

The term “Probiotics” usually refers to a dietary supplement that contains friendly bacteria in amounts likely to remain viable in our digestive tract after we’ve swallowed the supplement. These beneficial micro-organisms, when in balance in our body, assist and support our digestive system. Diets high in sugar and refined foods and low in fresh vegetables and fruits, set the stage for an imbalance of intestinal flora. This equilibrium is disturbed most when we ingest antibiotics from a doctor or through foods such as eggs, chicken, beef or cows milk, that kill these beneficial bacteria strains. This loss of flora off causes an imbalance that can create digestive upset and bowel irregularity. Probiotics can me found naturally in cultured dairy foods such as yogurt and kefir and in supplement form.

Vitamins

Casimir Funk coined the word “vitamin” in 1912. He combined the words “vital” and “amine,” as in amino acid, because at that time it was thought that all vitamins were amino acids. Since then, research has discovered thirteen vitamins in two categories: fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) and water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C). Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored for a while in the body’s fat reserves, but water-soluble vitamins are readily lost with other body fluids and therefore must be replenished on a daily basis.

Minerals

Dietary minerals are essential chemical elements our bodies use to support the biochemical reactions of metabolism. They include calcium, chlorine, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, and zinc. Depending on your own diet, you can usually get enough of them in the food you eat, but sometimes supplements are helpful.

Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat

Carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel for our bodies and can be classed as either simple or complex. It’s better to eat complex carbohydrates because they release energy at a more even rate over a longer period of time, whereas simple carbs (like sugar) result in a quick burst of energy followed by a low blood sugar crash. Reducing sugar intake by replacing simple carbohydrates with complex can help steady your energy level throughout the day.

Proteins are special because they are made of long, complex molecules and are convenient for our bodies because they represent a kind of short-cut. Instead of spending our own energy to manufacture these complex molecular structures, we can simply eat and digest them to make use of them. Proteins are what our bodies use to build and maintain their tissues and essential structures like bones and muscles.

Fat stores energy for us until we need it and then releases it slowly. There was a time in human history when food wasn’t as readily available as it is today, and we had to be prepared to go from hunt to hunt and harvest to harvest without starving. In general, saturated fats come from animal sources, and overuse causes increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol. Unsaturated fats are derived from plant sources and some types of fish, and these can be helpful in preventing some kinds of heart disease and cancer, as well as reducing bad cholesterol.

Sources:

  1. Pick, Marcelle. (September 12, 2011). Digestion & GI Healthy. women to women. Retrieved June 1, 2012 from http://www.womentowomen.com/digestionandgihealth/probiotics.aspx
  2. Wiktionary. Vitamins. Retrieved June 1, 2012 from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/vitamin
  3. Wikipedia. Dietary Mineral. Retireved June 1, 2012 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietary_mineral

by Madison

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