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Essential nutrients

Essential nutrients

People often associate high-fat foods with poor health. However, a person needs certain fats to help maintain optimal health.

Fats provide the body with energy and help it perform a variety of functions. However, it is essential to consume healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and limit or avoid saturated and trans fats.

Healthy fats help with the following functions:

cell growth
blood clotting
generation of new cells
reduced risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes
muscle movement
blood sugar balance
brain function
absorption of minerals and vitamins
hormone production
immune function

According to the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a person should consume 20% to 35% of their calories from healthy fats.

A person can find healthy fats in various foods, including:

fish, such as salmon and tuna
vegetable oils
coconut oil

Vitamins and minerals

What are the essential nutrients? Who are the kings of nutrition? Vitamins are essential for the body’s metabolism, making them participate in different processes, such as good vision, strong bones, and hair growth.

For their part, minerals help regulate the proper functioning of tissues and systems. Potassium, for example, helps muscles function, while calcium takes care of bones and teeth.

foods rich in vitamins and minerals

Carbohydrates are essential for the body. They are sugars or starches that provide energy for all cells and tissues in the body.

There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. People should limit their intake of simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and rice. However, the body needs complex carbohydrates to support the following:

the immune system
brain function
the nervous system
energy to perform tasks
digestive function

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people consume 45% to 65% of their daily calories from complex carbohydrates.

The following foods contain complex carbohydrates:

Integral rice
whole-wheat pasta, bread, and other baked goods

People should avoid overly processed products that contain white flour and foods with added sugar.

Water is probably the most important essential nutrient a person needs. A person can only survive a few days without consuming water. Even mild dehydration can cause a headache and limited physical and mental function.

The human body is made primarily of water, and each cell requires water to function. Water helps with several functions, including:

remove toxins
cushion shocks
transport nutrients
avoid constipation

The best source of water is to drink plain, unsweetened tap or bottled water. People who do not like the taste of plain water can add a few drops of lemon or other citrus fruits.

Also, a person can get additional water by consuming fruits that contain a large amount of water.

People should avoid drinking water from sugary drinks. Sugary drinks include sweetened teas, coffees, sodas, lemonades, and fruit juices.
What are they?

Nutrients are chemical elements or compounds found in food. “They actively participate in the metabolic reactions necessary for the body to function,” explains Ramón de Cangas, dietitian-nutritionist, a doctor in Functional Biology and member of the advisory body of the General Council of Dietitians-Nutritionists of Spain.

Nutritional needs vary throughout the life cycle, both in childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, when the population is adult or the elderly, and even in athletes. For this reason, it is essential to know the different tables of scientific societies or health organizations that reflect the requirement of necessary nutrients in each segment of the population.
Nutrient functions

The functions of nutrients, according to Cangas, are:

Energy function: as a source of energy for the cells of the body.

Plastic function: its purpose is to form structures in the body.

Regulatory function: regulating biochemical reactions, etc.

Essential nutrients

Depending on the amount of nutrients to be ingested, these are divided into two large groups:

Macronutrients: they are necessary for large doses daily and are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Micronutrients: they should be consumed in small amounts daily and are made up of vitamins and minerals.

The nutrients that the human body needs can be obtained with a balanced and varied diet based on the principles of the Mediterranean food pyramid. “However, there are some foods that are richer in some nutrients than others,” the expert emphasizes. Meats, eggs and fish both are good sources of protein; cereals, such as pasta or bread and fruit, are rich in carbohydrates; olive oil is a good source of fat; dairy products are rich in calcium; red meat in iron and foods of animal origin in vitamin B12.

The absence of nutrients in the body is not very common today. As the expert points out, “in the first world, it is difficult for there to be severe nutritional deficiencies such as those that in the past could lead to scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, beriberi, caused by thiamine deficiency or malnutrition protein, due to protein shortage. “

However, currently, an unbalanced diet can cause certain disorders. “At present, it is not strange to find women who suffer from anemia due to a deficit in iron intake,” exemplifies the dietician-nutritionist. For this reason, even though with an adequate and balanced diet, all the requirements are met in terms of nutrient intake, sometimes “it may be unavoidable to use nutritional supplements of different kinds,” says de Cangas.


A person needs to consume all six types of essential nutrients to ensure the best possible health. These nutrients support vital functions, including growth, the immune system, the central nervous system, and preventing disease.

Usually, a person who eats a healthy, balanced diet that includes lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates, and water will get the nutrients he needs.

People with digestive problems who take certain medications or have other conditions may require supplements to help them obtain essential nutrients from the body.

A person should talk to their doctor about any medical conditions and the medications they are taking before taking any supplements. Also, you may want to see a dietitian or nutritionist discuss her nutritional intake before you start taking any supplements.

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