Nutrition is the food taken by the body in relationship with its dietary needs. It plays a very important role in the growth, development, and maintenance of our body. Good nutrition enhances our quality of life and helps to prevent various diseases. It provides calories and nutrients for energy and wellness.
Nutrients or “food factor” is used for definite dietary constituents such as vitamins, proteins, and minerals. The practical application of diet in relationship with health as well as ill-health is said to be ‘Dietetics’. It involves planning and preparing a list of meals. Good nutrition means “eating a correct quantity from all kinds or groups of food to stay healthy.”
- Nutrients: substances in foods that the body needs to grow, to repair, and to provide energy.
- Calories: Units of heat that measure the energy used by the body and energy supplied to the body by foods.
Types of nutrients and why is nutrition important
There are different kinds of nutrients and all are required for Healthy body and life. Let’s learn in details about nutrients and why is Nutrition important?
1. Carbohydrates –
Provide the majority part of the energy to our body. Carbohydrates get changed into glucose (blood sugar) in our digestive system. The body uses glucose for energy for our cells, tissues, and organs, and the extra glucose gets deposited in the liver and muscles for use when it is needed.
Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex:
- Simple carbohydrates are sugars which are present in foods such as vegetables, fruits, milk, and products made up of milk.
- Complex carbohydrates are present in cereals, whole grain bread, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Many of the complex carbohydrates are good sources of fiber.
- Fiber is an indigestible complex carbohydrate that helps move waste through the digestive system. To consume a healthy diet, reduce the quantity of added sugar that we eat and use whole grains over refined grains
Proteins are the nutrients that help to build and maintain body cells and tissues. Protein plays a vital role in the growth and development in children and pregnant women. During digestion, protein is broken down into parts called amino acids. The human body requires a number of amino acids to stay healthy. Amino acids are found in milk, meats, fish, and eggs. These are also present in plant sources such as soy, beans, legumes, and grains such as wheat germ and quinoa. Amino acids are categorized into three groups:
Essential Amino acids
Essential Amino Acids are not produced in the body, it can be supplied by food. Balanced diet over the whole day is more important for our body to get enough amino acids.
Non- essential Amino acids
Non-essential amino acids are produced in our body from essential amino acids or breakdown of proteins.
Conditional Amino acids
Conditional Amino Acids are needed in times of stress and illness. The daily requirement of proteins by the body is greatly related to the age and health of a person, and to meet this requirement, it is considered to consume protein-rich foods two or three times every day.
Fat is a type of nutrient. It gives energy and also helps the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K). Fat also plays a major role in our cholesterol levels. We need some fat in the diet but not too much, if we eat a high-fat diet, cholesterol level in body increases. High cholesterol level causes the number of diseases such as hypertension, hardening of arteries, etc.
Avoid using fatty substances such as :
- Saturated fats like butter, cheese, and meat.
- Tran’s fats found in vegetable shortenings, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils.
Try to use canola, olive, safflower, sesame, or sunflower oil. Eating too much fatty food will put on the pounds and causes obesity. Fat has twice as many calories as proteins or carbohydrates.
Vitamins are essential nutrients for our body’s growth and development. We get all the vitamins from the foods. Some vitamins like vitamin D and K can be made by the body. Supplement of vitamin B12 may be required for people who consume only a vegetarian diet. Each vitamin has a specific function. If we have low levels of certain vitamins, we may get health problems. For example, if we don’t get enough vitamin C, we could become anemic. Some vitamins may help to prevent medical problems. Vitamin A arrest night blindness. Eat a balanced diet or a variety of foods to get enough vitamins. In a few cases, we need to take vitamin supplements. High doses of few vitamins can create problems.
Types of vitamins
- Water-soluble vitamins
- Fat-soluble vitamins
Water-soluble vitamins easily move throughout the body. The extra amounts are excreted by the kidneys. Water-soluble vitamins are required infrequent and small doses. These vitamins are not able to reach toxic levels as likely as fat-soluble vitamins. But there are high consumption limits of niacin (vitamin B3), folate (vitamin B9), choline, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. An excess consumption of Vitamin B6 for prolonged periods may sometimes cause irreversible nerve damage.
Why is Nutrition Important?
Here I have discussed in details about the benefits or why is nutrient important for our body. How nutrition makes our body fit and Healthy? What are the sources which provide all the required nutrients?
|Nutrient||Function||Sources||Dietary reference intake|
|Thiamine(vitamin B1)||Important for nerves functioning||Found in all nutritious foods in moderate amounts: pork, whole-grain or enriched bread and cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds||Males: 1.2 mg Females: 1.1 mg|
|Riboflavin(vitamin B2)||Important for normal vision and skin health||Milk and milk products; leafy green vegetables; whole-grain, enriched bread, and cereals||Males: 1.3 mg Females: 1.1 mg|
|Niacin (vitamin B3)||Important for the nervous system, digestive system, and skin health||Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain or enriched bread and cereals, vegetables (especially mushrooms, asparagus, and leafy green vegetables), peanut butter||Males: 16 mg Females: 14 mg|
|Pantothenic acid||Required for energy metabolism||Widespread in foods||Males: 5.0 mg Females: 5.0 mg|
|Biotin||Required for energy metabolism||Widespread in foods; also produced in the intestinal tract by bacteria||Males: 30 ug Females: 30 ug|
|Pyridoxine(vitamin B6)||Helps in making red blood cells||Meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruits||Males: 1.3 mg Females: 1.3 mg|
|Folic acid||Required for making DNA and new cells, especially red blood cells||Leafy green vegetables and legumes, seeds, orange juice, and liver; now added to most refined grains||Males: 400 ug Females: 400 ug|
|Cobalamin (vitamin B12)||Required for making new cells; important to nerve function||Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and milk products; not found in plant foods||Males: 2.4 ug Females: 2.4 ug|
|Ascorbic acid(vitamin C)||Important for immune system health; aids in iron absorption||Found only in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, vegetables in the cabbage family, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, papayas, mangoes, kiwifruit||Males: 60 mg Females: 60 mg|
What are the Fat-Soluble Vitamins, Sources, their Function, and Why is Nutrition important?
Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s cells and are not excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins. They do not need to be consumed as often as water-soluble vitamins, although adequate amounts are needed. If you take too much of a fat-soluble vitamin, it could become toxic. Your body is especially sensitive to too much vitamin A from animal sources (retinol) and too much vitamin D. A balanced diet usually provides enough fat-soluble vitamins.
|Nutrient||Function||Sources||Dietary reference intake|
|Vitamin A (and its precursor*, beta-carotene, retinol)
*A precursor is converted by the body to the vitamin.
|Needed for vision, healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone and tooth growth, body immune system||Vitamin A from animal sources (retinol): fortified milk, cheese, cream, butter, fortified margarine, eggs, liver
Beta-carotene (from plant sources): Leafy, dark green vegetables; dark orange fruits (apricots, cantaloupe) and vegetables (carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin)
|Males: 1000 ug Females: 800 ug|
|Needed for proper absorption of calcium; stored in bones||Egg yolks, liver, fatty fish, fortified milk, fortified margarine. When exposed to sunlight, the skin can make vitamin D.||Males: 5.0 ug Females: 5.0 ug|
|Antioxidant; protects cell walls||Poly-unsaturated plant oils (soybean, corn, cottonseed, safflower); leafy green vegetables; wheat germ; whole-grain products; liver; egg yolks; nuts and seeds||Males: 10 mg Females: 8 mg|
|Vitamin K||Need for proper blood clotting||Leafy green vegetables and vegetables in the cabbage family; milk; also produced in the intestinal tract by bacteria||Males: 80 ug Females: 65 ug|
Minerals are an important nutrient for our body to stay healthy. It plays an important role in building bones, making hormones and regulating your heartbeat.
There are two kinds of minerals:
- Macrominerals are required in larger amounts for our body. They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulfur.
- Trace minerals are required in small amounts for our body. These include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium. The best way to get minerals by eating a wide variety of foods. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a mineral supplement.
|Nutrient||Function||Sources||Dietary reference intake(DRI)|
|Boron||Bone health, prevention of osteoporosis||Non-citrus fruits, leafy vegetables||No DRI|
|Calcium||Required for bones and teeth, also involved in normal muscle contraction (including heart muscle).||Milk and milk products, small fish with bones, tofu, broccoli, chard, and legumes.||Males: 1000 mg Females: 1000 mg|
|Chloride||An electrolyte that maintains normal fluid balance and proper acid-base balance, part of hydrochloric acid found in the stomach.||Salt, soy sauce, moderate quantities in whole, unprocessed foods and large amounts in processed foods.||No DRI|
|Chromium||Associated with insulin and required for the release of energy from glucose.||Brewer’s yeast, unrefined whole grain cereals, fats, vegetable oils.||No DRI|
|Copper.||Supports healthy bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Assists in iron absorption||Liver, legumes, nuts, seeds, raisins, whole grains, shellfish, shrimp.||No DRI|
|Fluoride||Involved in the formation of bones and teeth.||Drinking water (if fluoridated) tea, seafood.||Males: 3.8 mg Females: 3.1 mg|
|Iodine||An essential component of thyroid hormones that regulate tissue growth and cell activity||Iodized salt, seafood, plants.||Males: 150 ug Females: 150 ugs.|
|Iron||The protein hemoglobin which carries O2in the body. Part of the protein myoglobin in the muscle which makes O2available for muscle contraction. Necessary for the utilization of energy as part of the cells’ metabolic machinery||Red meats, liver, poultry, fish, shellfish, beans, peas, dried fruit, eggs. Certain foods contain phytates, which may inhibit iron absorption.||Males: 10 mg Females: 15 mg|
|Magnesium||Involved in bone mineralization, the building of protein, enzyme action, normal muscular contraction, and transmission of nerve impulses||Nuts, legumes, whole grains, beans, green leafy vegetables, seafood, chocolate.||Males: 420 mg Females: 320 mg|
|Manganese||Involved in the formation of bone, as well as in enzymes involved in amino acid, cholesterol, and carbohydrate metabolism||Nuts, whole grain cereals, beans, rice, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables||No DRI|
|Phosphorus||Important for bones and teeth; part of every cell; maintains acid-base balance.||Abundant in all animal foods.||Males: 700 mg Females: 700 mg|
I am sure that after reading this article you will have complete information about what is nutrients? why is nutrition important? What are the functions of nutrients?
More important, I am sure that after knowing why is nutrition important? You will try to add all the nutrients into your foods for Healthy life.
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