Most Essential Nutrients for Human Body
Nutrients are important for energy production, maintenance of body functions, and growth. Learn more about the most important nutrients for the human body.
According to the WHO, Essential nutrients are compounds that the body can't make or can't make in sufficient quantity these nutrients must come from food, and they're vital for disease prevention, growth, and good health.
Macronutrients & Micronutrients
Nutrient classes can be categorized as either macronutrients (needed in relatively large amounts) or micronutrients (needed in smaller quantities).
The macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, fiber, proteins, and water.
The micronutrients are minerals and vitamins that a person needs in small doses. But deficiency can lead to various diseases and health conditions.
Carbohydrates or carbs are necessary for a healthy body and the main energy source.
What are carbohydrates?
Carbs also ensure your body is not breaking down proteins to gain energy, preventing the loss of muscle mass.
Three main types of carbohydrates:
Whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are all examples of healthy complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for the body and are found in a wide variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, and sugars. A deficiency in carbohydrates can lead to a variety of health problems, including:
Hypoglycemia: Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. A deficiency in carbohydrates can lead to low blood sugar levels, which can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and confusion.
Ketoacidosis: This is a serious condition that can occur in people with diabetes when their blood sugar levels are too high and their body starts to break down fat for energy. This can lead to a build-up of ketones (acidic substances) in the blood, which can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
Malnutrition: A diet that is low in carbohydrates can lead to malnutrition if it is not balanced with other essential nutrients.
Brain function: Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for the brain. A deficiency in carbohydrates can lead to problems with a mental function such as confusion and difficulty concentrating.
It's important to note that carbohydrate deficiencies are rare in developed countries where a varied diet is consumed, however, some people are at risk of deficiency, such as people following a low-carbohydrate diet.
It's important to note that carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient as the body can use ketones as a source of energy, however a low carbohydrate intake can lead to other deficiencies if not balanced with other essential nutrients.
The two subcategories are insoluble and soluble fiber.
To add more fiber to your diet, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, add beans or lentils to soups and salads, use whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley) instead of refined grains, and add Chia seeds or ground flaxseeds to oatmeal, shakes, and yogurt.
Fibre has been shown to promote good health and support healthy heart function and blood sugar.
Persons consuming generous amounts of dietary fibre, compared to those who have minimal fibre intake, are having a low risk of CHR stroke hypertension diabetes obesity, and certain gastrointestinal disorders. An increase in the intake of high-fibre food improves serum lipoprotein values, lowers blood pressure levels, improves blood glucose control for diabetes, aids weight loss, and promotes regularity.
Proteins are important components of our cells and are needed for the structure, function, and regulation of our tissues and organs.
Although meats and fish tend to contain the highest levels of protein, vegans and vegetarians can get enough protein from various plant products.
Protein consists of amino acids that act as the body's main building blocks for tissues, such as muscle, skin, bone, and hair.
Amino acids are found in animal sources such as meats, milk, fish, and eggs. They are also found in plant sources such as soy, beans, legumes, nut butter, and some grains.
Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of tissues, as well as for the production of enzymes and hormones. A deficiency in protein can lead to a variety of health problems, including:
Kwashiorkor: This is a form of malnutrition that is characterized by muscle wasting, weakness, and edema (swelling due to fluid accumulation in the body). It is typically seen in children in developing countries who do not get enough protein in their diet.
Marasmus: This is a severe form of malnutrition that is characterized by emaciation (extreme thinness) and muscle wasting. It is typically seen in children in developing countries who do not get enough protein, energy, and other essential nutrients in their diet.
Anemia: Proteins are important for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. A deficiency in protein can lead to anemia, which is characterized by a decrease in red blood cells and a reduction in oxygen-carrying capacity.
Wound healing: Proteins are important for the repair and growth of tissues. A deficiency in protein can impair the body's ability to heal wounds.
Immune function: Proteins are important for the production of antibodies, which help to fight off infections. A deficiency in protein can impair the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for deficiency prevention for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person who weighs 165 pounds or 75 kg should consume 60 grams of protein per day.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet.
The best sources of healthful fats are the liquid monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados, as well as fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Fats provide the body with energy and help it carry out a range of functions.
A vitamin is an organic compound and an essential micronutrient that the body needs in small amounts.
Vitamins come from a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and lean protein sources.
Vitamin A is vital for skin and eye health, Vitamin C is for bone and muscle structure and immune support, and Vitamin D is for bone growth and cardiovascular and nervous health.
Here is a list of some essential vitamins and the deficiency diseases that can result from not getting enough of them in the diet:
- Vitamin A: Night blindness and xerophthalmia (dry eyes)
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Beriberi (a disease that affects the nervous system and heart)
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Ariboflavinosis (cracks and sores around the mouth and a swollen tongue)
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Pellagra (a disease characterized by diarrhea, dermatitis, and dementia)
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): Fatigue, insomnia, and irritability
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Anemia and convulsions
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): Pernicious anemia (a type of anemia caused by a lack of intrinsic factor, a protein needed for vitamin B12 absorption)
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): Scurvy (a disease characterized by swollen and bleeding gums, fatigue, and joint pain)
- Vitamin D: Rickets (a disease that causes weak bones and muscle weakness)
- Vitamin E: Hemolytic anemia (a type of anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells)
- Vitamin K: Hemorrhage(bleeding)
It's important to note that vitamin deficiencies are rare in developed countries where a varied diet is consumed, however, some people are at risk of deficiency, such as the elderly, pregnant women, and people who follow a restrictive diet.
There are two groups of minerals: major and trace minerals.
Minerals come from a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and lean protein sources.
Major minerals help the body balance water levels, maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails, and improve bone health
Trace minerals help in strengthening bones, preventing tooth decay, aiding in blood clotting, and helping to carry oxygen supporting the immune system.
Here is a list of some essential minerals and the deficiency diseases that can result from not getting enough of them in the diet:
- Iron: Anemia (a decrease in red blood cells)
- Calcium: Osteoporosis (weakened bones)
- Iodine: Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)
- Zinc: Delayed wound healing, loss of appetite, and decreased immune function
- Copper: Anemia, bone defects, and abnormal pigmentation of the skin
- Magnesium: muscle cramps, tremors, and abnormal heart rhythms
- Selenium: muscle weakness, fatigue, and a form of heart disease called Keshan disease
- Chromium: type 2 diabetes, glucose intolerance, and neuropathy
It's important to note that mineral deficiencies are rare in developed countries where a varied diet is consumed, however, some people are at risk of deficiency, such as vegetarians, the elderly and pregnant women.
60 percent of our body is water. Water is required for the regulation of body temperature, digestion, and elimination of waste products.
Fruits and vegetables can also be a great alternative source of water.
It also acts as a lubricant and allows for the transportation of nutrients in the body.
As a general rule, drink ½ of your body weight (pounds) in ounces to get the right amount of water your body needs to function optimally.
Role of Essential Nutrients in Health & Wellness
It is important that everyone consumes these seven nutrients on a daily basis to help them build their bodies and maintain their health.
Nutrients are important for metabolism, the immune system, physical transformation, and active organ functioning.
Various studies indicated that there is a lack of adequate, balanced nutrition in many countries, resulting in poor health, low productivity, and an increase in chronic disease. Essential nutrients are compounds that the body can't make or can't make in sufficient quantity. According to the World Health Organization, these nutrients must come from food, and they're vital for disease prevention, growth, and good health.
Use of Nutrition Supplements
A well-balanced meal can
Nutrition Supplements are prepared from concentrated sources of nutrients.
Experts recommend using dietary supplements along with natural foods to boost the cumulative nutritional value of the diet. However, relying heavily on dietary supplements can end up doing more harm than good.
Frequently Asked Questions
Phytochemicals are compounds that are produced by plants ("phyto" means "plant"). They are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and other plants. Some of these phytochemicals are believed to protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer.