Since our childhood, we have been studying about the essential nutrients for the human body. From our science books to everyday newspapers to weekly health magazines, we will always find a regular column on the essential nutrients and how important it is for our body.
But then how many of us have been following the same? Without going far, let’s visit our yesterday meal plans. Does it comprise the required essential nutrients? I know because of our busy lifestyle and quick food habits, sometimes it becomes difficult to have all these nutrients as a part of our meal.
And that’s pretty ok, but if this becomes regular over the long run, thus creating nutrient deficiencies which can further lead to a variety of health problems like skin disorders, digestion problems, defective bone growth, etc.
So, I thought through this blog, I would collate and highlight the essential nutrients and the important role they play in our body.
PS: I am neither a Doctor nor a Dietician. Whatever I am sharing is based on years of my running journey and learnings through experiences.
What are Nutrients?
By definition – Nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health, providing us with energy, the building blocks for repair and growth, and substances necessary to regulate chemical processes.
In simple words, Nutrients are the elements or substances that provide nourishment vital for the body to function properly and maintain health.
Nutrition plays an essential role in our daily life and proper care must be taken to include all needed nutrients in our regular diet.
Essential nutrients are the compounds that the body cannot make or cannot make in sufficient quantity. According to WHO, these nutrients should come from food as these nutrients are vital for disease prevention, growth, and good health.
A person’s body cannot produce everything that it needs to function. There are six essential nutrients that people need to consume through dietary sources to maintain optimal health.
Essential Nutrients can be further divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are consumed in large amounts and consist of the key building blocks of your diet — protein, carbohydrates, and fat — which furnish your body with energy.
Micronutrients are nutrients that a body needs in small doses. These consist of vitamins and minerals. Although an individual only needs small amounts of them, a deficiency can cause ill health.
Essential nutrients to improve immunity is one of the most searched keywords during this COVID-19 time. People have realized the importance of healthy eating and in this post, we are simply trying to refresh what we already know, with an intention of incorporating these into your daily habits.
Healthy eating is more important. The food we eat has a direct impact on our body’s defense mechanism.
Altogether there are six essential nutrients that include Protein, Carbs, Fat, Vitamins, Minerals, and Water.
A macronutrient, Protein is a very important part of our diet, especially for runners and people who work out regularly. Proteins play a pivotal role in immunity building, as the antibodies (fighters of the body) are made up of protein. Each part of the human body contains protein, each cell, bone, skin, hair, you name it, everything.
Proteins are made up of various amino acids. While the body can create some amino acids by itself, there are many essential amino acids that can only come from the food we eat. We need a variety of amino acids for our body to function properly. Our body creates proteins from the foods we eat throughout the day.
Good sources of Protein:
- Proteins are mainly found in white meat, fish, and eggs.
- For vegetarians, protein-rich foods can come from plant sources like beans, nuts, soya, pulses, and some grains.
- Dairy products that are rich in protein are milk, cheese, yogurt, and paneer.
How much protein do you need?
How much protein intake one should have on a daily basis? Well, it depends on a variety of factors, including how active you are throughout the day, the workouts which you do, and your age factor. The ideal range for an adult (14+ years) would be somewhere in the range of 40 g – 60 g.
2. Carbohydrates (Carbs)
Second, in the list of essential nutrients is Carbohydrates. Another macronutrient, Carbs are important for a healthy body. It not only provides us the energy to stay active throughout the day but also helps to fuel our body, especially the central nervous system and brain.
Good sources of Carbohydrates:
- Typically, we Indians by nature, have a Carb Rich diet on a daily basis which includes wheat, jowar, bajra.
- Limit intake of simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice, pasta, etc.
- You should go for more complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, etc.
- Avoid refined grains, processed foods, and products with added sugar.
How much Carbohydrates do you need?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Carbs should form 45% to 65% of our total daily calories mostly in the form of complex carbohydrates.
Fats supports the body with energy and are very crucial for the functioning of the nervous system and absorption of vitamins. The high calories in Fats are an important energy source for our body.
However, it is important to eat healthful fats (unsaturated) and to limit/avoid saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated fats are important for your body (most famous are omega 3 and 6 fatty acids) as they provide essential fatty acids that your body can’t make. The body needs these energy sources to function properly.
Good sources of Fats:
- These can be found in nuts, seeds, fish, and vegetable oils (like olive, avocado, and flaxseed).
- Coconut oil offers plant-based fats in the form of medium-chain triglycerides, which report health benefits like faster utilization by organs as fuel and appetite control.
- Try avoiding trans fats and limit your intake of saturated animal-based fats like butter, cheese, red meat, and ice cream.
How much Fats do you need?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 20% to 35% of your daily calories comes from fat, but the World Health Organization suggests keeping it under 30% of your calories.
Next on the list of essential nutrients is Vitamins, a micronutrient, which plays an important role in being healthy and disease-free.
There are 13 essential vitamins — vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and Vitamin B types (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate). Each vitamin plays an important role in the body, and not getting enough of them can cause health problems and disease. It essentially helps for good vision, skin, and bones and also helps to keep your body working properly.
They may also lower the risk of lung and prostate cancer, as they’re powerful antioxidants. Vitamins like vitamin C boost the immune system and help the body heal. Even Vitamin C has lately been of interest to researchers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Good sources of Vitamins:
- If you have a varied, well-balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits, and a healthy functioning digestive tract, you likely don’t need to take vitamin supplements.
- With most people locked up at home and limited exposure to the sun, vitamin D levels are at risk of dropping, hence you must look for food rich in Vitamin D. Some rich sources of Vitamin D are kiwi, orange, and dairy products.
- Also, spend some 15 minutes daily in the outdoors in the morning and it will create wonders for your body.
How much Vitamins do you need?
|Vitamin A||1,000 – 1,200 mg/day|
|Vitamin B Complex||425 – 550 mg/day|
|Vitamin B3||14 – 16 mg/day|
|Vitamin B6||1.3 – 1.7 mg/day|
|Vitamin C||75 – 90 mg/day|
|Vitamin D||15 – 20 mcg/day|
|Vitamin E||15 mg/day|
Another essential micronutrient – Minerals are significant for your body and to support its functions. Common minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium, etc. help to build strong bones and teeth, regulating your metabolism, and keeping yourself hydrated.
Minerals are extremely important for building immunity as it plays an important role in critical biological reactions. It also has proven effects in reducing cold.
Calcium helps with nerve signal transmission, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and muscle contraction and relaxation. Iron supports red blood cells and hormone formation, while zinc improves your immune system and wound healing.
Good sources of Minerals:
- Include nuts, whole grains, and leafy veggies in your daily diet.
- Dairy products like milk and yogurt are a rich source of calcium.
- Dark leafy veggies like spinach, cashews, tofu, beans, baked potatoes are a rich source of iron.
How much Minerals do you need?
|Calcium||1,000 – 1,200 mg/day|
|Iron||8 – 18 mg/day|
|Magnesium||300 – 400 mg/day|
|Sodium||1200 – 1500 mcg/day|
|Zinc||8 – 11 mg/day|
Approx. 62 percent of our body weight is water. You can live for weeks without food, but you cannot last more than a few days without water.
Water is an important source of our body element and is crucial for the entire body system. It improves your brain function and mood, acts as a shock absorber and a lubricant in the body.
It also supports flush out toxins, transport nutrients to cells, hydrate the body, and avoid constipation. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and impair your concentration and physical performance.
Quick Fact: The best way to know if you’re well-hydrated is the color and volume of your urine. If your urine isn’t frequent and pale yellow, you need more water.
Good sources of Water:
- Your regular house or bottled water.
- Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of water.
- In case you don’t like the plain water taste, you can add a squeeze of lemon or honey to make it tastier.
How much water do you need?
There is this very famous and easy to remember 8*8 rule. Health experts generally recommend eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals almost 2 liters a day.
Personally, I believe 3-4 liters of water one should drink daily. Also, the water intake depends on a lot of other things like your diet, your environment, your activity, and health, etc., and varies from person to person.
A day or week of bad food choices will not do much damage. But when a poor diet leaves your body short of the nutrients it needs for a long time, it’ll send a sign. You can clear most of these issues with foods rich in the missing nutrient, a supplement, or both.
So, next time you step out of the house for grocery shopping, make sure you include the foods containing the mentioned essential nutrients for healthy living.
Thank you for patiently reading it through. You may work out hard or you may clock heavy mileages, but if you do not follow a proper diet and include essential nutrients in your body, your workout or runs may not fetch the desired results.
If you have followed or following and effective diet plans, do share with us in our comment section for the benefit of others. Also, if you find the post informative and useful, do share it with your friends and families.
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