Discover what are the essential nutrients that our body needs, in what quantities and what are the healthiest sources of these elements
Our body needs a series of chemical compounds to get the energy it needs, to form or repair tissues and to carry out the complicated biochemical processes that happen within us. In order to have these nutrients , we must obtain them from the food we eat.
The nutrients are not simplified in food, but the body must decompose to assimilate as single molecules. The amounts we need of these nutrients are different, as are the amounts we get from different foods. Let’s look at the main characteristics of these nutrients and the functions they perform within the body, whether in the form of energy and food , to repair the tissues or to stimulate biochemistry. Do not be scared by complex words, it’s actually quite simple and above all, fascinating.
The proteins are the main component of which are made our tissues and some of the major regulatory molecules ( enzymes , hormones, etc.). That is, our bodies are composed primarily of proteins.
Proteins are very complex macromolecules created from the union of other simpler molecules called amino acids . When we ingest proteins, our body breaks them down into amino acids that it uses to create its own proteins (and with them tissues, enzymes, hormones, etc.).
There are 20 amino acids, of which we can synthesize 10 ( non-essential amino acids and semi-essential amino acids), but the remaining 10 (called essential amino acids ) must be eaten through food. The organism takes the different amino acids it employs specifically for different functions. Fundamentally, proteins serve as building materials formolecules responsible for the defense, transport or regulation of functions, or tissue repair. In contrast, proteins are not used as an energy source.
Although it is an essential material for life, excess protein can cause serious problems to the body. In fact, in our modern world there is a protein excess in food that generates diseases of different types, while other populations suffer extreme deficiencies.
The WHO recommends a daily intake of 10-15% protein .
The carbohydrates , also called carbohydrates (or sugars) are the main source of energy in the body. That is, it is the nourishment with which our cells are nourished. These are molecules formed by units of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. According to the number of units have different names:
Monosaccharides: When it comes to a single unit. Some monosaccharide carbohydrates are fructose ( fruits ), glucose ( honey , fruits and some vegetables ), etc.
Bisaccharides: When it comes to two units. Lactose is a good example ( milk ) or sucrose ( sugar ).
Polysaccharides: These are carbohydrates with hundreds of units of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, such as starch or cellulose. These types of carbohydrates are found in cereals and legumes , mainly, and in vegetables and vegetables.
Carbohydrates are broken down by specific digestive enzymes that are carried to the blood or even to the liver, where it is stored as glycogen to be released into the bloodstream when needed. The brain is the main consumer of glucose and the glycemic index (sugar level) that we must have in blood is very specific and delicate. That is why it is healthiest to consume preferably slow-acting compound sugars such as vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
The fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can not digest. However, it plays an important role in the intestinal flora and gives consistency to the feces favoring intestinal transit and avoiding constipation .
Fats (or lipids) are different types of substances that have as a common feature that can not be diluted in water. Fats in our diet is very important ,its main function within the body is to serve as an energy reserve , but also part of cell membranes , maintain body temperature , protect vital organs such as the heart, carry liposoluble vitamins and help in the synthesis of vitamins and hormones, among other functions.
According to the chains of atoms that form them, they are classified in:
Saturated fats: They almost always come from the animal kingdom and are solid at room temperature (eg butter). They do not oxidize as quickly as unsaturated ones, but when subjected to high temperatures undergo major changes. They have a complex digestion and their metabolism leaves toxic residues that acidify the organism.
Unsaturated fats: They come from the vegetable kingdom and are kept liquid at room temperature (vegetable oils). They are the healthiest, however, are easily fermented and when subjected to high temperatures suffer alterations that convert them into saturated fats.
Trans fats: Trans fats are unsaturated fats (oils) subjected to a hydrogenation process through which they become saturated (margarine, for example) in order to provide a certain flavor and consistency. They are the most dangerous.
Fats are made up of different types of fatty acids. The body can generate all the fatty acids it needs minus the linoleic (Omega 6) and linolenic ( Omega 3 ), which must come from the diet and therefore are called essential fatty acids .
Vitamins are nutrients that the body needs in very small amounts. They are not a source of energy, but vitamins are essential for numerous metabolic reactions and their deficiency causes serious illness. Our body can not manufacture them, so that the provision of vitamins must necessarily come from dietary intake (with some exceptions).
There are 13 vitamins that are grouped into two categories :
Water-soluble: They are vitamin C and those of group B ( B1 , B2 , B3 , B5 , B6 , B8 , B9 or folic acid , and B12 ). They do not accumulate in the body, because they are easily eliminated and, therefore, they must be taken daily. The main source of these vitamins are vegetables and vegetables.
Fat – soluble: These are vitamins A , D and E . These do accumulate in the body and eliminating them is not so simple. They are obtained mainly from fish and vegetable oils (first cold pressure).
We must not forget that vegetables and oils containing these precious micronutrients rapidly lose their quantity and quality depending on factors such as time and mode of conservation, water, heat, cooking mode, salt, etc. See how to cook vegetables to maintain nutrients .
Minerals are the inorganic part of our body. All of them, like vitamins, are essential for the correct functioning of our physiology, but in very small quantities. Depending on the amount our body needs, the minerals are grouped into two categories:
Macrominerals: The macrominerals are we need greater amount (although relatively small compared to macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates or fats) and are: calcium , potassium , sodium , magnesium , sulfur, phosphorus and chlorine.
Trace elements: The trace elements are those set out on fewer: iron , zinc , iodine, fluorine, cobalt, manganese, etc …
The main sources of minerals are vegetables, seeds, seaweed and cereals and legumes.
Almost all minerals work in an antagonistic and complementary way within the organism, so that the excess or defect of one of them can affect the presence of others. That is why it is so important to follow a professional prescription when taking supplements of minerals.
Therefore, when our diet is based on the consumption of abundant cereals, legumes and all kinds of vegetables and a moderate consumption of other foods like fish, seeds, nuts and seaweed, we are making sure to provide all essential Nutrients in the most suitable quantities.
Once we have seen what the main nutrients our body needs , we suggest you to check some basic concepts of food hygiene , the principles for a healthy and balanced diet and some healthy proposals for breakfast, lunch and dinner .