Nutrients

Six Basic Nutrients Required for Sustaining a Healthy Body

If you eat a balanced diet, you should get adequate amounts of the Six basic Nutrients that you need for good health. Use these guidelines to plan a varied diet for each day.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are underrated as part of the Six basic Nutrients, but are essential for energy, the breakdown of protein, and to protect the body from toxins. There are two groups: monosaccharides and polysaccharides. Glucose forms part of the monosaccharides, which are single molecule sugars. Glucose fuels the body’s chemical processes. Polysaccharides are composed of monosaccharide molecules. They are called complex carbohydrates and are found in fruit, vegetables and grain. Starch is the most important polysaccharide. Carbohydrates prevent dehydration.

Protein

Protein is essential as part of the Six basic Nutrients because the body is made of proteins. Proteins consist of amino acids. The body needs about 22 amino acids to make all its proteins, but can only manufacture 14 of these in its cells. The rest of the amino acids are derived from food intake. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) suggest 0,8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Proteins form part of hormones and enzymes, help form antibodies to fight infection, build muscles, and repair damaged tissue. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs are excellent sources of protein.

Fat

Fat is the third component of the Six basic Nutrients. There are five groups of fat: saturated; monounsaturated; polyunsaturated; trans-fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids. You should limit your intake of trans-fatty acids as they lead to higher cholesterol levels. Fat produces more energy than carbohydrate and protein. It helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. It keeps the body warm, maintains hair and skin, and protects the vital organs. Fat should form 30 percent or less of your total calorie intake. Saturated fats should form less that 10 percent of the total calorie intake.

Vitamins

They are chemicals that the body needs to process nutrients, regulate the nervous system, and help to build genetic material, proteins, red blood cells, and hormones. The body cannot create enough vitamins and you therefore need to obtain it from food and supplements. Day light and heat can destroy vitamins. You should therefore store it only for short periods and consume fresh. Use little water to cook vegetables and only cook it for a short period. Vitamins as part of the Six basic Nutrients are best obtained from a balanced diet rather than from supplements. Vitamins are mostly found in vegetables and fruit, but can also be obtained from dairy products, poultry, fish, meat and eggs.

Minerals

Minerals form part of the Six basic Nutrients needed to sustain a healthy body and mind. Minerals are inorganic substances that the body needs for forming teeth, bones, and blood cells, regulating body fluids and to assist in the chemical processes of the body. There are two main categories of the essential minerals needed for survival. Macro minerals include calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphorus, sulphur and potassium sodium. You need a minimum of 100 mg a day. The other group is called trace minerals and you need a smaller quantity of this group. It includes copper, cobalt, iodine, iron, fluoride, manganese, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum.

Water

Water is the most important component of the Six basic Nutrients. Water makes up 50 to 75% of the human body. You need at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep the body healthy. It cleanses the body, keeps the skin, organs and hair in good shape, is needed to produce digestive enzymes, help the body collect the nutrients from food and liquids, helps to control the body temperature, and is needed for proper cell function. Woman should drink more water than men in order to prevent premature ageing. You need to drink more than two liters of water per day if you exercise. You don’t have to drink only water; it can form part of other liquids such as herbal tea, milk and juices. Caffeine rich products such as coffee dehydrate the body and you will need to drink more water if you consume a lot of coffee.

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