|What are Nutrients? Why Are They So Important?|
Nutrients are this, nutrients are that, falla food is more nutritious, falla food should not be eaten as it is not nutritious blah blah blah… you may have heard these things thousands of times, so many fusses about nutrition value but the question is what factors decide which food is more nutritious and which one is not? What makes food nutritious? The answer is the amount of nutrients present in a food decides it’s nutrition value. Now, what are Nutrients?
This chapter will answer all of your questions about nutrients.
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are substances present in our food that are essential for our life, providing us energy, essential for repair and growth, regulate chemical processes and necessary for the maintenance of overall health.
I have summarised all about nutrients in the figure below. We will understand each one in detail one by one in this chapter.
Types of Nutrients:
Essential nutrients either cannot be synthesized by the body or synthesized in insufficient quantity and are required for normal body functioning thus and thus must be obtained from foods.
Essential nutrients are divided into 2 parts:
Macronutrients are the main nutrients that make up the foods that we eat. Body requires these nutrients in relatively large amounts to grow, develop, repair and reproduce. They supply us with energy.
Carbohydrate, protein, and fat are the three macronutrients with fourth bonus water. All these three macronutrients all have their own specific functions in the body. Almost every food has all of the macronutrients but foods are classified based on the highest percentage of macronutrient present in it. For example, a coconut consists up of 50% fat, 10% carbohydrates and 6% protein so this would be classified as a fat, while a banana consists of 80% carbohydrates, with only small amounts of protein and fats so this would be classified as carbohydrates.
By definition, Carbohydrates, cannot be listed as essential macronutrients as the body can synthesize all the carbohydrates on its own but it is recommended to get most of the energy from carbohydrates, therefore, it is required in relatively large amounts for normal body functioning and is a healthy nutrient choice.
Carbohydrates are comprised of small chains of sugar which the enzyme salivary amylase present in our mouth breaks down into glucose to use as the body’s primary energy source and therefore need to make up around 50-65% of a diet. Carbohydrates are important in supplying energy to the brain, improve digestion, play key roles in development, immune system, preventing pathogenesis, and blood clotting.
Proteins are essential macronutrients, consisting of one or more long chain of amino acid which is the essential part of all living organisms, especially as the building blocks of body tissue such as muscle, hair, bones, nails, etc. Among 20 amino acids, nine essential amino acids are essential which cannot be synthesized by the body.
3. Fat is an essential nutrient that boosts absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, K and helps protect internal organs.
Essential Fatty acids:
· Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid)
· Linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid)
Micronutrients are required in small quantities but are as vital as macronutrients for normal body functioning. Micronutrients support metabolism and enable the body to produce hormones, enzymes, and other substances essential for proper growth and development.
Vitamins are organic compounds. They usually act as coenzymes or cofactors for various proteins which are part of many chemical reactions in the body. Vitamin A is vital for healthy skin, teeth, mucus membranes and eye, Vitamin C for immunity, Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth and cardiovascular health and Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells and maintain brain function so they are must-have.
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