What is the importance of nutrition?
Eating a diet that fits your needs is vital for good health, performance, and wellbeing. The correct foods provide our bodies with the macronutrients and micronutrients we need to function normally and feel energized. We need a wide variety of foods to stay healthy, but the nutrient composition of our food choices is ultimately most important. It is very important that we consume a sufficient amount of each necessary macro- and micronutrient.
What is a macronutrient?
In the human diet, macronutrients are the components of food required in large doses. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats (lipids), and proteins. Carbohydrates provide the body energy and some types of carbohydrates aid in digestion. Lipids keep humans satiated, and provide the body essential acids necessary for normal functioning. Proteins aid in muscle development. The body also uses proteins to help repair tissue, and make enzymes and hormones. It is vitally important that we consume a healthy balance of these macronutrients daily. The exact ratios of these macronutrients are controversial among nutrition experts, and the ratio you should consume varies based on your activity level, gender, weight, height, metabolism, and age.
Proteins aid in muscle development. The body also uses proteins to help repair tissue, and make enzymes and hormones. It is vitally important that we consume a healthy balance of these macronutrients daily. The exact ratios of these macronutrients are controversial among nutrition experts, and the ratio you should consume varies based on your activity level, gender, weight, height, metabolism, and age.
In general, it is best to consume plenty of protein. After this, you should opt for healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. You want to avoid toxic ingredients such as sugar and vegetable oils. These foods increase insulin resistance and inflammation, respectively. An increased insulin resistance is what makes individuals pre-diabetic, diabetic, and overweight. Increased inflammation places extra strain on the heart, making it more difficult for it to complete its normal functions.
Listed below are examples of nutritious foods that fit into each macronutrient category, as well as foods you should avoid consuming.
- Sweet potatoes
- Nut butters (e.g. peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter)
- Olive oil
- Fatty meat
- Egg yolks
- Fish (e.g. salmon, trout, tuna)
- Other seafood (e.g. lobster, crab, shrimp)
- Natural protein powders
A list of foods to avoid, especially if you are a sports professional or someone aiming for a balanced diet includes foodssuch as:
- Artificial juices
- Soybean oil
- Ice cream
- Vegetable oil
What is a micronutrient?
A micronutrient is a substance required in trace amounts for the growth and development of living organisms. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are important for the various functions our human bodies perform. Listed below are some of the most important micronutrients for human health, along with the benefits of each.
This micronutrient is responsible for keeping blood vessels stable. It is also important for fast wound healing and the immune system. Without Vitamin C, humans contract scurvy and slowly begin to deteriorate. This micronutrient is also responsible for producing collagen. Vitamin C-dense foods include citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables.
This micronutrient allows the human body to metabolize fatty acids. It is also required to produce red blood cells. It is known as the “energizer” vitamin, for an adequate consumption of this nutrient is linked to increased energy. Foods dense in Vitamin B12 include liver, sardines, red meat, and milk.
This micronutrient is a powerful antioxidant. It is the primary micronutrient responsible for maintaining vision. It is also important for the immune system and reproduction. As a bonus, Vitamin A helps clear skin and keep it healthy. Foods rich in Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potato, spinach, and dairy milk.
This micronutrient’s primary purpose is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin of red blood cells throughout the body so that the cells can produce energy. Iron deficiency is known as anemia. Iron-rich foods include seafood, dried fruit, leafy greens, red meat, and other foods that are iron-fortified.
This micronutrient is responsible for nerve and muscle function, and it also regulates fluid levels in the body. The body does not create it naturally, therefore it is very important to ensure you consume plenty of potassium-dense foods each day. These foods include sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, fish, and milk.
There also exist many other micronutrients that are very important for the human body. In general, it is important to consume a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins each day.
What are nutritional deficiencies?
Deficiencies occur when your body lacks a suitable amount of any micronutrient. Common deficiencies include Vitamin C, otherwise known as Scurvy, Vitamin D, Iron, otherwise known as Anemia, and Potassium. It is important to check in with your general doctor regularly for blood tests to see if you are deficient in any micronutrient.
If you are, your doctor may prescribe that you start taking supplements, or simply start eating more foods rich in those micronutrients. Serious deficiencies may leave you hospitalized, or in critical condition. Therefore, it is important to stay aware of the foods you are eating, and ensure with your doctor that you are not deficient.