Four Essential Basic Nutrients
All food is composed of various combinations of nutrients. The four essential basic nutrients of a healthy diet are
These four shape the foundation of a healthy nutritional regime. Proper nutrition enables optimal health and well being.
The main component of our food intake is carbohydrates. Supplying energy, they are usually found in plant foods such as:
There are two groups of carbohydrates:
simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are sometimes referred to as simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates include fiber and starches. With the exception of fiber, most carbohydrates are converted into glucose providing energy for the body’s cells, brain cells, and red blood cells, or stored for future use in the liver, or in body fat.
Sixty percent of daily calories should come from mainly complex carbohydrates. Although unrefined whole foods should be chosen over refined processed foods. Undesirably a diet high in refined simple sugars is also high in fat and after a long period of time can lead to health disorders such as diabetes.
Fats are the most concentrated source of body energy. In recent years, too much negative attention has been focused upon fats. Too many fats are consumed in the American diet. However, fats are necessary to support growth and provide energy. Unfortunately, consuming excessive amounts of fat can contribute to poor health.
Vital for development and growth, proteins are the building blocks making up body tissues, muscles, skin, and organs. When consumed, protein is broken down into amino acids providing the body with energy for various vital functions. Misleadingly amino acids are classified as:
essential or nonessential.
Amino acids are necessary but these terms refer to how the body obtains them. Essential means our bodies cannot synthesize them therefore the must be obtained from our diets. The term nonessential is confusing because all it means is they can be synthesized by our body from other amino acids. Good sources of protein include:
Making up at least two-thirds of the composition of our bodies, water is the most necessary of the four essential basic nutrients of a healthy diet. Water is vital for every one of our body systems. It is crucial for absorption, circulatory, excretory, and digestive processes. Furthermore, water is also necessary for sustaining an appropriate body temperature and assimilation of available nutrients.
Yet another misleading term is micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals. They are referred to as micronutrients because they are needed in smaller amounts compared to the basis four nutrients. Nonetheless, vitamins and minerals are so crucial for optimal health the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formulates consumption levels for these key nutrients call Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs).
On the other hand, there is much controversy about these findings and the amount needed to maintain optimal health. Some of the complains are these levels only maintain borderline health and only the amount needed to prevent deficiency diseases. Additional problems include numerous factors not accounted for including level of activity, medicines being taken, and so on. Still other criticisms include when people are suffering from health problems they require more nutrients and the person’s size ad body weight are not figure into the RDAs equations.
Regrettably, health ailments develop when you consume too much or too little of any nutrients. A better plan is to consume a variety of foods to ensure you consume a variety of nutrients. In summary, for a healthy well balanced diet make it a habit to choose an assortment of unrefined whole foods.
Debby Bolen RN