With so much information out there – and from so many sources – the field of nutrition can seem hard to get your head around. Every other day there seems to be a new phytonutrient or antioxidant that we ‘must have’ to be healthy.
While these ingredients are fascinating and worthy of attention, you first have to get the basics straight. That means understanding what a nutrient is and where you get it from. That part is not rocket science but some information sources can make it seem more complicated than it is.
Hopefully, this article will make things a little clearer.
What are Nutrients?
In basic terms, a nutrient is any substance that acts to promote growth and the maintenance of life. Macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) are required in relatively large amounts whereas micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, etc.) are required in much smaller amounts.
To simplify your quest for optimum health, here are 14 essential nutrients – some generic, some specific – that you should be looking to incorporate into your diet. Following that, we show you how a Greensplus superfood nutrition can help you in your mission.
14 Nutrients that are Key to Optimum Health
In this section, we lay out the macronutrients and micronutrients you need to be ingesting to lead a happy, healthy life. Some are generic, others more specific. We also include a list of some common food sources.
Carbohydrates are macronutrients and the main source of energy for the human body. They are broken down into sugars which are then used in the cells to fuel your body and brain. Unlike sugars, carbs take a while to break down which is why they help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. They also protect your muscles because, if there is no other energy source, your body will start breaking down proteins instead.
Eat wholewheat bread instead of white bread and introduce plenty of fresh fruit and veg to keep carbs levels up.
Proteins are another macronutrient. If you didn’t have proteins you wouldn’t have a body to maintain! The structure of the body is made of proteins and enzymes, also formed from proteins, are in control of many of the body’s processes. Proteins are built up from amino acids and nine of these are ‘essential.’ This means that your body can’t make them by itself, you need to bring them in through your food.
Eating meat is the easiest way to get hold of these nine amino acids. If you follow a meat-free diet, you will need to eat a wider range of foods to compensate and probably supplement too. Eggs, dairy products, nuts and beans are good sources of protein.
Fats are another energy-providing macronutrient. They are used as a reserve supply of energy but also protect the organs from physical damage and help with the absorption of other nutrients. Fats can be broadly split into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types with trans fats (the type that are in processed meals and fatty pastries) definitely best to avoid as they can increase your risk of heart disease. On the other hand, moderate consumption of unsaturated fats can protect the heart.
Avocados, flax seed, nuts, olive oil and salmon are a good source of unsaturated fats.
Water is another macronutrient and it is critical for a range of the body’s chemical reactions including waste removal, digestion and temperature regulation. In fact, water comprises between 55 and 75 percent of the body and is present in every cell. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated through both your diet and drinking regularly but don’t overdo it: excessive water consumption can damage the body.
Vitamins are organic micronutrients but are still crucial to keep you healthy. A balanced diet will normally provide you with most of the vitamins you need but you may need to supplement, especially if you are on a restricted diet. To follow are two vitamins that you should pay special attention to:
Vitamin B12 is important for the production of new red blood cells and for regulating levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, high levels of which may increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and other conditions. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a problem for many on a restricted diet as it is not present in most plant-based products.
We need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and keep our bones healthy. It is commonly deficient in people with dark skin tone, people with obesity and anyone who stays inside a lot. Our bodies produce this vitamin when sunlight shines on the skin but we can also consume small amounts via mushrooms, eggs, red meat and oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon etc.)
Minerals are inorganic micronutrients. Examples include iron (important for blood production), chromium, magnesium (used in hundreds of chemical reactions) and phosphorus (for healthy bones and teeth). We have pulled out five minerals worthy of extra attention: calcium, iodine, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Consuming and absorbing calcium is vital for the health of our bones and teeth and almost all Calcium in our bodies is found in these structures. However, calcium is also important in nerve function and blood flow. You can get most of your calcium from dairy foods, leafy greens, white beans and fish such as sardines and salmon.
Iodine is a nutrient that people are commonly deficient in. You can obtain it from eggs, fish and seafood but if you follow a vegan diet, seaweed and cranberries are alternative sources. Iodine deficiency can lead to stillbirth and mental retardation in infants as well as thyroid disorders in adults.
Potassium is necessary for stabilizing the blood pressure, regulating the pH of fluids (reducing acidity), controlling muscle contraction and keeping the heart healthy. As well as bananas, potassium is found in spinach, potatoes and tomatoes.
Sodium is present in salt but it is still necessary to take in small amounts (the equivalent of a teaspoon per day) to keep our muscles and nerves working correctly and to control fluid balance and blood volume. Rather than add too much salt to the diet, sodium can be obtained through eating seeds, nuts, grains, legumes and meat.
Zinc is often overlooked as a nutrient and there are high levels of deficiency. However, it is important in a wide range of processes including protein building, maintaining sexual health, hair growth, regulating mood and boosting the immune system.
Zinc is found in dried apricots, dates, almonds, cashews, oysters and leafy greens among other food sources.
Finally, we mention Omega-3 fatty acids which are polyunsaturated fats which humans can’t make in the body. They are important for keeping our brains and hearts healthy and are best sourced from fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. A couple of servings a week should be enough although non-fish eaters may need to supplement as only small amounts are found in alternative foods (chia seeds, flax, walnuts, etc.)
How Superfood Natural Nutrition can Make your Life Easier
Although the best source of nutrients is as part of a ‘food matrix’ rather than as a supplement, the quality of some of our foods can lead us to be deficient in some important substances. Take iodine for example, modern farming methods cause fertilizers to bind with iodine and strip it from the food we eat.
This is where superfood drinks and other supplements step in, filling in the gaps around the food we ingest as part of our standard diet. Rather than thinking of it as a drink, a Greensplus product is a complete superfood nutrition system. Not only do you get some of the essential nutrients you may be missing from your diet, you also get the bonus of those health optimizers such as antioxidants and phytonutrients.
By browsing the ingredients in our range of Greensplus superfood drinks, you can choose a product which will top up the essential nutrients you are concerned your diet may be missing or short on. Then take a look at the extra nutrients you can benefit from and how they will help you not to just maintain your health but to optimize it!