Nutrients: What They Are and Why You Need Them
Grandma Sita and her grandchild Nena love eating foods in Denmark that are locally produced and in season 😋 That’s why our Seasonal Fruit & Veggie Calendar includes a specific description of each fruit and vegetable, nutrition content as well. Here is a basic introduction to understand and to know the nutrients of what we eat 💚
Nutrients are compounds in foods which are essential to life and health, they provide us with energy, contain the building blocks for repair and growth of the body, as well as consist of different substances that are necessary to regulate chemical processes. Where do we get the nutrients from? The food, of course! Different food may contain different nutrients, so it is important to eat various products to benefit our bodies and to reach the daily requirement of needed nutrients for our health.
Here’s a list of some of the most vital food nutrients and where to find them:
Vitamin is a compound that is needed for a healthy functioning of our bodies. We need vitamins to help us grow, to see better, to form bones, muscles, skin, and organs, as well as to help battle different illnesses. Vitamins can be found in many different foods like vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, dairy products and other.
Here are some of the vitamins we find in food:
▪ Vitamin A
This vitamin helps to improve our eyesight, builds immunity and is essential for the growth of the children. It can be found in oily fish like salmon, egg yolk, full cream dairy products and in orange, yellow and green fruit and vegetables like carrots, spinach, mango, bell pepper etc.
▪ Vitamin B1
Similar to vitamin A, also this vitamin B1 improves the growth of the human body, but also is needed for a proper working of the heart, digestive system and nervous system. Vitamin B1 is rich in nuts and seeds, whole meal flour and cereals and in other whole foods.
▪ Vitamin C
Vitamin C is needed for healthy bones, skin, gums, and teeth. Furthermore, it helps with healing wounds and increases the resistance to infection. Can be mostly found in fruit and vegetables like citrus fruit, juices, berries, parsley, broccoli, spinach etc.
▪ Vitamin D
This vitamin can be obtained not only from foods, but also from 10 min in the sun every day. Can be also found in eggs, oily fish etc. We need vitamin D to help absorb the mineral calcium, which helps with bone growth and other body functions.
Just like vitamins, minerals are compounds that also help the body to grow, develop, and stay healthy. The body uses minerals to perform many different functions, from building strong bones to transmitting nerve impulses. Some minerals are even used to make hormones or maintain a normal heartbeat.
Here are some minerals we get from food:
This mineral helps to build strong bones and strong healthy teeth. It can be mostly be found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, as well as in leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli.
Our bodies need iron to transport oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body. Our entire body needs oxygen to stay healthy and functional. Meat and especially red meat, such as beef is rich in iron, but also tuna and salmon, eggs, beans, dried fruits, like raisins whole and enriched grains, like wheat and oats.
Potassium keeps our muscles and nervous system working properly, that is why it is very essential for the body. This mineral can be found in bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, with skins, green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, split peas, lentils etc.
Carbohydrates are basically the sugars, starches and the fibers found in foods and it is one of the basic food groups people need in their nutrition. There are two major types of carbohydrates (or carbs) in foods: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are also called simple sugars. They are found in refined sugars, like the white sugar in a candy. But there are also simple sugars in more nutritious foods, such as fruit and milk. Complex carbohydrates are also called starches. Starches include grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta, and rice.
Oh, sweet sugar… Who does not like something sweet? A chocolate cake, a candy, an ice cream? These are the foods where sugar takes over. But what is it exactly? It is a sweet crystal-like substance which can be obtained from various plants, like sugar cane and sugar beet as is used as a sweetener in food and various drinks. It also fuels the body quick and easy, however the hunger for another cookie can return soon after it.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. It is found in the plants we eat like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Fiber assists on preventing heart diseases, regulates blood sugar and is important for digestion. There are also two kinds of fiber- soluble which dissolves in water and helps to lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control. The other kind is insoluble fiber which does not dissolve and helps with constipation.
You might have heard about the calories (or kcal) in the food, but do you know what they mean?
A calorie is actually just a unit of energy measurement. The number of calories is a way of describing how much energy the body could get from eating or drinking it. Humans need calories for energy in everyday life, however if not enough of the burned during day with different activities, it may lead to weight gain. Most foods and drinks contain calories; however, the amount is very different. For example, a cup of lettuce may contain less than 10 calories, but the same number of nuts could contain more than 500 calories!
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fat from your diet gives energy. As a bonus, fat in food helps you feel full, so one does not overeat, also they help to absorb vitamins. Some foods, including most fruits and vegetables, have almost no fat. Other foods have plenty of fat. These include nuts, oils, butter, and meats like beef.
There are different kinds of fats and some better for health:
▪ Unsaturated fats are found in plant foods and fish. These fats are good for heart health, especially when they are used in place of saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated fats are found in salmon, avocados, olives, and walnuts, and vegetable oils like olive oil.
▪ Saturated fats are found in meat and other animal products, such as butter and cheese. Saturated fats are also in palm and coconut oils, which are often used in baked goods that can be bought in store. However, eating too much saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the chance of getting heart disease.
▪ Trans fats are found in stick margarine. Trans fats are also found in certain foods that can be bought at the store as snack foods, cookies and cakes, and fried foods. Trans fats can also increase the risk of heart diseases.
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. It is commonly found in animal products, though is also present in other sources, such as nuts and legumes. All food made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts and seeds are considered part of the protein group.
- DID YOU KNOW…
Nutrition is the science that interprets the nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism. It includes ingestion, absorption, assimilation, biosynthesis, catabolism and excretion.
The diet of an organism is what it eats, which is largely determined by the availability and palatability of foods. For humans, a healthy diet includes preparation of food and storage methods that preserve nutrients from oxidation, heat or leaching, and that reduces risk of foodborne illnesses. The seven major classes of human nutrients are carbohydrates, fats, fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water. Nutrients can be grouped as either macronutrients or micronutrients (needed in small quantities).