We all know the key nutrients around which a healthy diet should be built: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These three macronutrients provide the fuel needed for human beings to function physically. But there are also micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, that are essential for optimal health. Here, we'll take a look at the four most important nutrients and why they are so vital.
Protein: Protein is having its moment, and not just in the training community. But all the hype is due to good reason. Protein is essential for good health. It provides the body's building blocks, and not just for muscles.
Every cell, from bones to skin and hair, contains protein. All hormones, antibodies, and other important substances are made up of proteins. Protein is not used as fuel for the body unless needed. Proteins are made up of different amino acids.
While the body can create some amino acids on its own, there are many essential amino acids that can only come from food. You need a variety of amino acids for your body to work properly. While meat, fish, and eggs are good sources of essential amino acids, you can also get protein from plant sources such as beans, soy, nuts, and some grains.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates should account for 45 to 65 percent of total daily calories, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
They provide energy to the body in the form of glucose and are found in a variety of foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and legumes.
Fats: Fats often get a bad rap, but recent research has shown that healthy fats are an important part of a healthy diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 20 to 35 percent of daily calories come from fat, but the World Health Organization suggests keeping them below 30 percent of calories. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil and avocados) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fatty fish).
Vitamins: Vitamins are vital for preventing disease and staying healthy. The body needs these micronutrients to support its functions. There are 13 essential vitamins that the body needs to function properly, including vitamins A, C, B6 and D. Each vitamin plays an important role in the body, and not consuming enough of them can cause health problems and diseases.
Many Americans aren't getting enough of many essential vitamins. Vitamins are essential for healthy vision, skin and bones. These four nutrients - proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins - are essential for optimal health. Eating a balanced diet that includes all four will help ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs.