Your body requires five main nutrients from food, along with water, to stay healthy. Because each food group provides different nutrients, it's important to eat a variety of healthy foods throughout the day and week to meet those needs. When you don't get a sufficient amount of all nutrients, you put your body at risk for serious conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and obesity, along with a general lack of energy and feeling of malaise. Eating a diet that meets your body's needs is crucial for maintaining health.
Proteins are part of your body's every cell, tissue and organ. According to Centers for Disease Control, these proteins are constantly in the process of breaking down and being replaced. The protein in the foods you eat is broken down into amino acids that are used to replace these body proteins. Including foods such as meats, poultry, fish nuts, beans, milk products and eggs in your diet helps ensure you are meeting your protein needs. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that 10 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein.
Carbohydrates provide your body's main source of energy. Superior carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are not only packed with vitamins and minerals, but they are also good sources of dietary fiber, which is essential for proper digestion, bowel regulation and blood sugar level regulation. Avoid refined and processed carbohydrates because they typically contain saturated fats and added sugar, and lack vital nutrients. ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends you include 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit, 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables and 5 to 7 ounces of whole grains in your diet each day.
A Few Fats
Fat is vital to your body's nutrient needs -- but all fats aren't equal. Unsaturated fats, found in foods such as fish, nuts and olive oil, support your body. They help regulate inflammation and are linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated and trans fats, however, are linked to increased risk of chronic disease such as heart disease. Foods high in saturated fat include high-fat cheeses and high-fat cuts of meat, whole-fat milk and cream, butter, ice cream, processed snack foods and palm and coconut oils. Processed foods and margarine typically contain trans fats. Get less than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats, and limit your total fat intake to 20 to 30 percent of your daily calories. Eliminate trans fats whenever possible.
Vitamins are needed in small amounts and their main job is to help carry out and regulate body processes. They're divided into two main groups. Fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E and K, are absorbed with fats and can be stored in your body. Water-soluble vitamins, which include the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, are not stored by your body and must be supplied daily. Vitamin A, for example, is essential for proper vision; B vitamins help convert food to into energy; and vitamin D aids calcium and phosphorus in strengthening bones and teeth. Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish helps ensure adequate vitamin intake.
Like vitamins, your body needs minerals in small amounts. Minerals play a vital role in building your body's bones, teeth and blood. They regulate body processes and each mineral has a specific role in your body. Iron, for example helps red blood cells carry oxygen through your body. Other important minerals include calcium, which helps build and protect teeth; magnesium, which is required for the regulation of blood pressure; phosphorus, which helps convert food into energy; and potassium, which is essential for maintaining proper fluid balance and steady heartbeat. Eating a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts and whole grains provides your body with adequate minerals.
- Vanderbilt University: Nutrition 101: My Plate
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dietary Fat
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- Centers for Disease Control: Nutrition for Everyone: Saturated Fat