Without proper nutrition, your body can’t survive. When you eat a balanced diet, your body obtains the fuel and nutrients it needs to accomplish various bodily tasks. For example, your body needs minerals to make hormones, build bones and regulate your heartbeat. Examples of minerals include calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, iodine and copper. Water is another essential component of your diet. Without it, your body can’t flush out toxins, transport nutrients to cells or perform other vital bodily processes.
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Protein in the diet can come from meats, nuts, beans and certain whole grains. Your body uses protein to build and repair your muscles, skin and bones. In your digestive system, proteins break down into the amino acids that constitute them. Your body can produce most of the amino acids that it needs, but there are eight amino acids that you must include in your diet. The eight are called essential amino acids. Typically, if you eat 50 to 65 g of protein each day and choose a variety of protein sources, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, your body will obtain each of the essential amino acids it needs.
When you digest carbohydrates, your body converts them into glucose and uses them to fuel various body processes. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain simple carbohydrates, or sugars. Whole-grain products, starchy vegetables and legumes are complex carbohydrates, and these often contain fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and helps lower bad cholesterol.
Not only do fats make food taste better, but they also provide energy, help your body absorb vitamins and aid in growth and development. Healthy fats -- such as are found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil -- help you control your cholesterol levels, but saturated and trans fats are unhealthy, especially when you eat them too often. Saturated fats include lard, butter, solid shortening and fatback. Trans fats are common in vegetable shortening, certain types of margarine, cookies, crackers and any foods that use partially hydrogenated oils. Eating too many bad fats increases unhealthy cholesterol levels, which could lead to cardiovascular problems.
Your body needs 13 types of vitamins to accomplish various bodily processes, including digestion, growth and nerve function. Without certain vitamins, you may develop medical problems. For example, without vitamin D, you might develop rickets, which weakens your bones. Typically, a balanced diet that includes all the major food groups should supply your body with all the vitamins it needs, including A, C, D, E, K and the eight types of B vitamins. If for some reason your diet doesn’t supply you enough of a certain type of vitamin, you can take a supplement or a multivitamin, though you should consult your doctor first to be safe.