Hydrogen is vital for life, the third most common element in the human body and a component of water, DNA and most other organic molecules. Macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, contain hydrogen as part of the chemical structure, and water contains hydrogen as well. This means that every food contains some hydrogen.
Drinking water throughout the day will keep you hydrated. Water is an essential nutrient that is ubiquitous throughout your body. Each molecule of water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Water dissolves many substances in your body, such vitamin C and the B vitamins, and plays an integral role in cellular structure and chemical reactions. Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction in which certain chemicals are broken down by the addition of water. Hydrolysis is part of the chemical processes that break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and produce adenosine tri phosphate, also called ATP, a molecule that stores energy.
Fruits and whole grains are healthy sources of carbohydrates, which in turn are sources of hydrogen. Carbohydrates, also called sugars, are molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The chemical structure for glucose, the simple sugar your cells use to metabolize energy, has six atoms of carbon, 12 atoms of hydrogen and six atoms of oxygen. The types of sugars in foods include fructose, also called fruit sugar; lactose, also called milk sugar; and sucrose, a disaccharide that contains glucose and fructose. Glycogen is a large compound made up of numerous glucose molecules that stores sugar in your liver and muscle.
Meat, poultry, fish, dairy and legumes are proteins made up of amino acids that are sources of hydrogen. The chemical structure of amino acids may differ, but all amino acids contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Methionine and cysteine are amino acids that also contain sulfur. Your body digests proteins by breaking them into amino acids, which your liver may further break down or convert into other amino acids, proteins or other substances.
Fats, also called lipids, are a type of macronutrient made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, are found in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, avocado and olives. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat found in fish, walnuts and flax seeds. Unhealthy fats include saturated fats found in meat and dairy and trans fats in processed foods. Fat is a solvent for vitamins A, D, E and K, and helps these nutrients get absorbed from food into your body. Fat is part of cell membranes and substances in your brain called phospholipids.
Is This an Emergency?
- Encyclopedia of Earth: Hydrogen
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, in with the Good
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: What's Good About Dietary Fat?