Daily Essential Nutrients
National Nutrition Week is celebrated every year from September 1 to 7 to raise awareness among people about the importance of having food loaded with all essential nutrients. It emphasizes choosing nutritious foods for improving overall health among all age groups be it infants, children, adults, and geriatrics.
Good nutrition signifies that our body gets all the essential nutrients needed for it to function at its best. Let’s learn about the role and function of essential nutrients for healthy adults.
Daily essential nutrients are components that the body can’t synthesize on its own or present in very inadequate amounts. These nutrients should ideally come from the food we eat and are potent for growth, prevention of disease, and promote well-being.
Essential nutrients are broadly classified into two categories macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients comprise the chief source of food taken in large amounts which form the major part of the diet regimen – protein, carbohydrate, Vitamins, Minerals, Water, Dietary Fiber, and fats providing fuel for the body.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals required in minimal amounts. There are five must-have essential nutrients to be added to the regular diet plan. Let’s read more about their function and role in promoting health.
(Calcium, Chloride, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Sulfur, Iron, Iodine, Flouride, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, chromium, and Cobalt).
Click here for Are you getting essential nutrients from your diets?
About half of Americans routinely take dietary supplements, the most common being multivitamin and multi-mineral supplements. This report explains the different types of studies used to assess the benefits and safety profiles of various nutrients.
It also includes the recommended minimum and maximum amounts of the vitamins and minerals you should consume, as well as good food sources of each.
It’s easy to go online and look up the RDA for every vitamin and mineral-based on your age and gender. But how much of each of these nutrients are you actually getting from the foods you eat every day — and do they meet your RDA?
There are several ways to approach this question. One is the relaxed way — that is, not worrying too much about the details and focusing instead on the big picture: eating a balanced diet that contains a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, dairy products, seafood, lean meats, and poultry.
When choosing what to eat, emphasize nutrient-dense foods, which are packed with vitamins and minerals and have relatively few calories.
Some nutrient-dense foods
- Chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
- Potatoes (white or sweet)
- Cantaloupe, papaya, raspberries, strawberries
- Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
- Beans (garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto)
- Lentils, peas
- Almonds, cashews, peanuts
- Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice
- Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
- Lean beef, lamb, venison
- Chicken, turkey
Making healthful food choices
Some essential nutrients are packed into every food group, and certain foods — such as flour, cereal, and salt — are fortified with specific nutrients as well. Vitamin and mineral supplements from a bottle cannot encompass all the biologically active compounds teeming in a well-stocked pantry.
A simple apple or piece of broccoli could have plenty of natural nutrients besides vitamins and minerals that might interact to improve your health. For example, broccoli contains isothiocyanates, which may have anti-tumor properties.
It also pays to remember a few other helpful pieces of advice:
Limit liquid sugars. Liquid sugars, which are found in soft drinks, sports drinks, iced teas, and sweetened waters, have no benefits for health and are clearly linked to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and perhaps heart disease. There is no reason to include these in your diet. Skip the sugary drinks and have some unsweetened tea or sparkling water instead.
Minimize refined carbohydrates. Highly processed wheat, rice, and other grains have the same effects on the body as table sugar. To minimize your intake of white bread, French fries, most breakfast cereals, and most high-carbohydrate packaged and processed foods, such as pretzels and chips. Instead, choose whole grains, high-fiber breakfast cereals, brown rice, steel-cut oats, and fruits and vegetables.
Choose healthy fats. Fish, nuts, and vegetable oils contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help lower heart disease risk. Eat these foods regularly and in moderation.
Don’t get caught up in the “low-fat” craze (for example, low-fat salad dressing) as you will be limiting your intake of these good fats and will likely instead be eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates. Limit saturated fat and cholesterol, and especially avoid eating trans fat, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Don’t forget fiber. Eat plenty of foods that contain dietary fiber (the edible, indigestible parts of plant foods). Good sources include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and dark chocolate. Fiber from grains helps lower the risk of heart disease. Your daily fiber goal depends on your age and sex, as follows:
- men ages 50 or younger: 38 grams
- men over 50: 30 grams
- women ages 50 or younger: 25 grams
- women over 50: 21 grams.
Balance energy intake and output. The energy you take in should equal the energy you use. That means if you are sedentary and 5 feet 4 inches tall, you need far fewer calories to remain at your current weight than an active person who is 6 feet tall.
Focus on fruits and vegetables
Set a goal. Start by eating one extra fruit or vegetable a day. When you’re used to that, add another and keep going. For example, add fruit to your breakfast cereal every morning. Then try eating a piece of fruit for an after-lunch snack. Next, add at least one vegetable to your dinner plate.
Be sneaky. Adding finely grated carrots or zucchini to pasta sauce, meatloaf, chili, or a stew is one way to get an extra serving of vegetables.
Try something new. It’s easy to get tired of apples, bananas, and grapes. Try a kiwi, mango, fresh pineapple, or some of the more exotic choices now found in many grocery stores.
Start off right. Ditch your morning donut for an omelet with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Top it with some salsa to wake up your palate. Or boost your morning cereal or oatmeal with a handful of strawberries, blueberries, or dried fruit.
Drink up. Having a 6-ounce glass of low-sodium vegetable juice instead of a soda gives you a full serving of vegetables and spares you 10 teaspoons or more of sugar. You can also make your own vegetable juice with a blender or juicer.
Give them the heat treatment. Roasting vegetables is easy and brings out new flavors. Cut up onions, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, turnips — whatever you have on hand — coat with olive oil, add a dash of balsamic vinegar, and roast at 350° until done. Grilling is another way to bring out the taste of vegetables. Use roasted or grilled vegetables as a side dish, put them on sandwiches, or add them to salads.
Let someone else do the work. If peeling, cutting, and chopping aren’t your thing, food companies and grocers offer an ever-expanding selection of prepared produce, from ready-made salads to frozen stir-fry mixes and take-along sliced apples and dip.
Improve on nature. Don’t hesitate to jazz up vegetables with spices, chopped nuts, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, or a specialty oil like walnut or sesame oil. Most grocers carry several spice blends made specifically for vegetables. Even a dash of grated Parmesan cheese can liven up the blandest green beans. [/exand]
Click here for Nutrients and their functions—
Most of the nutrients serve more than one function, and all are essential and available from foods of the major food groups. We can list their functions under the following categories:
Nutrients That Build and Maintain Body Cells
- Mineral elements
Nutrients That Regulate Body Functions
- Mineral Elements
- Carbohydrates, including fiber
Nutrients That Provide Energy
- Carbohydrates (starches and sugars)
Five Important Daily Essential Nutrients
The number of calories you consume each day is the most important factor in determining whether you put on or lose weight – even more important than the composition (fats vs. carbohydrates vs. protein) of those calories.
Your body will begin burning muscle tissue – taking amino acids from the bloodstream and muscle for energy – if you enter a catabolic state. Consuming adequate calories and protein while working out regularly will ensure an anti-catabolic (anabolic) state – the preferred environment for muscle growth.
Proteins- are the building blocks of the body consisting of one or two long-chain amino acids. It performs several bodily functions and almost 16% of the average adult’s body weight is from protein.
Protein is the quintessential nutrient required for growth and body maintenance. It makes up the antibodies, DNA synthesis, hormones, provide structure and support for every single cell, mobility, and transport molecules throughout the body.
Proteins are made up of a different type of amino acids, the body makes few of the amino acids but there are nine essential amino acids that must be obtained from the diet. Good sources of essential amino acids include lean meat, fish, egg, and dairy products. Legumes, soy, and nuts are plant sources that provide protein.
The recommended dietary allowance of protein for healthy adults is 0.8gram/kg body weight/day.
Consuming more protein than your body can utilize can result in an increase in fat storage. Your liver virtually converts the excess protein into fat. Over-consumption of protein for a prolonged period of time can also increase the formation of highly toxic ammonia called urea.
Since the urea in your body must be excreted, an overabundance of urea places a strain on your liver and kidneys and is oftentimes responsible for a form of arthritis known as gout.
Proteins: meat, dairy, legumes, nuts, seafood, and eggs
Carbohydrates- are the main source of fuel for the body, and one of the key foods in a well-planned diet. Carbs provide instant energy, especially to the brain, nervous system, and muscles. Carbohydrates are essential for proper brain function which helps to boost mood and memory.
Healthy sources of carbs include whole-grain cereals, wheat, millets, brown rice, and fiber-rich veggies and fruits. Almost 45% -60% of the daily calories should be met from carbohydrates.
All carbohydrates are not created equal. Carbohydrate is merely the scientific name for sugar. Sugar is not just the crystalline white stuff you put in your tea or coffee in the morning. A piece of fruit, an apple, is sugar, too.
The sugar you buy at the grocery store, table sugar, is a simple form of sugar, and an apple is a complex form of sugar. White crystalline table sugar is a small chain made up of two molecules (a simple carbohydrate).
Because it has only two chemical links to break, table sugar is broken down and absorbed rapidly. The apple, however, is a bit more complicated – it’s composed of more chemical links – and therefore your body takes longer to break it down. Sugars with more links in their chain are called complex carbohydrates.
However, carbohydrates aren’t “free foods”, as many believe. It’s true that carbohydrates contain fewer calories than fat, but they can easily be stored as fat if they’re over consumed.
Carbohydrates: pasta, rice, cereals, bread, potatoes, milk, fruit, sugar
Fats- Fats should make up a very small percentage of your whole diet, 15 percent or less. But nevertheless, fats are needed, and you should not eat a fat-free diet, rather eat a low-fat diet.
Avoid saturated fats like they were cancer (because these are the fats that are attributed to causing cancer and cardiovascular disease). The best fats are plant-based uncooked oils (olive, canola, safflower, and flaxseed).
Fats are an important component of a well-balanced diet. They play a vital role in cell structure and maintenance, absorption of vitamins and minerals, insulate the body, protect the organs, act as messengers, and source of energy. Types of fats include-saturated, unsaturated and trans fats.
To maintain a healthy lipid profile and lower the risk of heart diseases limit the intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans-fat and include unsaturated fats. Less than 15% of the total calories should come from fat. Healthy sources of fat include nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, and mustard oil.
Fats- oils, butter, margarine, nuts, seeds, avocados and olives, meat and seafood
Vitamins – Vitamins are micronutrients, the body requires in small quantities for proper functioning and metabolism. Vitamins are broadly classified into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins – A, C, D, E, K, and B complex.
Every single vitamin plays an important function in the body and deficiency may lead to a compromised immune system and other health issues. Vitamins are essential for healthy skin, good vision, bone health, lower the risk of cancer, wound healing, trigger the immune system, and keep diseases at bay.
Post-workout recovery meal – Recent studies indicate that a properly designed post-exercise meal may limit the catabolic effects of high-intensity training while speeding recovery times.
Researchers recommend that you eat a quickly assimilated, high-protein, high-carb meal within forty-five minutes after (when the muscles are especially receptive to nutrients and the blood flow to the exercised muscle(s) remains high) and again two hours after training.
Consume 25-35 grams of high-quality protein along with 20-30 grams of complex carbohydrates and 20-30 grams of simple carbohydrates. This post-workout meal helps to begin the anabolic recovery and repair process of broken-down muscle tissue.
Vitamins: common vitamins include the water-soluble B group vitamins and vitamin C and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
Minerals – are essential micronutrients which the body needs to perform several bodily functions. Minerals play a crucial role in bone development, metabolism, maintain nerve functions, muscle contraction and relaxation, the formation of red blood cells, enzyme reaction, the receptor of hormones and bolsters immunity.
Some of the essential minerals include iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc to mention a few. A well-balanced diet regimen will help you meet your mineral needs.
To keep your body function effortlessly you require all of these essential nutrients to be included in your regular diet plan.
Minerals: (sodium, calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, etc.): all foods contain some form of minerals.
Milk and dairy products are a good source of calcium and magnesium
Red meat is a good source of iron and zinc
Seafood and vegetables (depending on the soil in which they are produced) are generally good sources of iodine
Water: As a beverage and a component of many foods, especially vegetables and fruits.
Click here for Seven Rules of Nutrition—
Rule One: Always eat breakfast.
Breakfast will make you feel better; it helps you start your day with your metabolism in high gear and your appetite in control. Think of your body as a campfire that dies down during the night. If it isn’t stoked up in the morning the spark turns to ash.
Rule Two: Always eat at least 5 meals a day.
Two or three meals simply aren’t enough. By eating 5 meals your energy levels will remain high, and you’ll get protein in small amounts throughout the day to support growth and recovery. Yes, it will be difficult, especially with classes/work, practice, and other commitments on your schedule.
However, it is NOT impossible. Bring a couple of extra sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, potatoes, or power bars/protein drinks with you as you go through the day.
Rule Three: Always consume a post-workout drink/meal.
Consider this the second most important meal of the day. Also, eat a pre-workout snack to insure proper energy level and mental focus.
Rule Four: Eat with balance.
Each meal should be a balance between carb, protein, and fats. Also, balance out your calorie intake throughout the day. Not too many calories coming late at night when you are less active. Remember the 1-2-3 rule. In each of your 5 meals, approximately 1 part of the calories should come from fats, 2 parts from protein, and 3 parts from carbohydrates. Always eat a carbohydrate with a protein.
Rule Five: Drink eight to ten glasses of pure water each day.
This will ensure you’re replacing fluids lost during exercise. DO NOT wait until you are thirsty. By then, you are in a depleted state. Drink these glasses of water throughout a day’s time, not all at once.
This rule deserves two notes of consideration: 1) you’re an athlete and constantly active therefore you are losing more fluids than you realize; and 2) water is probably the one substance most often overlooked by athletes. Do not let dehydration limit your performance!
Rule Six: Not all proteins and carbohydrates are equal.
The protein in fatty meat and whole dairy products is much more difficult to digest (if your body digests it at all) as compared to whey and soy protein, lean white meat, and fat-free dairy products. The highest quality proteins are found in egg whites, whey protein isolates, and soy protein isolates.
There are many types of carbohydrates. Simple processed sugars, found in candy bars and sodas, will send your energy levels sky-high and then they fall to lower levels quickly. Complex unprocessed carbohydrates, found in grains, fruits, and vegetables will give you a more constant supply of energy until your next meal. Eat your fruits and vegetables.
Rule Seven: Never go on a fad diet.
If fat loss is needed, accomplish it through proper diet and exercise, never a fad diet.
Please note that Vitamin D is mostly obtained from sunlight exposure, not food.
The dietary patterns in the table below provide the nutrients and energy needed by all men and women of average height with sedentary to moderate activity levels. Additional serves of the Five Food Groups or unsaturated spreads and oils or discretionary choices are needed only by adults who are taller, more active, or in the higher end of a particular age band, to meet additional energy requirements.
Fridge rules for food safety and wellness
Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours
Practice safe food storage order.
Label cooked food containers with name and date and consume within 3-4 days
Clean out your fridge with soap and sanitizer
Daily nutrient requirement ( Tables)
|(Including plain water, milk, and other drinks)|
|Vitamin A||900 μg/day of retinol equivalents|
|Niacin||16 mg/day of niacin equivalents|
|Vitamin B6||1.7 mg/day*|
|Vitamin B12||2.4 μg/day*|
|Folate||400 μg/day as dietary folate equivalents|
|Vitamin C||45 mg/day*|
|The recommended number of serves for adults|
|Men||Fruits||Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain||Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans||Milk, yogurt, cheese, and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)||Approx. number of additional serves from the five food groups or discretionary choices|
|51-70||5 ½||2||6||2 ½||2 ½||0-2 ½|
|70+||5||2||4 ½||2 ½||3 ½||0-2 ½|
|19-50||5||2||6||2 ½||2 ½||0-2 ½|
|Pregnant||5||2||8 ½||3 ½||2 ½||0-2 ½|
|The recommended number of serves for children and adolescents|
|2-3||2 ½||1||4||1||1 ½||0-1|
|4-8||4 ½||1 ½||4||1 ½||2||0-2 ½|
|9-11||5||2||5||2 ½||2 ½||0-3|
|12-13||5 ½||2||6||2 ½||3 ½||0-3|
|14-18||5 ½||2||7||2 ½||3 ½||0-5|
|2-3||2 ½||1||4||1||1 ½||0-1|
|12-13||5||2||5||2 ½||3 ½||0-2 ½|
|14-18||5||2||7||2 ½||3 ½||0-2 ½|
|Pregnant||5||2||8||3 ½||3 ½||0-3|
|Breastfeeding||5 ½||2||9||2 ½||4||0-3|