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What are Essential Nutrients & Why are They Essential?

Let’s start with the confusing part first. All nutrients, even “non-essential” nutrients, are essential for good overall health. So, if all nutrients are essential for your health, why are some called “non-essential” and others called “essential”?

Your body can make some of the nutrients it needs for proper health. One example is vitamin D. We all know we should try to get some sunlight, even in the middle of winter, so our body can produce enough vitamin D.

Other nutrients, like most of the vitamins and minerals we need, are not made by the body, or at least not in enough quantities to maintain our health. We need to get these nutrients from the food we eat. In other words, it is “essential” that we get these nutrients from our diet. 

Macronutrients & Micronutrients

Essential nutrients can be classified into one of two categories: macronutrients or micronutrients.

Macronutrients are the main building blocks of your diet. They are fats, carbohydrates and proteins. 

Essential micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet.

The 5 Main Groups of Essential Nutrients

Fats

You might hate the sight of it. But you can’t live without this macronutrient. Your body stores energy in the fat cells of your body and healthy fat in your diet helps your body produce estrogen, testosterone and many micronutrients, including vitamins A, D, E and K.

Carbohydrates 

While you may have tried a no-carb or low-carb diet, carbohydrates are the macronutrient you need most of in a healthy balanced diet. They are your body’s “fuel” and include starches, fibre and sugars, including glucose and fructose.

Protein

You need protein for the health and growth of every cell in your body. Proteins are needed for the production of hormones, tissue, cartilage, hair, skin, etc. Protein sources include lean meats poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes, beans, milk and yogurt.

Vitamins

Vitamins help your cells to work properly and are necessary for normal metabolism and growth. They help you fight off infections, and they keep your senses sharp. (if you’ve heard that carrots are good for your eyes, it’s because the beta carotene in carrots is converted into vitamin A, which promotes eye health).

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamins.

Minerals

The minerals in your diet, like iron, zinc and calcium, help to strengthen your blood, bones and teeth. They also help your heart, muscles and metabolism to function properly. Fruits and vegetables are also great sources of minerals – and so is water.

If you would like to find out how to balance your diet to make sure you get all the essential nutrients you need to healthily lose weight, and help you keep it off, visit your nearest Herbal One location. A nutritional counsellor is waiting to help you.

If you’re looking for snack foods that deliver lots of essential nutrients, check out our article “5 Healthy, Easy-to-Make Snacks That are Under 100 Calories Each”.

 

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