Nutrients are the good things that we get through food which we need to nourish and nurture ourselves, and to be happy and healthy people. In scientific terms, nutrition is the supply of food that we need as an organism to feed our cells and keep them alive. We can get nutrients from products such as vitamin supplements, however when we talk about nutrition we mostly mean the nutrients we get from food.
Why is Nutrition important?
The secret to why nutrition is essential for people is in the word itself – nutrition comes from nutrients. Nutrients are the good things that we get through food which we need to nourish and nurture ourselves, and to be happy and healthy people.
In scientific terms, nutrition is the supply of food that we need as an organism to feed our cells and keep them alive. We can get nutrients from products such as vitamin supplements, however when we talk about nutrition we mostly mean the nutrients we get from food.
What is nutrition and why is nutrition important for humans (or any living things really)?
Nutrition means getting the food and nourishment that you need for health and growth.
Without nutrition, we grow weak, sick and at the very worst can even die. We miss developmental milestones and can’t put our bodies through the daily mental and physical tasks that we need them to. We aren’t able to grow and may also be unable to reproduce.
Nutrients are the fuel we need to enable the body to break down food and then put this to use in the body to repair and build cells and tissue, which is basically our metabolism.
The healthy human body needs seven different kinds of nutrients to thrive; proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, fibre and water. Macronutrients are the ones we need lots of, while with micronutrients (the vitamins and minerals) we can get by with a bit less.
Many of them fuel energy, while others have other important roles like digestion and hydration.
Micronutrients: little, but very important
Vitamins are the most commonly known micronutrients, which are essential organic compounds that the body needs to function but which it can’t create on its own. There are thirteen different vitamins people need including A, D, E, K, eight different B vitamins, and C.
Other micronutrients are the minerals, which we don’t need in as large a quantity as the other nutrients listed, but there is a wide range of minerals that we should be getting, which can make it difficult to get them all.
The minerals we need include magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, chloride, sodium, manganese, copper, and several more. There are 16 different minerals that we need to thrive.
What is a nutritional imbalance?
A nutritional imbalance happens when you are not getting the right amounts of all of the nutrients you need. You can have too much of something, but it is generally more serious to have too little of a nutrient.
To help maintain your body and keep it strong you need to have a balanced diet as well as a nutritional one.
Different nutrients have very different jobs in the body and show up as different kinds of deficiency when they are lacking.
If you are missing all of the nutrients in general, such as being completely deprived of food and water then you can become malnourished.
You can become deficient in certain nutrients for a number of reasons:
- Not consuming enough of them
- Your body has difficulty processing one or more
- Medications can deplete them
- Your digestive system isn’t working properly
- You have an allergy or sensitivity to certain nutrients
Nutritional imbalances or deficiencies are usually very easily tested for, and in most cases can also be easily remedied.
Easy ways to improve your nutrition
The best way to get the nutrition you need is through your diet. The body usually processes food better than supplements, so this is the most effective and efficient way to get what you need.
But if diet can’t do it because you can’t get the food you need or your body won’t tolerate it, then supplements are available to, well, supplement your diet and nutrition needs.
Pay attention to your body and any changes
Your body’s needs will change over time. Babies and children need different nutrients and quantities to adults, men need different amounts to women, and then pregnant or menopausal women need different again.
If you have a sensitivity to any food, which can also develop later in life, your needs will change again. You may have processed certain foods wonderfully when you were younger but develop problems with them with age, including carbohydrates and other sugars.
Pay attention to what your body needs and how you feel. If you are lacking in energy or having trouble with your digestion, this can be an early sign that something might be out of balance.
Get a check-up
If anything seems out of balance, you should talk to your doctor about tests for nutritional imbalances; most of these can be done with simple blood tests.
Even if nothing feels wrong you should still have a regular check-up with your doctor to keep an eye on your changing and ageing body.
Eat a regular, balanced and nutritious diet
People need to consume around 2000 calories a day, usually across 3 to 6 meals. Eating a healthy diet means not going over that amount too often, trying not to skip meals, because we tend to overcompensate for it later, and to get our daily calorie allowance from the right foods.
Around half of what we eat should be fruit and vegetables in a wide range of colours – the broader the rainbow the better. Then around a quarter of our intake should come from proteins like meat, chicken, fish, legumes, dairy and nuts, and around a quarter from carbohydrates like wholegrains and starchy vegetables.
We should eat very little fat or sugar that has been added to food and instead get both our fats and energy intake from the sources we listed above. Healthy fats come from proteins and things like avocados and olive oil, while healthy sugars come from fruit and dairy.
Look into supplements to help
For many people, adding a daily supplement to help their nutrient intake along is an excellent idea. If you aren’t able to get nutrients from their most natural source then supplements are a great and easy option.
Particularly for people with high vitamin needs like pregnant women or those recovering from serious illness, it would be virtually impossible to get what you need from food alone.
Supplements can interfere with some medications, however, so talk to your doctor before starting a supplementary program to get the best advice.