Six packs are made in the kitchen. That's how the say goes, right? Okay, so it might not be wholly true, but it does very much signify how nutrition complement's fitness. And simply put, nutrients are crucial.
They are nourishing substances that the obtains from food, which are essential for promoting growth, boosting development and support various functions of the body.
We think it's important to know what you're eating and why. There are six basic nutrient classes in total, which includes water. These are classified in to the following subcategories; Macronutrients and Micronutrients.
Macronutrients are extremely important because they are required for energy, growth and metabolism. They also happen to be the only three nutrients that provide us with calories, with the amounts differing as seen below.
- Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram
- Protein = 4 calories per gram
- Fats = 9 calories per gram
Carbohydrates come in either a Simple or Complex form. They both supply us with energy, but the main difference between the two is how quickly they are digested and absorbed by the body, as well as their chemical structure.
Also known as starches, it is these that are deemed healthier and more beneficial for us.
They take longer to digest and are often packed with a great amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Therefore, when consumed, the body receives a steadier amount of sugar at more consistent rate, providing better sustained energy levels throughout the day.
Also know as simple sugars, these are digested more easily and absorbed in to the bloodstream quicker. Consuming an excess of these can results in an 'insulin spike' or 'sugar rush', where the body receives a sudden burst of energy and raises blood glucose levels.
Simple carbohydrates can be found in natural food sources like vegetables, fruit and milk, but most contain refined sugars and very little nutrients, like chocolate, cakes and fizzy drinks.
What Does This Mean?
To summarise, be sensible about the carbohydrates you consume. Focus on incorporating more complex carbohydrates and fruit in to your meals, while limiting the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat.
Protein is a building block for the growth and development of bones, muscles, blood, hair, skin and cartilage.
When we consume high-in protein foods, the protein is digested and broken down in to amino acids, which make up a large proportion of our cells, muscles and tissues. Our bodies require these new amino acids to produce new and replace damaged proteins.
This amino acids are split in to two categories; essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are one's in which the body cannot manufacture, hence why they are important we obtain them from our diet. Non-essential amino acids are the opposite, they are manufactured by the body.
This may seem a little confusing, so simply put, protein is absolutely essential and we require it in our diets to help build and maintain all body cells.
Fats seem to have received a bad reputation in recent times, but it is important to note that they are not all that way inclined. We just need to be able to differentiate between the good and bad types.
Good fats are essential because they help reduce levels of lipoprotein (enables fats to be carried through the bloodstream), aid liver and immune function and maintain cell membranes. However, too much bad fat can be a major health risk, causing problems such as obesity, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
The three main types of fats are; Saturated, Unsaturated and Trans Fat.
Saturated Fats (Bad)
Saturated fats mainly come from animal products like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. Fried food and plant-based oils, like coconut, palm and kernal oil are too high in saturates. As saturated fats contain cholestrol, they raise the cholesterol levels within the blood, therefore increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Unsaturated Fats (Good)
Unsaturated fats are generally considered healthier, because they help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Unlike saturated fats, these are usually liquid at room temperature (not solid), and they come in two different forms; Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated.
They both vary slightly in terms of their benefits and also their chemical structure.
Trans Fats (Bad)
Trans fats are very similar to that of saturated fats, however, they are different in that they have undergone a 'chemical change', like manufacturing processes. Consuming large amounts can increase cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease/attacks.
What Does This Mean?
To summarise, all fats contain the same amount of calories (9 calories per gram), regardless of where they come from. But cutting down on foods that contain higher saturated fats and swapping them for those that are unsaturated would be a healthier lifestyle choice, with better benefits.
|Full Fat Milk
||Deep Fried Food
|Fatty Cuts of Beef, Pork & Lamb
Micronutrients are the opposite to that of Macronutrients, because they are smaller and required in lesser amounts. They can be found in both animal and plant-based food sources, and they are needed to help with development, growth and to maintain a healthy life. Micronutrients are either a form of vitamin or mineral.
There are two-types of vitamins; water soluble and fat soluble, which are both deemed essential, because they aid many of the body's mechanisms and perform functions that other nutrients can't.
The body obtains vitamins through food consumed or through supplements, which help to boost the vitamin levels within the body. These supplements are a great way of receiving the vitamins we need if we have a job or lifestyle that limits what and when we eat.
Vitamins are classified in to these two categories based upon how they are absorbed and used by the body.
Water Soluble Vitamins:
Our bodies do not store water soluble vitamins. They dissolve when ingested and then go in to the blood stream. Since they aren't stored, a continuous supply of these vitamins are required. If your body has more of these vitamins than it needs, they are disposed of when urinating.
||Helps maintain muscle tissue. Helps to keep muscles, nerves and organs functioning. Helps break down and release energy from food.
||Meat, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and dairy.
||Helps the body absorb iron from food. Helps to produce steroids and red blood cells. Keeps skin, eyes and nervous system healthy. Helps break down and release energy from food.
||Dairy, eggs, meat, fish, seafood, nuts & seeds.
||Helps break down and release energy from food. Helps keep the nervous and digestive system healthy.
||Meat, vegetables, wholegrains, eggs and pulses.
|B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
||Helps break down and release energy from food.
||Pulses, lentils and legumes, eggs, wholegrains and meats.
||Helps break down and release protein from food and produces haemoglobin. Helps with the maintenance of red blood cell metabolism, the nervous system, immune system.
||Eggs, grains, oats, fish, meat, vegetables.
||Helps break down and release energy from food.
||Meat, eggs, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts & seeds.
||Helps break down and release energy from food. Keeps the nervous system healthy. Processes folic acid and produces red blood cells.
||Meat, fish, eggs.
|B9 (Folic Acid/Folate)
||Produces red blood cells. Helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida in babies.
||Green leafy vegetables, organges/bananas, brown rice, avacado, yeast, liver and eggs.
||Helps the body to absorb iron. Helps keep cells and tissues healthy.
||Fresh fruit and green vegetables.
Fat Soluble Vitamins:
Our bodies do store fat soluble vitamins. When they are ingested, they dissolve in fat. The body will use the vitamins that it needs and store the what it doesnt for future use. Therefore, you don't need to constantly consume these types of vitamins every day.
||Keeps skin healthy. Strengthens immune system. Helps vision in dim light.
||Liver, carrots, spinach, cheese, oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale).
||Helps grow and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Helps the body absorb calcium. Aids immune functuion.
||Oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil. It is also produced naturally when the skin is exposed to natural sunlight.
||Helps protect against diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Helps blood circulation.
||Dark green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, nuts & seeds, tofu, shellfish.
||Helps with the blood clotting process. Helps build strong bones.
||Dark green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, meat, eggs, fish and dairy.
Minerals are much like vitamins in that they assist in many of the body's functions. They are divided up in to two types; Major and Trace, with the Major mineral being more important, because the body requires and stores these in larger amounts.
Types of Major Minerals:
Major minerals primarily help balance water levels within the body, strengthen bones and stabilise protein structures. A high intake of one particular mineral can result in a deficiency of another, but this is more common when you digest an overload of supplements, not through natural food sources.
Types of Trace Minerals:
All trace minerals each carry out their own set of unique tasks, which are equally important. For example, some help transport oxygen around the body, others help strengthen bones, aid the blood clotting process and support the immune system. They are invaluable.
What Does This Mean?
We receive our vitamin and mineral nutrients through the food we consume, however, we can take additional supplements if we feel we aren't receiving enough through our diet.
Although it is a thin line between 'too many' and 'not enough' of these Micronutrients, just be sure that you are not exceeding the recommended daily intake levels if you are taking supplements.
I really like this Foods by Nutrient Tool, because it enables you to conveninetly find foods with the highest or lowest concentrations of a specific nutrient. For example, if you want to find a particular food that is highest in protein or lowest in simple carbohydrates and saturated fat, this will help!