When it comes to proper nutrition, vitamins and minerals are essential to your overall health and well-being. However, certain nutrients are more critical than others.
Learning more about which nutrients you may want to prioritize can help you better incorporate them into your diet and routine.
Suppose you have dietary restrictions, allergies, or generally find it difficult to eat a variety of different foods on a regular basis. In that case, it may be hard for you to get sufficient levels of certain nutrients from your diet alone.
If this sounds like you, it may be necessary for you to make dietary changes or to start taking supplements for essential vitamins or minerals that you are lacking. When your body has insufficient nutrient levels, this is called a deficiency. Some deficiencies can cause uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms.
Always consult your doctor before you begin taking any vitamins or supplements on your own.
Your doctor will help you determine which supplements are necessary and how much of the supplement you should be taking each day.
Taking too much of some vitamins or minerals could end up having dangerous effects on your health. It is all about balance, and if you suspect that you may be deficient in certain vitamins, you should consult your doctor.
Gaining a better understanding of the main nutrients that are vital for your health can help you get a better handle on the types of foods you should be eating.
Understanding the Six Major Nutrients
There are generally considered to be six major nutrient categories, and within these categories reside other nutrients that are also an important part of staying healthy.
These bigger and smaller categories are called macronutrients and micronutrients, and understanding the difference is one of the first steps towards understanding nutrition overall. Macronutrients include fat, carbohydrates, protein, and water, and the body requires these in larger quantities than micronutrients.
Each macronutrient, aside from water, works to provide your body with energy that helps your body:
- Grow new cells and tissues as well as develop and repair new tissues
- Conduct nerve impulses that allow you to sense and interact with various factors in your environment
- Regulate important processes in the body, such as fueling muscles, regulating your central nervous system, creating enzymes, eliminating waste, and more
On the other hand, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that your body requires in smaller amounts. There are two types of vitamins, known as fat-soluble and water-soluble.
Each vitamin is vital to your body’s healthy growth, metabolism, and development, as well as the regulation of cell function.
Minerals also come in two main types, classified as macro or microminerals. In fact, macrominerals are required in larger quantities than microminerals.
Having outlined the basics of macro and micronutrients, you may be able to assume what the six basic nutrients are:
- Water: The human body consists of 45-75% water, and getting enough water is a vital part of maintaining and regulating critical bodily functions and processes.
- Carbohydrates: Carbs are the main source of energy for the human body, and about 45-65% of daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates.
- Fat: Fats are the most concentrated source of energy for the human body and generally provide about twice as many calories per gram. Consuming fat allows your body to store extra calories for use later, and fat is also used to carry out bodily processes and provide insulation and shock absorption.
- Protein: Protein is made up of amino acids, and protein helps build, grow, and repair bodily tissues.
- Vitamins: Different vitamins carry vital roles in different body functions and processes, including supporting your metabolism, cognitive health, heart health, bone health, immune system, and growth and development.
- Minerals: Minerals are also important for human health, and some minerals are used as part of your body structures, such as teeth and bones. Other minerals are essential for growth and development, metabolism, and other key functions.
Regularly consuming ample amounts of these main groups of nutrients is necessary for optimal health. Still, it can seem like a daunting task to incorporate every vitamin and mineral into your diet every day.
Some vitamins and minerals are more critical than others. This means that while some nutrients are important to consume each day, other vitamins and minerals only need to be consumed a couple of times a week or less, depending on your individual needs and situation.
Micronutrients: What You Should Know
With micronutrients, there are many different types of vitamins and minerals that play important roles in your overall health.
Certain vitamins and minerals are considered to be more important than others and need to be consumed more often and in larger quantities.
Some of the most essential vitamins and minerals include the following:
- Vitamin A, which is vital for healthy eyes, teeth, skin, and growth and development
- B vitamins, which are important for energy production, immune function, and the absorption of iron
- Vitamin C, which works to help strengthen your blood vessels as well as provide elasticity for the skin. Vitamin C also helps with antioxidant function and iron absorption.
- Vitamin D, which is critical for strong and healthy bones
- Vitamin E, which supports healthy blood circulation as well as protection from free radicals
- Vitamin K, which helps with blood coagulation or clotting
- Folic acid, which supports cells renewal and can help prevent congenital disabilities during pregnancy
- Calcium, which supports the health of your bones and teeth
- Iron, which helps you build muscle as well as maintain healthy blood
- Zinc, which can help you build immunity and can support your growth and fertility
- Chromium, which is necessary for glucose function. Glucose function ensures that the cells in your body are provided with the energy they need
These micronutrients are some of the most critical vitamins and minerals to your health. Thus, it is important to eat nutritious foods to regularly provide your body with as many of these nutrients as possible. It is always best to get your nutrients directly from your food, but if this is not possible, consider speaking with your doctor about taking supplements or a multivitamin.
How to Make Sure You Are Getting What You Need
Ensuring that you are giving your body the nutrition you need is essential for staying strong and healthy. Improper nutrition, referred to as malnutrition, can raise your risk of developing certain health conditions or general infection and illness.
If you do not have any specific dietary restrictions, add various foods into your everyday diet. Aim to include foods into your diet like:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Dark leafy greens
- Lean protein sources, such as beef
- Healthy fats, such as avocados
- Nuts and seeds
- Lentils and beans
- Whole grains
Focusing on whole foods, in general, may help you craft a more healthful and balanced diet. Low-fat dairy products are a great source of calcium and vitamin D, but almonds are another good option if you have trouble eating dairy.
Beans are also full of important vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium, and they may be a good source of protein for those who do not eat meat or fish.
If you think you may be developing a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it is important to promptly consult your doctor to determine whether or not supplementation is necessary.
You may need to have bloodwork done to confirm a deficiency. But in some cases, your doctor might be able to diagnose a deficiency based on any symptoms you may be experiencing.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to proper nutrition, it is important to make sure that you are eating a variety of foods in order to supply your body with essential vitamins and minerals.
Macronutrients include fat, protein, carbohydrates, and water -- all of which provide your body with energy while also working to support bodily functions and processes. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, and these work hard to support your bodily processes.
Different vitamins and minerals carry out various functions, and certain nutrients are more crucial than others. Following a healthy diet that consists of essential nutrients can help you focus on achieving the daily required amount of nutrients to keep your body strong and healthy.