The human body is a complex machine that needs to be well-oiled and maintained to function optimally. The various nutrients act like the oil for the human body to function correctly. These nutrients are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are required in a relatively large amount. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which you might have inferred, are required in minute quantities.
Although water and roughage (fibre) do not provide energy, these are also vital for the body.
It is crucial to know what function each nutrient fulfils.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the primary energy source of the body. They are mainly complex sugars, which our body breaks down to produce instant energy.
- Fats: Also known as lipids, fats are a source of energy. It is different from carbohydrates in the manner that while carbohydrates provide instant energy, our body stores fats. When there is a deficiency of carbohydrates, the body breaks down the fat to provide energy.
- Proteins: Known as the building blocks of the human body. Proteins are what make up our bones, muscles and skin. They are vital to the repair and production of cells. Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 20 kinds of amino acids that our body needs to function. These are known as essential amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, 11 are synthesised in the body. The other 9 need to be provided through food.
- Vitamins: While they don’t provide energy, vitamins are essential for regulating bodily processes. They are of two types: fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, K) and water-soluble (vitamins B and C). Vitamins cannot be synthesised by the body and are required to be included in our diet.
- Minerals: Minerals are vital to regulating bodily functions. Minerals are particularly necessary to maintain cellular function. Our body requires about 16 minerals like sodium, iron, calcium and potassium to function optimally.
- Water: Water is crucial for maintaining homeostasis (internal conditions of the body) and transporting nutrients to the cells. It also helps in removing waste and toxins from the body.
- Fibre: It aids digestion by regulating the “good “gut bacteria.
Generally, adults require anywhere between 2000 kilocalories to 2500 kilocalories per day depending on the individual. Of this, it is recommended that about 50-60% of the calories come from carbohydrates, 10-15% from protein and the rest from fats.
- Carbohydrates are found in grains, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended to consume whole grains and fruits as they are not only rich in carbohydrates, but also provide fibre and some micronutrients.
- Fats or lipids are generally found in oil, ghee, butter and almost every dairy product. Nuts are also a good source of fats. Prefer vegetable oils and nuts over other sources, since they contain micronutrients.
- Proteins are predominantly found in meat and eggs. Look for lean meat rather than fatty meat.
- Vitamins and minerals are found in fruits and vegetables.
One of the three pillars of good health is eating good nutritious food. It is necessary to focus on nutrient-dense food rather than food that provides more calories. It is also necessary to note that the absence of any of the nutrients- micro or macro could have devastating effects on our body. Hence, make sure to include all the nutrients in your daily diet.
Frequently asked questions
1. What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body needs in large amounts i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These provide energy to your body and form tissues.
2. What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are required by your body in minute quantities. It includes vitamins and minerals. These are necessary for your body to function optimally.
3. What should you eat?
Look to include all the nutrients in your daily diet. Your diet should contain a majority of macronutrients- carbohydrates (about 50-60%), fats (about 25%) and proteins (15-20%). Try to include food items which also include vitamins and minerals along with the macronutrients.