Food is a key component to the healthy functioning of your body. Just like you have to use the best quality fuel for the engine of your car to work efficiently and long, your body also needs the best quality foods to fuel its proper functioning. This is the reason why they say that you are what you eat. Healthy eating will help you live longer by protecting you against chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It also boosts your energy and mood thereby improving the quality of life. The first step in achieving the healthy functioning of your body is to understand the essential nutrients that your body needs.
The first essential nutrient required by your body is carbohydrates. This is the main source of energy for your body and also the fuel for your brain. Carbohydrates are usually broken down into glucose that is then used by the cells to create energy. Sources of carbohydrates include grains, bread, fruits, sugars and starchy vegetables. Experts recommend use of whole grain products such as whole wheat bread, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, cornmeal and bulgur for a healthy diet. On the other hand, the use of refined grains like white rice, pasta and breads should be minimized to achieve the best results.
The other essential nutrient required by your body is proteins. Proteins play a major role in building and repairing your body tissues. They are usually broken down into amino acids which are the body’s main building blocks. Proteins also assist in body reactions like production of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Your body requires a minimum of 8 out of the 20 amino acids. These 8 are referred to as essential amino acids.
Sources of proteins include low fat meat, poultry meat, sea foods, nuts and seeds, soy products, eggs, peas and beans. Proteins should provide between 10 to 30 percent of your calorie intake.
The third essential nutrient that is critical for your health is fats. Fats are used as an energy source whenever the carbohydrates are not available. The consumption of fats also increases your absorption rate for the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. Certain fats act as insulation protecting your body organs. Sources of healthy fats include olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, corn oil, nuts and seeds, soybean oil, avocado and omega 3 fatty acids.
Saturated fats found in red meat, butter, cheese and ice cream should be limited for healthy living. Trans fats from hydrogenated oils should also be limited as they increase the risk of exposing your body to diseases, especially heart disease. It is recommended that your daily diet should include between 15 to 30 percent of fats. Vegetable based oils, fish and walnuts are your best options to achieve this target.