Essential Nutrients: Helping You Live Your Best Life
While everyone knows that getting nutrients throughout the day is essential to good health, many people may not know exactly what nutrients are and what makes them so important. This is the type of knowledge that students at Centennial College’s Food Service Worker program are learning as they prepare to become members of professional healthcare teams. These professionals are responsible for quantity food preparation, basic therapeutic diets and nutrition, proper sanitation and safety practices, and quality customer service at settings such as long-term care homes, retirement homes, acute care facilities, food service contractors and health care facilities. So, knowing what nutrients are and what makes them essential is a major key for them. Here is a look at just that.
Essential Nutrients: Essential nutrients are compounds we need for disease prevention, growth and good health that our bodies can’t make or can’t make enough of. The nutrients we require are broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients. The latter are eaten in large amounts and include the primary building blocks of any diet (think proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and provide the body with energy. Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), meanwhile, aren’t needed in large quantities but are just as important and they work with macronutrients to keep the body functioning.
Let’s break down macronutrients in some more detail.
Protein: If you know anyone who consistently works out, you’ll likely have heard him or her mention protein. But protein is important for more than just helping to build muscle because everything from our bones and skin to our hair contains the stuff as do hormones, antibodies and other important substances. Also, 16 percent of the average person’s weight is from protein. Among the best sources of protein are: lean meats, fish, eggs, seeds and nuts, and lentils and chickpeas.
Carbohydrates: People go running for the hills when they hear the word, “carbs”. But while this macronutrient has gotten a bad reputation, it’s actually really important — especially to the central nervous system and brain and protecting against disease. That’s because we use carbs to make glucose, a type of sugar that can be used right away or stored for later, which is the body’s main energy source. I’m not telling you, however, to eat pasta and breads all day, every day. Rather, examples of healthier carbs include: pure oats, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fresh beets and butternut squash.
Fats: Just like carbs, fats have gotten a bad rap. But when you look at the role of “good” fats in maintaining good health, you’ll realize how important they are. Fats support many of our body’s functions such as vitamin and mineral absorption, blood clotting, building cells and muscle movement. According to HealthLine.com, “Including healthy fats in your diet can help you to balance your blood sugar, decrease your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and improve your brain function. They’re also powerful anti-inflammatories, and they may lower your risk of arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.” The World Health Organization suggest keeping fats under 30percent of your daily calories and you want to ensure they come from unsaturated fats sources. Some of these sources include nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, avocadoes and flaxseeds.
By Izabela Szydlo