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Good Health through Eating Foods with Nutritional Value

Nutrients are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. If your diet doesn’t include the proper nutrients, your health suffers. If you consume no dietary nutrients, you eventually will die. If you don’t eat and drink nutritious food and beverages

  • Your bones may bend or break (not enough calcium).

  • Your gums may bleed (not enough vitamin C).

  • Your blood may not carry oxygen to every cell (not enough iron).

Nutrition from the food you eat provides the energy and building materials you need to construct and maintain every organ and system. Virtually all food gives you energy, even when it doesn’t give you nutrients. The amount of energy in food is measured in calories, the amount of heat produced when food is burned (metabolized) in your body cells. Food is the fuel on which your body runs. Without enough food, you don’t have enough energy.

Nutrients are chemical substances your body uses to build, maintain, and repair tissues. They also empower cells to send messages back and forth to conduct essential chemical reactions, such as the ones that make it possible for you to

  • Breathe

  • See

  • Move

  • Hear

  • Eliminate waste

  • Smell

  • Think

  • Taste

. . . and do everything else natural to a living body.

Food provides two distinct groups of nutrients:

  • Macronutrients (macro = big): Protein, fat, carbohydrates, and water

  • Micronutrients (micro = small): Vitamins and minerals

The difference between these two groups is the amount you need each day. Your daily requirements for macronutrients generally exceed 1 gram. (For comparison’s sake, 28 grams are in an ounce.) For example, a man needs about 63 grams of protein a day (slightly more than two ounces), and a woman needs 50 grams (slightly less than two ounces).

Your daily requirements for micronutrients are much smaller. For example, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is measured in milligrams (1/1,000 of a gram), while the RDAs for vitamin D, vitamin B12, and folate are even smaller and are measured in micrograms (1/1,000,000 of a gram).

An essential nutrient is one you need to sustain a healthy body. They include nutrients that meet the following guidelines:

  • An essential nutrient cannot be manufactured in the body. You have to get essential nutrients from food or from a nutritional supplement.

  • An essential nutrient is linked to a specific deficiency disease. For example, people who go without protein for extended periods of time develop the protein-deficiency disease kwashiorkor. People who don’t get enough vitamin C develop the vitamin C deficiency disease scurvy. A diet rich in the essential nutrient cures the deficiency disease, but you need the proper nutrient. In other words, you can’t cure a protein deficiency with extra amounts of vitamin C.

Not all nutrients are essential for all species of animals. For example, vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human beings but not for dogs. A dog’s body makes the vitamin C it needs.

Essential nutrients for human beings include many well-known vitamins and minerals, several amino acids (the so-called building blocks of proteins), and at least two fatty acids.

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