Food is the fuel that keeps our body running. Hence, to keep our body’s organs functioning, it is crucial to provide food that gives our body the nutrition it needs. Nutrients are broadly divided into macro nutrients (Carbs, proteins, fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Different foods offer different nutritional composition. By following a diet that encapsulates daily nutritional requirement, you not only keep the metabolism high but also prevent against many chronic diseases.
Let us have a look at importance of various nutrients and their food sources:
These are the nutrients that are required in large proportions by our body.
Importance: Carbohydrates acts as main sources of energy for the body and the brain. These are broken down into glucose which is carried via bloodstream to different organs and energy deprived muscles. Carbs are divided into simple (sugar) and complex carbs (Fiber and starch). Complex carbs offer steady energy while simple or refined carbs instantly spike your blood sugar.
Daily intake: It majorly depends on your physical activity. But it should be 45 to 60% of total calories. So, for an average 2000 calories diet, aim for 230 to 325 grams of carbs.
Sources: Look for healthier complex carbs sources like oatmeal, brown rice, whole grains, sweet potatoes, legumes etc.
Importance: Protein contains the amino acids that act as basic building blocks for cells, tissues, skin, hair, muscle etc. They are also vital for repair and growth of muscular tissues.
Daily intake: An average woman needs 46 grams/day while a man needs 56 grams/day.
Sources: eggs, chicken, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, soya, beans, fish, legumes and seeds.
Importance: Fats are used as back up energy sources. This means they are used only when carbs are deficient. Fats provide double the calories than carbs. They are divided in not-so-healthy saturated fats (butter, red meat etc) and healthy unsaturated fats (olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado, seeds, nuts etc).
Daily intake: You do not need to eliminate fat from your diet but stick to healthy fat sources for about 45 to 75 grams /day.
Sources: fatty fish, full fat yogurt, olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado, seeds, nuts etc).
These are the vitamins and minerals required in small amounts by our body.
Importance: Vital for healthy bones and teeth. It is the most abundant mineral found in human body. It also helps in muscle contraction, nerve signaling.
Daily intake: 1000 mg/day
Sources: milk, cheese, yogurt, dark leafy green veggies, broccoli, fish with bones, okra, almonds, tofu etc.
Importance: It is important for development and maintenance of muscles and bones. It is also responsible for rhythmic heart patterns.
Daily intake: Not more than 320 mg/day
Sources: nuts, legumes, dark leafy veggies, avocados, bananas, dark chocolate etc.
Importance: Potassium helps cells in sustaining fluid balance, helps in transmitting signals to brain, maintain normal blood pressures and reduce the risk of kidney stones. It helps in getting rid of excess salt in body.
Daily intake: 4700 mg/day is recommended.
Sources: bananas, potatoes, white beans, fat free yogurt
Importance: In combination with iron, copper works to form red blood cells. It also forms a shielding over nerves and connective tissues.
Daily intake: 2 mg
Sources: organ meats (kidneys and liver), shellfish, whole grains etc.
Importance: It is essential for cell membrane formation, immune system, healing wounds, fertility.
Daily intake: Up to 15 mg for an adult.
Sources: spinach, beans, cashews, dark chocolate, shrimps, seeds etc.
Importance: Iron is found in hemoglobin which transports oxygen from lung to different body parts. It also maintains healthy immune system.
Daily intake: 17 t0 20 mg/ day for adults
Sources: spinach, peas, beans, seafood, red meat and poultry.
7. Vitamin A
Importance: Good for healthy skin, vision, cell production and division, immunity, reproduction and bone health.
Daily intake: 2300 to 3000 International Units(IU) / day for an average adult.
Sources: green leafy veggies, orange vegetables like carrots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, tropical fruits and organ meats.
8. Vitamin B
Importance: Consisting of 8 vitamins, it is grouped as vitamin B Complex. Main function is to keep our body energized and absorb iron.
Daily intake: varies for different vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, folic acid and cobalamin)
Sources: whole grains, lentils, beans, cauliflower, chicken, fish, mushrooms, peanuts, nuts etc.
9. Vitamin C
Importance: It helps in production of collagen; important for healthy skin, cartilage, blood vessels etc. It also strengthens the immune system and helps fight against diseases. It is also known for iron absorption.
Daily intake: 75 mg /day
Sources: citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, kiwis, strawberries, bell peppers
10. Vitamin D
Importance: It helps in absorption of calcium and phosphorus and thus makes teeth and bones stronger.
Daily intake: 600 IU on an average.
Sources: other than sun, vitamin D is found in mushrooms, egg yolks, fish, milk and fortified cereals.
11. Vitamin E
Importance: Primarily acts as an anti oxidant and prevent damage occurring from free radicals. It also improves blood circulation.
Daily intake: 15 mg/day but majorly depending upon your age.
Sources: nuts like almonds, spinach, wheat germ and vegetable oils.
Please note: For daily recommendations, factors like age, physical activity, gender and medical conditions contribute.
Also Read: Vitamin Benefits & Sources