There isn't such a thing as the ideal meal. We require a wide range of nutrients, which can only be provided by consuming a diverse diet. What do our bodies actually require? Over 40 distinct nutrients have been identified in food by scientists. These compounds are required for growth, as well as the chemical interactions and processes that keep us alive and well (metabolism).
The vast majority of the meals we eat are combinations of numerous nutrients, with the exception of a small number of foods that are virtually exclusively composed of one nutrient. Nonetheless, the sorts of nutrients provided by each group of foods in the Food Guide Pyramid (grains, fruits and vegetable, milk products, and meats) are distinct.Fruits and vegetables, for example, are the primary source of many vitamins,minerals , and complex carbohydrates in our diets,while meat (which includes dry beans and legumes, eggs, poultry, and fish) is the primary source of protein for the majority of people.
Understanding the differences between nutrients and the foods that contain them can be difficult.
What do nutrition experts mean when they say you need to eat more complex carbs, for example, and what foods provide those nutrients? We'll look at how nutrients are digested, what happens to them in the body, and what they can do for you in this chapter. We also discuss the greatest food sources of each nutrient, because when you go to the grocery, you're looking for chicken, rice, raisin bran, and orange juice, not protein, starch, fiber, or antioxidants.
The chemical structures and functions of nutrients are used to group them into categories. Foods including carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are classified as micronutrients because they are required in the greatest proportions. Micro nutrients, in addition to their other functions, give energy in the form of calories.The micro-nutrients include vitamins and minerals. They are needed in considerably smaller amounts by your body. Although micro nutrients assist your body in utilizing the energy contained in micro nutrients,they do not provide energy (calories) in and of themselves. Water is a calorie-free nutrient that is also necessary. Our bodies deplete some of these vital nutrients as a result of the labor we conduct every day. Only by eating a diet rich in various nutrient-containing foods can those nutrients be replaced.
Part One: A Guide to Eating Well
In recent studies, phytochemicals or phytonutrients (phyto is the Greek word for plant) have been identified in foods of plant origin, in addition to the recognized nutrients.These phyto chemical may be beneficial to one's health and may aid in the prevention of certain ailments. Hundreds of these compounds have been discovered in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains, but only a few have been properly investigated. For nutritionists, understanding how these diverse phytochemicals affect human health is a fascinating new area of research.
CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEINS, AND FATS ARE THE MICRO-NUTRIENTS
Each of the micronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats—plays a different role in our bodies' operation. All of the micro nutrients provide calories in addition to their specific roles. When we consume more protein, carbohydrate, or fat than we require to replenish our energy stores, the excess is converted to fat and stored. Calories are used to fuel all muscular activity, to carry out metabolic activities that keep the body alive, to keep the body warm, and to support growth. However, when we consume more calories than we expend, we acquire weight. When energy (calorie) intake equals energy production, weight is maintained.
Carbohydrates are a large and diverse collection of nutrients that may be found in nearly all diets. Simple sugars (like the sugar in your morning coffee) and complex sugars (found in pasta, bread, cereal, and various fruits and vegetables), which are broken down during digestion to produce simple sugars, are both included in this category. The primary role of simple sugars and starches in our diet is to provide energy in the form of calories. The simple sugar glucose is required for the brain's energy needs, whereas glucose is used by our muscles for short-term bursts of activity. Small amounts of sugar and starch are also converted by the liver and muscles into glycogen, a storage form.Glycogen stores in the muscles must be replaced after a strenuous workout. Simple sugars and carbohydrates both have a calorie content of roughly 4 per gram (a gram is about the weight of a paper clip). Carbohydrates have no precise calorie requirement because they are mostly used as a source of calories (and we can receive calories from other macronutrients). Experts agree, however, that carbs should account for the majority of our calories (about 60%). Age, gender, size, and exercise level all influence our nutritional needs.
Fiber (a material found in bran, fruits, vegetables, and legumes) is a form of complex carbohydrate that our bodies can't digest as easily as other carbohydrates. Fiber is necessary for our health even though it is not digested. Fiber intake should be between 25 and 30 grams per day, according to nutritionists.
Carbohydrates with a Complex Structure
Complex carbohydrates are long chains of molecules of the simple sugar glucose found nearly exclusively in plant-based meals. Starch and fiber are two types of complex carbohydrates found in plant meals. Grain, various fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds all contain starch as a form of carbohydrate. It supplies energy to plants that are just starting to sprout. Fiber is the harder material that makes up a seed's coat and other plant structural components.
Starches are broken down into glucose molecules by our bodies and used for energy, whereas fiber is not. Starch, like simple carbohydrates, contains four calories per gram, whereas fiber (also known as nonnutritive fiber) has none. Starches, like simple sugars, are primarily used to supply energy in our diets.