Nutrients are substances necessary for proper bodily function. Some are required in large quantities (macronutrients) and some are required in small quantities (micronutrients). There are 4 types of macronutrients: Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats and Water and two types of micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals. (WHAT IS NUTRITION)
Proteins are the basic structure of all living cells. Proteins are used in making hormones, blood plasma transport systems, and enzymes. The basic building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. There are two types of proteins complete and incomplete. Amino acids are categorized as essential and nonessential. Of the twenty amino acids that have been identified, nine are considered essential amino acids that are not manufactured by the body, these must come from dietary intake. The body can manufacture the non-essential amino acids from the by-products of carbohydrate metabolism. Amino Acids are crucial for proper Central Nervous System (CNS) function. (WHAT ARE NUTRITION)
Non-Essential Amino Acids
- Alanine – provides energy for muscle tissue, brain, and CNS; aids antibody production to enhance the immune system; helps metabolize sugars and organic acids.
- Arginine – improves immune response to bacteria, viruses, and tumor cells; promotes healing and liver regeneration; aids the release of growth hormones for muscle growth and tissue repair.
- Aspartic Acid (Asparagine) – aids in the excretion of ammonia, which is toxic to the CNS; it may increase resistance to fatigue and increase endurance.
- Cysteine – antioxidant protection against radiation and pollution; slows the aging process; deactivates free radicals; neutralizes toxins; aids in protein synthesis. Crucial for the skin development aiding in the recovery from burns and surgical procedures. Hair and skin are comprised of 10-14% Cysteine.
- Glycine – aids in the release of oxygen during the cell-making process. Important for hormone production in strengthening the immune system.
- Glutamic Acid (Glutamine) – improves mental capabilities; helps the healing of ulcers; reduces fatigue; helps control alcoholism, schizophrenia and sugar cravings.
- Taurine – stabilizes membranes excitability in the control of epileptic seizures. Control biochemical changes responsible for the aging process; aids in the excretion of free radicals.
- Proline – promotes proper joint and tendon function; strengthens heart muscles.
- Serine – storage source of glucose for the liver and muscles, antibody production enhances the immune system, synthesizes fatty acid covering around nerve fibers (insulator).
- Tyrosine – transmission of nerve impulses to the brain; fights depression; improves memory and mental alertness; promotes the proper function of the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands.
Essential Amino Acids
- Histidine – hemoglobin component; used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers & anemia. A deficiency may cause hearing problems.
- Isoleucine and Leucine – mental alertness, also provides manufacturing components for other essential biochemical components in the body, which are utilized for the production of energy and upper brain stimulants.
- Lysine – Ensures adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen (a component of bone, cartilage, and connective tissues); aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes. Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia & reproductive problems.
- Methionine – a sulfur source, which prevents disorders of the hair, skin, and nails. It lowers cholesterol by increasing the liver’s production of lecithin and reduces liver fat build-up. Protects the kidneys; a natural chelating agent for heavy metals; regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine thereby reducing bladder irritation; promotes healthy hair growth.
- Phenylalanine – allows the brain to produce Norepinephrine used for the transmission of signals between nerve cells and the brain; regulates hunger, an antidepressant; improves memory and mental alertness.
- Threonine – a component of collagen, Elastin, and enamel protein; reduces liver fat build-up; promotes proper digestive system function and metabolism.
- Tryptophan – a relaxant, alleviates insomnia, prevents migraines; reduces anxiety and depression; promotes proper immune system function. It reduces the risk of cardiovascular spasms. Works in conjunction with Lysine to lower cholesterol levels.
- Valine – Promotes mental health, muscle coordination and tempers emotions
Meat, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs contain complete proteins. Incomplete proteins such as vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts are those which do not contain all nine essential amino acids by themselves. However, combinations of incomplete protein foods or mutual supplementation can supply all nine essential amino acids such as beans with rice or peanut butter on wheat bread. Therefore vegetarians can get all the amino acids required by combining incomplete protein foods. It is not necessary to combine proteins at the same meal as many people believe. Therefore a breakfast of one incomplete protein and a dinner of another incomplete protein will provide the benefits of eating a complete protein. (WHAT ARE NUTRITION)
Carbohydrates are utilized for energy, both instant and sustained. When insufficient carbohydrates are taken in, the body must utilize proteins for energy even to the point of catabolizing muscle tissue for energy.
Digestive enzymes in the small intestines break down the carbohydrates into glucose. The glucose can be immediately utilized by the body or stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The muscles can store about 20 minutes of glycogen for energy. The bloodstream can hold about an hour of glucose for energy. If glucose levels are maximized and all glycogen storage locations are full then the excess glucose is converted to fat by the liver and stored in adipose tissue or fat cells. There is really no limit to the amount of fat that a body can store. According to studies at the University of Massachusetts, carbohydrates are generally converted to fat at the rate of 75% where 25% of the carbohydrates are used in the conversion process.
There are three types of carbohydrates Monosaccharides, Disaccharides, and Polysaccharides. Monosaccharides are simple sugars and are the basic unit of carbohydrates. Examples of Monosaccharides are glucose and fructose. Disaccharides are composed of two Monosaccharides. Examples of Disaccharides are table sugar (sucrose) which is composed of fructose and glucose also milk sugar (lactose) which is composed of glucose and galactose
Polysaccharides are composed of multiple Monosaccharides. Examples of Polysaccharides are starches (bread, fruit, grain, pasta, rice). These are also called complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates should comprise approximately 60% of the daily caloric intake. Therefore, for a 3000-calorie total daily intake, 1800 of those calories should be carbohydrates.
Fat is required for the production of cell membranes, blood lipids (body fat), bile (fat emulsifier), steroids and vitamin D. Fats molecules are made up of glycerol and fatty acids.
Body fat is also instrumental in body temperature regulation as insulation. Minimum body fat percentages of 7% for men and 12% for women are recommended. Fats are also utilized for the transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, fats are the only source of linoleic acid, which is required for skin growth and maintenance. The minimum daily requirement for unsaturated fat is 10 grams and 15 grams is preferred.