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Your body requires a varied diet to obtain all essential nutrients.
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Just like your car needs fuel, your body requires essential nutrients -- substances requires to maintain life -- to work at peak efficiency. Your body requires six essential nutrients: fat, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water; however, it can't produce these nutrients independently, so you have to consume them through your diet.
The macronutrients -- fats, proteins and carbs -- provide the majority of our energy. Vitamins and minerals, which include iron and calcium, are considered micronutrients because we require them in much smaller quantities. A varied diet is the best way to get all essential nutrients.
Fat provides energy for your body, along with protection for internal organs to reduce injuries. Fat is also necessary to help our body absorb certain vitamins, known as "fat-soluble." Although all types of fat serves these functions, some forms are healthier than others. For example, trans fats can contribute to heart disease, whereas a healthy fat like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help keep your heart healthy, according to MayoClinic.com.
Protein is necessary for building muscle, replacing red blood cells, regulating hormones and healing damaged tissue, both from injuries and normal breakdown. Proteins are composed of amino acids, nine of which a body can't produce on its own, according to Vanderbilt University. Eggs, beans, meat and dairy products are all good sources of proteins. If you don't eat animal protein, a varied intake of vegetable proteins is required to get all the essential amino acids on a regular basis. The two exceptions are quinoa and soy, two vegetable proteins that contain all necessary amino acids.
Carbohydrates are a major source of energy, especially for the brain, which runs on glucose. Carbohydrates convert to glucose during digestion. There are two classes of carbohydrates: Simple carbs, like sugar, lack nutrients such as fiber to enhance their nutrient profile. Complex carbs, like those found grains, have vitamins and minerals that make them a healthier option. Complex carbs, which are typically fiber-rich, digest more slowly and help regulate blood sugar better, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
Many foods or daily supplements contain a combination of vitamins and minerals needed to keep our bodies working properly. For example, the mineral iron is essential for reproduction of red blood cells and is abundant in leafy green vegetables and red meat, while vitamin E -- found in foods like almonds or raw spinach -- supports immune function. Vitamins are either fat- or water-soluble, meaning they are absorbed in either a fat or water base. Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K, and unneeded levels are stored in body fat. Highly excessive levels of fat-soluble vitamins could cause vitamin toxicity. The water-soluble vitamins -- all the B vitamins and vitamin C -- break down in water and excess levels pass through the urine, making it impossible to get toxic levels of these.
Water is critical for life, and the body needs it to perform a host of functions, including digestion, absorption, maintenance of electrolyte balance and elimination of unused nutrients and toxins in the body via urination and perspiration. The University of Michigan's Department of Integrative Medicine suggests women ingest 72 ounces of water daily, while men drink around 100 ounces. Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, because mild dehydration has already begun by the time you feel thirst.