We’re all familiar with the five food groups: protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and water. But did you know that five nutrients keep us alive? These vital diet ingredients help to maintain our bodies’ health and function by providing energy for physical activity as well as building tissue and cells for growth and repair.
Water is the most important nutrient. It’s the main component of blood and other body fluids, which help regulate body temperature, lubricate joints and keep skin healthy. Water also helps digest food by promoting optimal muscle function; it softens stool so you can pass more easily; and when we exercise or are exposed to heat or cold temperatures, our bodies need more water to maintain proper functioning.
Protein is a building block of life. It’s used to build muscle mass and repair tissues, among other things. Protein can be found in meat, fish, dairy products, nuts, and seeds. Protein is also used as a fuel source for your body when you need it most—which means that it’s important to get enough protein every day!
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and they’re found in foods such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. Carbohydrates are classified according to their chemical structure:
- Simple carbohydrates (sugars) include monosaccharides like glucose and fructose; disaccharides like sucrose; and polysaccharides like starch.
- Complex carbohydrates (starches) are made up of two or more sugars joined together by an indigestible bond called a glycosidic linkage.
Fats are a valuable source of energy, and they help maintain the integrity of the blood vessels and tissues. They also play a role in maintaining brain function, skin health, and bone health.
Fats are made up of fatty acids (fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms) and triglycerides (a combination of three fatty acids). Fatty acids can be either saturated or unsaturated—saturated fats have no double bonds; unsaturated fats have one or more double bonds in the main chain. Saturated fat has been shown to raise bad cholesterol levels while monounsaturated fats such as olive oil are better for heart health overall because they reduce levels of LDL cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol levels
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential for the body to function properly. Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in small amounts for normal metabolism, while minerals are inorganic compounds that are required in small amounts for normal metabolism. The following table provides examples of each type:
As you can see, five key nutrients keep us alive. These nutrients are water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Each one plays an important role in our health and well-being.
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