The Seven Major Classes of Nutrients


Apr 11, 09 The Seven Major Classes of Nutrients

It’s a pretty standard belief among people looking to live a healthy life, that consuming a sufficient amount of nutrients is extremely important. However, how many people even know what “nutrients” really are? The definition of a “nutrient” is a substance that is required for our bodies to properly function. Nutrients need to be manually ingested, since they are processed by our body’s metabolism.

There are two types of nutrient, each of which refers to the specific need of our bodies for a certain amount of the nutrient. The first type of nutrient is called a “macronutrient”, which refers to any nutrient that our body needs in large quantities in order to stay alive. The second type of nutrient is called a “micronutrient”. A micronutrient is any nutrient that our bodies also need to function properly, but in much smaller quantities.

There are seven different classifications for the nutrient groups that our bodies need in order to maintain our health. Each of these classified nutrient groups provides a different type of sustenance for our body when consumed in the proper quantities.

Carbohydrates

Due to the recent popularity of many fad diets, the importance of carbohydrates to our body’s functions has been called into question. However, in reality, your body needs healthy carbohydrates in order to maintain your health. Healthy carbohydrates are also called complex carbohydrates, and do not have the health risks associated with unhealthy carbohydrates (also called “simple carbohydrates”). Simple carbohydrates are classified as “Monosaccharides” and chemically consist of one or two sugar units. Since they are quickly digested, simple carbohydrates cause a subsequent spike in blood sugar levels, which has been associated with health problems such as cardiovascular disease. Since complex carbohydrates contain three or more sugar units, (also called polysaccharides) they take a bit longer to digest. Each sugar unit in a chain of a complex carbohydrate is processed individually, resulting in a less severe spike of blood sugar levels.

Fats

Fat has a very bad reputation among people looking to consume a nutritional diet. However, in reality, there are several different kinds of fats, some of which can actually be extremely beneficial to your health. The unhealthy types of fats include saturated fats (which means the fat molecule’s carbon atoms are all bound to hydrogen atoms), and trans-fats (which include trans-isomer fatty acid that is created by industrial processing). The best type of fat to consume for good health is unsaturated fats, which include fat molecules that do not have all of their carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms. Unsaturated fats can be further classified as either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, which can provide a much lower cholesterol level than consuming a diet rich in saturated fats. High Cholesterol can be very damaging to your health, causing a variety of serious health problems.

Fiber

Technically, fiber is classified along with the carbohydrate group. However, fiber is very different from other carbohydrates, since it is not fully absorbed by our digestive system. Fiber is mostly made up of a polymer called cellulose, which is not digested because humans do not have the necessary enzymes to process it. Fiber is extremely important for maintaining proper digestive health, since it provides “bulk” to the intestinal contents. It’s been proven that consuming fiber-rich foods on a regular basis can help prevent colon cancer, as well as alleviate conditions like constipation and diarrhea. Whole grain fiber is best, since it results in a lower spike in insulin levels, which also reduces the risk of diabetes.

Protein

Protein is the base for many of our body’s systems. Protein is made up of many amino acids, which can be broken down to help the body to produce more protein (as well as manufacture new protein to replace damaged protein). There are ten different types of amino acids in the human body that are “essential amino acids”, which means that our bodies can not manufacture these proteins on our own. A diet that includes a “complete protein source” will provide all essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly.

Minerals

This is another dietary requirement that is often overlooked. The importance of a proper level of minerals in our diet can not be overstressed, since they are essential for many important bodily functions. Some of the common dietary minerals include:

  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorous
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Iodine

Minerals are very important for supporting biochemical functions in many of the body’s functions. Consuming foods that are rich in these minerals is a great way to get your dietary mineral requirement. It’s also recommended to take mineral supplements to ensure that you are receiving the proper level of nutritional dietary minerals.

Vitamins

It’s estimated that though many people take vitamins, they are still deficient in many important vitamin compounds. There are twelve different types of Vitamins that have been officially recognized for being essential for good health, and that need to be incorporated into the diet.  Here’s a list of many common vitamins.

  • Vitamin A     (Retinol)
  • Vitamin B1     (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin C     (Ascorbic acid)
  • Vitamin D     (Calciferol)
  • Vitamin B2     (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
  • Vitamin B12     (Cyanocobalamin)
  • Vitamin K     (Phylloquinone)
  • Vitamin B5     (Pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B7     (Biotin)
  • Vitamin B6     (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B3     (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B9     (Folic acid)

Each of these vitamins has many important benefits, which can aid greatly in living a healthy, disease-free life.

Water

Most people know that the human body is approximately 2/3 water. Water is absolutely essential for good health, and is very important for maintaining many of the body’s functions. The body’s requirements for water vary, as it can depend largely on how much water is lost with normal daily activities. To learn more about the importance of water in your diet, and the health benefits associated with drinking enough water, you can read more here.