We need energy to survive and function properly. What we eat on a daily basis will be used as energy to keep our bodies going through the day. The food we eat consist of calories and the number of calories any human being needs is dependent on his/her age, height, weight, gender and how active they are on a daily basis. The equation is simple: If the amount of calories we take in daily  is more than the calories we can expend, we are going to start picking up weight and eventually become overweight.

In all these calories that we consume we need to make sure that it contains the right amount of vitamins and minerals to sustain healthy living. You hear a lot about recommended daily allowances, which was basically put there due to the fact that we do not consume enough of these nutrients to sustain a healthy body. There is a lot of nutrients out there, all of which fight diseases in a slightly different way or a different nutrient for a different health concern. There are many vitamins and minerals out there and due to our poor nutrition supplement companies are now supplying us with daily multivitamins and assorted vitamins and minerals to help supply our bodies of the nutrients we do not take in anymore. Why is this, you ask? Well, let’s just look at our daily diet and it will all become a little more clear.

Let us do a quick breakdown of the calories we consume.

·         Fat:                             1 gram = 9 calories

·         Carbohydrates:         1 gram = 4 calories

·         Protein:                      1 gram = 4 calories

·         Alcohol:                     1 gram = 7 calories

Now as you can see, fat contains the highest amount of calories with 9. According to all dietary information your diet should not exceed 30% fat consumption a day. Easily done with our diets. The problem is that the fat we consume is not from the healthy sources. We consume the unhealthy saturated fats which tends to increase our blood cholesterol level. You will recognise saturated fats as solid at room temperature, with the exception of  tropical oils. Stick to the healthy polyunsaturated fats which tends to lower blood cholesterol levels and monounsaturated fats which lower your LDL cholesterol levels (the “Bad” cholesterol).

Carbohydrates are our major source of energy and should account for the majority of our daily consumption. They are divided into two categories. Sugar, that is found in fruits (sucrose, glucose, fructose and pentose), milk (lactose) and then the sources we do not want to get our sugars from, soft drinks and sweets. The second category is complex carbohydrates that include all whole grains, oats and then of course flour, rice, corn, potatoes and legumes.

Protein has fought a battle with good and evil. There were times when protein was called the bad nutrient and should be doomed to not be eaten at all. Luckily we came to our senses and discovered that protein is much needed, especially to help speed up metabolic rate and keeps the body from eating itself. In other words, if our activity levels increase the body will look for energy and it will usually turn to the muscles. The body then goes into a catabolic state were the muscles are consumed and we just get more overweight. Still, protein should account for about 10 – 20% or our daily intake. It is very important to consume protein due to the function of hormone and enzyme regulation to support growth and repair of body tissue. We should consume a wide variety of protein like meat, milk, cheese and eggs. They are full of the essential amino acids that act as building blocks for our bodies.

This brings us to the all important vitamins and minerals. Why do we have to consume pills and powders that we buy off a shelf these days to get our daily recommend amounts of vitamins and minerals. One simple reason really, we do not consume the right foods anymore. Vitamins and minerals are needed for the metabolic function of the body and they are found in all the natural food that we eat, or don’t eat.

Let us look at a grocery store quickly. Where do you want to shop? Only two places really. In the fresh food and vegetable isle and in the butchery, where you will find fresh meat and fish. There you go, shopping done. Vitamins and minerals consumed. Healthy and energetic bodies will be with us for a long time. But we don’t do our grocery shopping this way and this is where we need to look a little closer to the vitamins and minerals out there to make sure we get them.

 Vitamins come in two varieties, fat soluble and water soluble. What is the difference? Fat soluble can be stored in the body for long periods of time, they are vitamins A,D, E and K while water soluble vitamins will be excreted out of the body quickly and needs to be replaced more frequently. These include vitamin C and all the B vitamins. The reason why vitamins are so important to consume is that our bodies do not produce them, we need to ingest them.

Fat soluble vitamins:

Vitamin A:

·         Better eyesight and night vision

·         Aids in healthy skin

·         Helps with natural growth

o   Found in:

§  Liver

§  Orange fruit and vegetables

§  Dark green leafy vegetables

B Vitamins:

·         Metabolic activity

·         Production of red blood cells

o   Found in:

§  Whole grains

§  Fish and seafood

§  Poultry

§  Eggs

§  Beans and peas

§  Green leafy vegetables

§  Dairy products

Vitamin C:

·         Helps with healing

·         Helps body resist infection

o   Found in:

§  Kiwi fruits

§  Citrus fruits

§  Strawberries

§  Cabbage

§  Broccoli

§  Cantaloupe

§  Tomatoes

Vitamin D:

·         Strong bones and teeth

·         Helps the body absorb calcium

o   Found in:

§  Liver

§  Eggs

§  Fish

§  Milk

Vitamin E:

·         Maintains body tissue

·         Protects lungs

·         Important in the forming of red blood cells.

o   Found in:

§  Egg yolks

§  Nuts and seeds

§  Sardines

§  Green leafy vegetables

§  Wheat grains

 

Vitamin K:

·         Helps with blood clotting

o   Found in:

§  Broccoli

§  Dairy products

§  Green leafy vegetables

Minerals

Again, to get the minerals necessary for your body to function at optimal level, you need to eat specific food because our bodies don’t manufacture minerals. According to nutritional expert we will get the right amounts of minerals by just eating a balanced diet.

There are some that say there are 16 essential minerals that’s needed for your bodies to function properly.

There are two types of minerals, macro and trace. Our bodies need more macrominerals than trace minerals and these consist of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride and sulphur. Trace minerals are not as abundantly needed as macronutrients and these include iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride and selenium.  

Calcium:

·         Helps build strong bones

·         Build strong teeth

o   Found in:

§  Dairy products

§  Green leafy vegetables

§  Sardines with the bones

Iron:

·         Helps in the formation of haemoglobin

o   Found in:

§  Red meat

§  Tuna

§  Eggs

§  Green leafy vegetables

§  Dried fruit

§  Beans

Potassium:

·         Keeps nervous system functioning properly

o   Found in:

§  Tomatoes

§  Bananas

§  Broccoli

§  Dried fruit

§  Citrus fruit

§  Legumes

Zinc:

·         Helps build immune system

·         Helps heal wounds

·         Helps with cell growth

o   Found in:

§  Beef

§  Lamb

§  Pork

§  Legumes

Magnesium:

·         Required for processing ATP for the bones

o   Found in:

§  Nuts

§  Cocoa

§  Soy beans

It is suggested that many elements are essential but this is yet to be confirmed.

Your best bet is to stop wondering if you are getting all the nutrients that you need into your body. Just start eating a wide variety of foods every day as well as consuming the right balance of fat, carbohydrates and protein. Rather go for whole, unprocessed food like fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish and low fat dairy.

Have a look at the food labels at the back of the packaging, better yet, rather buy food that does not have packaging, you know they are fresh and contain all the nutrients your body need to have enough energy throughout the day!