The Four Other Essential Components of Nutrition There are four other essential nutritional ingredients that foods supply in order to manage and maintain a healthy body…vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.
Vitamins are indispensable compounds that perform various bodily functions that promote growth, reproduction and maintain health. Vitamins are organic, meaning that they are found in living things, that is, plants and animals. Contrary to popular belief, vitamins do not contain calories. Vitamins are usually differentiated as being water-soluble or fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K are stored by the body and do not need to be consumed on a daily basis. Although deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins are rare, excessive consumption of these vitamins, especially A and D, can be toxic. Water-soluble vitamins, B-complex vitamins, vitamins C and the compounds termed “bioflavonoids” are not stored in fat and therefore must be consumed frequently. If not, deficiencies can occur within two to four weeks. As you might expect, vitamin deficiencies can cause malfunction of bodily functions and can lead to such ailments as heart disease and glandular and nervous disorders. Excessive consumption of water-soluble vitamins is eliminated in the urine making toxicity rare.
Minerals are nutrients that exist in the body and in food in organic and inorganic combinations. Interestingly, minerals are something that most of us don’t pay very close attention to in reference to diet. This is a mistake of significant magnitude. Although minerals do not supply energy or calories, they are essential for regulating the release of energy and other aspects of metabolism. In addition, minerals are important for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, the formation of teeth, bones, hemoglobin, protein synthesis and the development of hormones. Other functions include water balance, acid-base balance and body fluids. All of the minerals needed by the human body must be supplied in the diet. Generally, a well balanced diet of animal and vegetable origin will furnish adequate minerals. However, when dieting, it might be wise to take a high-potency daily vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure that you get the necessary amount. There are six major minerals: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride all of which have a daily requirement of more than 100 milligrams per day. Trace minerals, which are found in the body in small quantities, are needed in quantities less than 100 milligrams per day. There are fourteen trace minerals: chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silicon, tin, vanadium and zinc. Although there are a number of different minerals, it is important to note that their actions within the body are interrelated. No one mineral can function without affecting the action of the others. A mineral deficiency often results in an illness, which may be remedied by the addition of the missing mineral in the diet.
One of the most important components of a healthful diet is fiber. While it may not be the most exciting part of the diet, the consumption of foods high in dietary fiber is essential to good health. Dietary fiber is only found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains and is the part of plant foods that human enzymes cannot digest. Since fiber is not digested, it is technically not a nutrient. They are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from our bodies. Fiber has two forms: insoluble and soluble. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while water-insoluble fiber does not. Water-insoluble fiber comes mostly from whole wheat products, which increase the bulk in the digestive track and enhances elimination. The fiber passes through our intestines largely intact…hence increased elimination.
When we say elimination we are not just blowing smoke here. If you ever had Fiber One cereal you know exactly what we are talking about. Fiber One cereal is a nuclear laxative in a box. They should have a warning label on the carton telling you that in need to be within ten feet of a restroom twenty four seven. Heck, they should have Tony the Tiger squatting on the box and give away a free roll of toilet tissue with each carton. The stuff is that lethal. Water-insoluble fiber softens stool, which helps move it through the intestinal tract in less time…a lot less time. For this reason, water-insoluble fiber is partially effective as a treatment for constipation. The reduction in “transit time” has also been thought to partially explain the link between a high fiber diet and a reduced risk of colon cancer. Soluble fiber which is found in oat bran, dried beans, nuts, barley, nuts, fruits and vegetables has been show to lowers cholesterol. Soluble fibers can also lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and some researchers find that increasing fiber decreases the body's need for insulin…a good sign for diabetics. Since insoluble and soluble fiber has different effects on the body, it is important to eat a variety of high fiber foods to get both types. The typical American consumes approximately 18 to 20 grams of fiber a day, which is considerably lower than the National Cancer Institute’s recommendation of 25 to 40 grams of fiber a day. This is a major concern because as mentioned, medical research has revealed that fiber could reduce the risk of colon cancer and other gastro-intestinal cancers. It might also be noted that fiber soaks up fat, fills the stomach by absorbing water and thereby, conveys a feeling of fullness. Over use bran fiber may result in the loss or leakage of some minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium.
Most of people underestimate the importance of water. We guess they kind of take it for granted, because it is every where and it can be obtained for free…except in America. The fact of the matter is water is the most essential nutrient for life. We can survive weeks without food, but only a few days without water. More than two thirds of the body is composed of water and over 85% of the brain is water. Just about every biological process including digestion, absorption, circulation and excretion is contingent upon water. Water is the main component of the blood and the lymph. Also, water is the primary transporter of nutrients throughout the body and is essential for all building functions of the body. In addition, water helps maintain normal body temperature and is paramount in carrying waste products out of the body. The average individual needs approximately eight to ten glasses of water a day or about two quarts. It is extremely important to drink water after strenuous exercise in order to replenish the fluids you lost. Dehydration from heat and/or exercise can cause the loss of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium and can lead to fatigue and general body weakness. It is also recommended that you drink stream-distilled water. This type of water has been found to aid in absorption and help in the elimination of toxic substance from the body. There is also some evidence which indicates that drinking a glass of water before meals will decrease appetite. Nearly all foods contain water that is absorbed by the body during digestion. Fruits and vegetables are especially good sources of chemically pure water.