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We Are What We Eat: Essential Nutrients

Ryn McCoy
We Are What We Eat: Essential Nutrients

By Marisela Pelayo

Lea esta nota en español.

How many times have we heard “we are what we eat?” But honestly, what does this mean? It means that our body is made up of everything that we put in our mouths! And fortunately or unfortunately, this gives us good health, or will make us ill.

I can’t take care of something if I don’t know what it will take to be well. If I want to plan and grow flowers, I need to know if they require sun or shade, how often I have to water them, etc., so that they grow beautifully. If I buy a piece of clothing and want to keep it looking like new for a while, I look at the label and see the washing instructions—cool wash? Dry clean? For that same reason, we need to know what our body needs to function correctly and for us to feel well. This month, we’ll talk about the six main nutrients our body needs: proteins, carbs, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and water.

Proteins: These provide the essential materials for the construction and growth of our body, as well as reparative properties for our muscles. They’re the building blocks of our home. Thanks to them, we build our muscles, skin, hair, nails, bones etc. We can find proteins in red meats, soy, dairy, fish and dry fruits like peanuts, almonds as well as lentils, tuna and eggs.

Carbohydrates: Our principal source of energy. They’re the combustibles (gasoline) of our body. It’s important to consume complex carbohydrates since they benefit many functions of our body, enhancing digestion and sugar levels contributing to better health. We find complex carbs in whole grain bread and whole grain pastas as well as in beans, lentils, fruits, rice, oats, and quinoa. Try to abstain from simple carbohydrates that have been processed and therefore affect your health negatively. Those include milk, white sugar, white rice, white breads and sodas.

Healthy Fats: These are omega and monosaturated. Very important to achieve many bodily functions like building nervous system tissues and hormones—this is very important for babies and individuals going through their growth spurt. The fatty acids help process certain vitamins like A, D, E, and K. They help blood coagulation and regulate blood pressure. They increase good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. We find them in vegetable oils, olive oil, avocados and some fish.

Vitamins: These are needed for many biological processes, including growth, digestion, mental health and our immune system. The lack of vitamins in our body may provoke grave illnesses. The main source of vitamins comes from fruits and vegetables. The most important vitamins are Vitamin A (spinach, dairy, and fruits and veggies that are yellow and orange); vitamin C (red peppers, strawberries, guava, oranges and broccoli); vitamin K (col, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and cow meat). Vitamin B6 (potatoes, bananas, chicken, garlic, sunflower seeds); vitamin D (the sun is one of the biggest sources of vitamin D, so if you don’t get a lot of sun, you need to take it as a supplement).

Minerals: The only non-organic part of our body. We need them in very small quantities but they are very important for our physical function. Minerals keep our bones and blood cells healthy. They include calcium, potassium, chrome, iron and zinc. You’ll find them in dry fruits, bananas, spinach, whole grains, almonds, fish and vegetables.

Water: The main nutrient of our body, it aids in all of the bodily functions. It aids in the transportation of ingredients, detoxifies us, and regulates our temperature. It also aids in digestion and weight loss.

Let’s love our bodies by giving them what they need and taking care of them as they should be. Our body is the only one we’ll ever have in our life!

Check out Marisela’s nutrient-rich Salmón a la Jardinera recipe!

Photo credit: USDAgov via photopin (license).



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