Supplements Nutrition Basics

When many of us think of what constitutes “proper nutrition,” we tend to think about the traditional food pyramid that dictates how much of each food group we should eat daily to stay healthy. However, while the food pyramid does outline the general nutrition needs for the average person, an individual’s needs will vary based on his age, diet and current health status. As a result, nutrition, as well as the necessary vitamins and minerals, are distinct based on a person’s particular case.

Nutrition from Food

The primary way that we get vitamins, minerals and other necessary nutrients is through the food we eat. By eating healthy, nutritious food, our bodies are able to:

  • generate the proper cells and tissues to repair and maintain the body’s systems and organs
  • give us energy to complete daily tasks
  • regulate natural processes, such as heartbeat, breathing and digestion.

Necessary Nutrients

Although many of us know that there are essential nutrients that we must ingest to stay healthy, fewer can list what these nutrients are or what role they play in maintaining our health. Here is a list of the essential nutrients, along with the function of each:

  • Carbohydrates:As the primary source of energy for our bodies, carbohydrates regulate how our bodies metabolize protein and fats. Carbohydrates are typically found in foods in the form of fiber, starches and sugars.
  • Fats:As the secondary source of energy for our bodies, fats are necessary when we get insufficient carbohydrates to sustain our energy levels. While monounsaturated fats (such as those found in fish and olive oil) are considered healthy, experts recommend that we limit our intake of saturated and trans fats, such as those found in fast foods.
  • Minerals: Minerals are essential to maintaining metabolism, hormone production and other functions of the body. Because the body doesn’t naturally produce minerals, we have to get them from the foods we eat or dietary supplements we take.
  • Proteins: When our bodies need to repair themselves by making more blood, skin and organ cells, proteins are essential. In rare cases when the body has insufficient carbohydrates and fat for energy, it will convert protein to energy.
  • Vitamins: Like minerals, vitamins are essential nutrients the body can’t produce and, therefore, must extract from the foods we eat. While vitamins don’t provide us with any energy, they are important for maintaining proper functioning.
  • Water: Water is necessary to stabilize the body’s temperature, sustain metabolic reactions and to give structure to the body. Lack of water, known as dehydration, can cause mild to severe health problems.

Nutrition from Multivitamins and Dietary Supplements

Because many of us don’t have the time, money or desire to eat healthily all of the time, regularly getting the proper nutrition often relies on taking multivitamins and other supplements. Whether you are choosing a multivitamin or dietary supplement for the first time or are looking to change up your vitamin regimen, talk to your doctor about your individual nutrition needs.

Your doctor can inform you about the most effective multivitamin on the market for you, as well as which types of additional supplements you need to stay in optimum health. Other supplements your doctor may recommend can include:

  • garlic
  • glutamine
  • iron
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • protein.

Resources

Health Goods (n.d.). Nutrition Basics. Retrieved October 26, 2007, from the Health Goods Web site: http://www.healthgoods.com/education/Nutrition_Information/Nutrition_Short_Course/nutrition_basics.htm.