What are nutrients and what is nutrient density? In a healthy diet optimal would be to get as most nutrient dense food as possible. Meaning adding more nutrients to fewer calories. You can think the food is more nutrient dense when the level of nutrients is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains. Got it? Great! Eating nutrient dense food is probably one of the healthiest ways to eat.
WHAT ARE THE NUTRIENTS?
We are sure that you have heard someone talking about micros and macros or if not, let us shortly explain to you. We are talking about nutrients called protein, carbohydrates, lipids, water, vitamins, and minerals. First three provides energy and are called energy-yielding nutrients. These are macronutrients because we need protein, carbs, and lipids in large amounts in the body. Water is also macronutrient, as we need water a lot, but unlike other macronutrients, water doesn't provide energy. Vitamins and minerals do not either provide energy, and the body only needs them small amounts, that's why they are called micronutrients.
Together they provide energy; also they are building blocks for growth and maintenance of a healthy body. The body can produce some of the nutrients on its own and some of the nutrients we must get from our diet. Depending on many different variables like sex, size, health, illness, pregnancy, breastfeeding medication, your daily need of essential nutrients can variate. We tried to explain simple and short, without using complicated terms what are "micros and macros" that we daily need.
If you are curious to read more then check out the sections Carbohydrates, Proteins, Lipids, Water and Vitamins & Minerals for further information.
Carbohydrates, one of the macronutrients, provides fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. Carbohydrates also regulate blood glucose and prevent the protein from being used as a power source and enable fat metabolism. Carbs are also important for brain function.
SIMPLE AND COMPLEX CARBS
The difference between simple and complex carbs are their chemical structure and how fast sugar is absorbed and digested. So as an example, when we eat candy, which is a simple carb and simple sugar, it is absorbed more quickly than complex carbs (example whole grain bread). The problem often with simple carbs is that they are processed and do not have any nutrition value meaning there is no vitamins, minerals or fiber in it. But for example fruits contain simple sugar but has nutrition value, but because of fiber, blood sugar levels are not spiking too high too quickly and also digestion will slow down. Complex carbs are often referred to as starchy foods and provide more sustained energy.
We should focus to get primarily complex carbs in our diet, including vegetable and whole grains. Unrefined whole grains contain vitamins and minerals and are rich in fiber, which helps our digestive system work properly, and it slows the release of insulin in the blood.
A common recommendation for carbohydrates is mainly 45-60%. For athletes and people who are very active the carb ratio increases because the body needs the fuel to replace glycogen stores quickly, but if your activity level is low it is more important to concentrate what type of carbs you are eating. Avoiding ketosis carbohydrate intake should be over 100g per day, and a good rating is above 30 to 40% of your daily calories also depending on your physical activity.
Proteins are an essential part of our nutrition, and our bodies can't function without them. Proteins play many important roles in the human body. Protein is providing structure and strength to cells and tissues. Our metabolism is regulated by proteins, as are hormones and the various activities they control.
Did you know that proteins are part of our every cell, tissue and organ? Protein also helps us grow, helps our immune defense system and make up collagen, the connective tissue that gives our body its shape.
What are amino acids then? Proteins are amino acids, tangled chain of amino acids with peptide bond forming between. These shapes of proteins are varying, which enable them to perform different duties in the body.
Nowadays it's "trendy" to eat lots of protein. If you go to a shop and it almost seems that no matter what product you pick, there is little text saying "extra protein added" on the side. It's good to remember to have a balance here as well; a good ratio is key! If you are physically active, then keep your protein intake at 30% of your daily calories and 20-25% if your activity level is rather low. If you are confused about different kind of protein powders, you can read our blog about Proteins, which will help you to survive in the jungle out there.
Often these days you hear the word fat, and you associate it right away to something negative. I'm, sure many of you tried reading about different kind of diets where it is recommended to limit fat intake to a minimum. The actual truth is that fats or lipids are an important constituent of our diet. Fat is one of the three macronutrients along with carbs and protein. Fats also known as triglycerides, comprise 95% of food and our bodies. Lipids are a group of compounds that includes fats and oils. They categorize as fatty acids sterols like cholesterol and phospholipids such lecithin.
Fat plays a major role in our health and body function, every cell in our body needs fat. Fat is not only important source of energy but also your brain and hormones are dependent on proper fat function. Fat is also essential to your immune system and helps to maintain healthy hair and skin. Fat helps the body to absorb nutrients, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, and Calcium.
HOW MUCH FAT IS ENOUGH FAT?
Most of the foods contain a combination of different fats and primarily fat are found in meats, and dairy foods, at least these are the most visible sources, but most of the food contains some fat. Saturated fat comes from both animal (red meat, cheese, and milk and butter) and plant sources (example coconut and palm oil). Nuts, seeds, avocados are delicious vegetable sources of needed fatty acids. Fat weighs in at 9 calories per gram, that is more than twice the calories of carbs or protein. Also, it is important to know that too much fat can lead to health problems, so we should check to keep fat intake in moderation and useful form. Fats intake should be around 25-35% of your daily calories.
We all know how important water is to us but why is it so important to drink water? Why do our bodies need water? Water does not provide energy, but it is so important to our body because our body can use other essential nutrients only because of their reaction to water.
Water constitutes most of the body weight and has many functions in human metabolism. One of the most important is regulation of body temperature. Water is of particular importance to the sporty individuals!
Meaning, when the body loses fluids by any route, it loses not only water but electrolytes as well (sodium, chloride, and potassium - these are involved in many physiological functions, example muscle contraction).
So remember that proper fluid replacement is essential for both health and sport.
How much water is enough water?
Water intake is very individual. For example, Teija is very active, but on the other hand a small and light person, so she drinks around 1,5-3 l water per day depending how much sport she does. During summer time she also drinks more water when the temperature is getting higher.
Your exact water intake depends on your weight and activity level and also the temperature. Every day minimum should be around 1,5-2L, and for males, even more - the big machine needs more liquid. Also, check that you drink pure water. Coffee, Cola, beer, and energy drinks are liquids but not water!
As a tip, always have a water bottle in your bag, also in your purse (0,2l) and always check that our water is fresh and prefer glass bottles or bottles which are free from BPA.
VITAMINS & MINERALS
Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients for our body and are considered micronutrients. Vitamins are organic compounds and needed by the body to sustain life. They are essential for our body to function and they have hundreds of roles in our body. Example growth, reproduction, bone support, healing wounds and bolstering our immune system. They also convert food into energy and repair our cellular damage. If there is a lack of vitamins in the diet, they will cause deficiencies. Vitamins categorize as either fat soluble or water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. Minerals are inorganic compounds, but like some of the vitamins can be made in our bodies, other minerals our bodies are not producing. Minerals are classified based on how much your body requires; they classify for major and trace minerals.