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Nutrients 101: Essential and Non-Essential Nutrients Explained

To reach and maintain optimal health and a healthy body weight, it is important to make sure you are getting the nutrients your body needs on a daily basis. A balanced diet with the basic food groups from the food pyramid will help you get the vitamins and minerals you need.

Essential Nutrients and Non-Essential Nutrients

The essential nutrients your body requires include vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fats (essential fatty acids), water and oxygen. Non-essential nutrients are nutrients that your body can produce internally from food sources.

The Importance of a Balanced Diet

The best way to make sure you are getting the right amount of essential nutrients and non-essential nutrients is through a balanced daily diet that includes foods from the basic food groups from the food pyramid.

The Basic Food Groups:

  • Whole grains: whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, brown rice, etc.
  • Vegetables: carrots, spinach, broccoli, peas, green beans, kale, beans, potatoes, spinach, squash, etc.
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, oranges, grapefruits, melons, peaches, pears, pineapples, etc.
  • Low-fat dairy products: fat-free or low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, etc.
  • Lean meats: fish, poultry, pork, etc.
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes: almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
  • Essential Fatty Acids – fish oil, olive oil, canola oil, etc.

When choosing foods from each food group, choose items that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.

Risks of Not Getting Enough Nutrients in Your Diet

If you don’t get enough of the essential nutrients and non-essential nutrients your body needs, you could increase your risk of many health conditions including heart disease, certain types of cancer, dementia, depression, stroke, anemia, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, acne, nerve damage, hypoglycemia, muscle cramps, fatigue and more.

Benefits of Essential Nutrients and Non-Essential Nutrients

If you do eat a balanced diet that contains enough of the nutrients your body needs, you can decrease your risk of many diseases and health problems. You will also have more energy, better overall health, and better chances of successful weight management.

A well-balanced diet is worth every bite!

What to Do if Your Diet Lacks Nutrients

If you do not get enough essential nutrients and non-essential nutrients for your body from your diet alone, ask your health care provider, nutritionist or dietician about vitamin and mineral supplements. You can even get supplements of essential fatty acids, if needed.

A balanced diet is your best bet for optimal health. Supplements are a good back-up for those who don’t get all of the nutrients they need from their diet. Vegans, for example, often need supplements to make sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need.

Whatever it takes, make sure you get your nutrients!

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