Trying to eat healthy all the time isn’t easy. It should be, but every time we try to inform ourselves about what we should or should not have for our next meal, there’s a new super-food or food-enemy being declared.
One week, we’re supposed to eat only low-fat foods. The next week, fats are deemed healthful again but carbs are the enemy. Then, whole grains and high fiber carbohydrates are labeled as healthful but sugars are the latest type of food to be avoided. What should we believe? How should we eat to make sure our nutrition requirements have all been met. Superfoods and diet foods aside, what nutrients should be our highest priority? What types of food are actually needed by the body?
Depending on the source, there are up to 90 essential nutrients the body requires every day. This can make it challenging to attempt to try to balance your meals every single day, as that quantity of nutrients can feel overwhelming to consider. That said, it doesn’t actually need to be that complicated. The best strategy is to focus on some of the main nutrients that you need the most and to try to eat mainly nutrient-dense foods.
Many nutritionists say that if you focus on 11 essential nutrients your body needs and consume them in foods that are nutrient-dense, you will be much more likely to complete your diet every day. These 11 essential nutrients are:
1. Carbohydrates – More specifically, those in the form of fruits, veggies and whole grains. These macronutrients are dense with vitamins and are the main energy source for the brain.
2. Proteins – Another macronutrient, this one is critical to muscle healing and maintenance. They’re also important for the creation of hormones and enzymes.
3. Fats – The last of the macronutrients, certain fats are critical to your organs, to vitamin absorption, to providing energy and to the health and maintenance of your nerves and brain.
4. Water – Hydration is critical to virtually every part, system and function of your body.
5. Vitamins – Different amounts of each vitamin are needed. These include Vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, and K. The amounts you need of each depend on many factors about your body.
6. Minerals – Similar to vitamins, minerals are critical to making sure your body’s organs, systems and cells will work properly and remain healthy.
7. Calcium – Technically a mineral, this specific nutrient plays an array of different roles in the body.
8. Sodium – Sodium gets a lot of bad press because we usually eat too much of it. However, as much as most of us need to eat less of it, in the right amount it is still very important to the body’s function.
9. Potassium – This is an electrolyte critical to maintaining your body’s fluid balance.
10. Omega 3 fatty acid – You need enough omega 3 for disease prevention and heart health.
11. Vitamin D – This “sunshine vitamin” is only partially understood, but is being found important to just about every part of the body from bones to the heart to mental health.