Happy National Nutrients Month! March is a great time to highlight the importance of eating nutrient-rich food. A study by the University of Illinois in 2014 found that most Americans aren’t getting enough nutrients each day. The study found that Americans are falling short of receiving 10 nutrients they need each day for their well-being. For example, under 5% of Americans get enough potassium every day. And just over 11% of us are eating enough fiber.
But most of us are still alive, and feeling well, right? So why are nutrients so important to our health? While convenience is a leading reason why we are not eating the right food, so is time. It’s believed by many Americans that they don’t have the time to cook a nutritious meal, opting instead for take out, or pre-packaged meals. But without enough nutrients your body suffers in the long term and short term. And your overall health will slowly decline.
Nutrients come in a few different forms. Macro-nutrients in the form of protein, carbs and fat provide energy. Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals that are essential components to our body. Micro-nutrients affect the function of the body and help ensure things are running smoothly.
The National Health and Medical Research Council spent 10 years, from 2002-2012 studying nutrition and its effect on the body. What it found was variety of the food we eat is key. While we can be creatures of habit it’s important to take in the right nutrients each day. While each person is different there are a few constants that we can all follow to ensure proper health.
The U.S. Department of Human and Health Services estimates between 45% and 65% of your calories should come from carbs, 10% to 35% should come from protein and about 20% from fats. Those numbers are for adults only. Infants, children and teenagers have their own set of rules. People with medical conditions, like diabetes have their own guidelines as well. But finding the right balance for you is essential to ensure your body is getting the most from the food you are eating.
Once you manage eating the right amount of macro-nutrients you can start to develop a plan to eat the right way. How can you ensure you are eating the right foods? You will get the most nutrients from foods that have the least amount of processing. Many doctors and health professionals make the case for switching to a whole-foods diet. That’s foods in their raw form. You will always get the most nutrients from local fruits and vegetables that are ingested raw.
Not all foods should be eaten raw, however. Most proteins need to be cooked to a safe temperature. No one wants raw chicken after all! But there are other foods you should cook. For example, cooking tomatoes increases lycopene by 25 percent. You should also cook grains and beans to remove any anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients occur naturally and can prevent us from digesting the nutrients in our foods.
By: Ron Schaberg
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