Today’s article is a guest post by Helen Sanders, chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. “Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact.”
When primarily focussing on fitness and workouts, it can be easy to forget how important nutrition is not only to overall health and wellbeing, but also the role it can play in ensuring we meet (or even exceed) our fitness goals.
We often hear the word nutrition thrown around, yet most of us don’t know all the ins and outs of what good nutrition is and how it can help us. So what exactly is nutrition and why is it so important? Read on to find out.
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the name given to the process of using food for fuel in order to achieve growth and bodily function. Using nutrients in a way that will allow your body to complete day-to-day actions, bodily processes and much more.
Eating the right foods will allow you give your body the fuel it needs to work, similarly to putting gas in a car. Your body needs to be fed in order to have energy every day.
There are five different classes of nutrients:
- Carbohydrates (macronutrient)
- Fats (macronutrient)
- Proteins (macronutrient)
- Vitamins (micronutrient)
- Minerals (micronutrient)
Good nutrition also means including antioxidants and phytochemicals as a means of keeping healthy alongside all 5 classes of nutrients.
In order to see why nutrition is so important, let us take a minute to break down each nutrient and understand what it does for the human body.
#1 – Protein
Protein is probably the most important macronutrient for the human body. Protein is found in every single cell of our bodies and needs to be replenished through the food we eat, which is then broken down into amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
There are 20 amino acids in the human body. They chain together and these chains (depending on which amino acids link with one another) do different functions in the human body. From building and repairing muscle tissue, to growing our hair.
From the 20 amino acids, 9 of those are considered ‘essential’ meaning our body cannot produce them and they must be obtained through the food we eat.
#2 – Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are turned into glucose, which is the human bodies favorite form of energy. If you don’t get enough carbohydrates, your body can make glucose from protein, however, if you get too many carbohydrates, the body turns them into fat which is then stored.
#3 – Fats
Although fat is often considered a dirty word in the fitness community, healthy fats like essential fatty acids are necessary for a number of processes in the human body including the healthy production of hormones to correct brain function. Essential fatty acids can even aid fat burning, making them a positive addition to your diet in order to reach your fitness goals.
Essential fatty acids like omega 3, omega 6 should be obtained regularly through the foods you eat in order to stay healthy. Fresh fish is the best place to find essential fatty acids, although fish oil supplements are also available.
#4 – Vitamins and Minerals
Although micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) as the name suggests, they are just as important to the human body.
Vitamins help with everything from vision (vitamin A) to building strong bones (calcium). There are several vitamins and minerals which are essential, meaning we need to obtain them from food sources to stay healthy.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
- Pantothenic acid
Of course, the best way to obtain these is through whole-food sources in our daily diet such as fruit and vegetables, although multivitamin supplements are available.
#5 – Antioxidants and Phytochemicals
Phytochemicals are actually an antioxidant found in plants. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the body which can promote many chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidants are an important part of healthy nutrition and are found in many fruits and vegetables.
Eating a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet filled with lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, some whole grains and high-quality protein sources is the best possible way to maintain good nutrition.
This is important to give your body the raw materials it needs to stay healthy, be full of energy, look good and be disease free.
Although dietary supplements are available, they are, in no way, wonder pills or a replacement for a healthy diet. The best way to maintain optimum health is through a diet packed with natural, whole-foods.