Essential vs non-essential nutrients
An essential nutrient is the one that our body needs but can’t produce so it must be taken through the diet. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose, which is something our body can produce from protein and fats, therefore, they are not considered essential nutrients.
Carbohydrates are considered a non-essential nutrient in the sense that they are not essential for survival. Unlike certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and fatty acids (the building blocks of fats), which the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain from the diet, carbohydrates can be synthesized by the body through a process called gluconeogenesis.
When we eat carbs, the body breaks them down into glucose. However, the body can produce glucose from other sources, such as proteins and fats. Although carbohydrates are not considered essential, it’s fair to say that not all carbohydrates are created equally. Different types of carbohydrates, such as complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is generally recommended to include carbohydrates as part of a well-rounded and healthy diet.
Also, there has always been the belief that the brain and central nervous system need carbohydrates to function properly. However, the brain and nervous system actually function pretty well with ketones.
Now let’s talk about the actual essential nutrients. As we’ve mentioned, essential nutrients are substances that are required by the body for normal physiological function, growth, development, and maintenance of overall health. These nutrients cannot be synthesized or produced in sufficient amounts by the body, so they must be obtained through the diet. The categories of essential nutrients:
Proteins are essential for growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. They are composed of amino acids, some of which cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet.
Fats are a concentrated source of energy and play important roles in hormone production, insulation, and protection of organs. Some types of fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are considered essential as they cannot be synthesized by the body.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are required in small amounts for various metabolic processes and overall health. There are 13 essential vitamins, including vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, each with specific functions in the body.
Minerals are inorganic substances that are necessary for proper cellular function, electrolyte balance, and maintenance of bodily structures. Examples of essential minerals include calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
While not considered a nutrient in the traditional sense, water is essential for hydration and is involved in nearly all bodily processes. It helps regulate body temperature, transport nutrients, remove waste, and maintain overall fluid balance.
A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from different food groups is important to ensure an adequate intake of these essential nutrients. It's worth noting that individual nutrient requirements may vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and specific health conditions. Consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can help determine personalized nutrient needs for optimal health.
What is fiber and do we really need it?
Fiber, also known as dietary fiber or roughage, is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest or absorb. It is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Fiber passes through the digestive system relatively intact and, despite the popular belief, fiber is not essential as we don't digest it and we don't need it, that doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful in some ways. There are two main types of fiber: Soluble Fiber and Insoluble Fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber instead, does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to the stool, helping to prevent constipation.
Why do we believe that fiber is not necessary? Because fat can actually do a better job at everything that has been stated fiber does. Plus, fiber is always higher in carbohydrates. We’ve been told too many times that our bodies can’t run right without fiber and that we must eat fiber to function properly and be healthy. However, dietary fiber is often unnecessary plus it might even be harmful to some individuals.
What does fiber do for your body?
As we’ve previously mentioned, our bodies themselves are not able to digest fiber, however, the bacteria in our large intestine can. These bacteria ferment fiber and create gases (like hydrogen and methane) that cause bloating and pain causing a lot of flatulence as well. Also, the exothermic reaction can damage local organs and tissues. As fiber consumption goes up, so does your risk of developing diverticular and/or colon diseases.
When it comes to fiber, is best to follow a no-fiber or a low-fiber diet. A low-carb or keto diet is a great approach. In case you do want to eat fiber, make sure it’s a soluble fiber from whole-food sources, such as fruits (especially low-carb berries), sweet potatoes, and mushrooms. Small amounts of these foods may keep your digestive tract well-lubricated and boost your body’s production of beneficial short-chain fats.
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