March has arrived, which means it’s time for National Nutrition Month. The field of nutrition is so vast, and it can be overwhelming to get started, which is why we’re giving you a foundation so you can make the best choices for your lifestyle.
The Building Blocks of Nutrition
There are 6 essential nutrients to consider — and your body needs each to function and stay healthy. Combined, a nutrient-rich diet will give your body the energy it needs for daily tasks and growth. Without a balance of these nutrients, your body will be operating with deficiencies that can affect your day-to-day life.
The first essential nutrient is protein. Protein can be found in every cell in your body and is made up of amino acids. You can get protein from foods like meat, nuts, eggs, and legumes — and it’s a good idea to consume a variety of these options since each has different benefits.
The second is carbohydrates, which serve as fuel for your body. Carbohydrates should make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories, and you can find them in food like bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, and fruits.
Up next is lipids — or fats —a nutrient that is often subjected to shame and avoidance. But it is equally essential to a balanced diet, supporting critical processes like cell building, muscle movement, and blood clotting. In fact, healthy fats should make up between 20 and 35 percent of your daily intake. Options include nuts, avocados, and oils.
Vitamins are another essential nutrient, and there are many specific vitamins that fall into this category. Vitamins A C and D are among the most commonly known, but there are even more that have important functions within the body. Fruits, grains, dairy, and vegetables all carry varying amounts of vitamins, which help to maintain healthy skin, vision, and bones.
Similar to vitamins, minerals assist the body in many ways. You might be familiar with minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. Each of these helps with maintaining healthy blood pressure, creating hormones, and wound healing respectively. Minerals can also be found in a wide variety of foods, including seafood, red meat, and dairy.
The final nutrient is water. It makes up about 62% of your weight and you won’t be able to survive more than a few days without it. In the body, it works to flush out toxins, transport other nutrients, and, of course, stay hydrated. While drinking glasses of water is important in your daily routine, you can also find water in many fruits and vegetables.
When to Get Expert Guidance
There is endless information available offering different and often varying advice on nutrition. Sometimes, what one person needs in their diet could be detrimental to another. Between allergies and conditions like celiac disease and diabetes, many individuals will need to restrict their food intake in one way or another.
With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to manage alone. This is why it’s sometimes best to seek an expert to provide additional guidance and personalized insight.
A professional nutritionist will be able to give you specific recommendations that go past the basic food pyramid we’re taught in elementary school. They can help put you on a path to nutrition goals — whether that’s regulating a chronic condition, gaining or losing weight, or increasing certain vitamins and minerals.
If you would like to learn more about taking care of yourself and managing your diet, please contact UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Diet and Nutrition at 301-870-4100. For diabetes-specific guidance please contact Cynthia Adams, CDE for Diabetes Education at 301-609-4413.