Nutrients Classified Information

Your body can't make most nutrients from food, or produce energy, without several key nutrients. You need a varied, adequate supply of nutrients from food for your nourishment—and life itself.

Your food choices are digested, or broken down into nutrients, then absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to every cell of your body. Most of the body's work takes place in cells, and food's nutrients are essential to your body's "do list." More than forty nutrients in food, classified into six groups, have specific and unique functions for nourishment. Their work is linked in partnerships for your good health.

Carbohydrates. As your body's main source of energy, or calories, carbohydrates are starches (complex carbohydrates) and sugars. Chapter 5, "Carbs: Simply Complex," addresses them.

Fiber, another form of complex carbohydrate, aids digestion, promotes health, and offers protection from some diseases. Despite its role in health, fiber isn't a nutrient because it is not digested and absorbed into the body. See chapter 6, "Fiber: Your Body's Broom."

  1. Fats supply energy. They support other functions, too, such as nutrient transport, growth, and being part of many body cells. Fats are made of varying combinations of fatty acids. All fatty acids aren't the same. Some are more saturated (harder at room temperature); others, more unsaturated. Fatty acids that your body can't make are considered "essential." You'll learn about fat and cholesterol (a fatlike substance) in chapter 3.
  2. Proteins are sequenced combinations of amino acids, which build, repair, and maintain all your body tissues. Your body makes nonessential amino acids; others are considered "essential" from food because your body can't make them. Especially when carbohydrates and fats are in short supply, proteins provide energy. If they're broken down and used for energy, amino acids can't be used to maintain body tissue. For more about amino acids, refer to chapter 20, "The Vegetarian Way."
  3. Vitamins work like spark plugs, triggering chemical reactions in body cells. Each vitamin regulates different body processes. Because their roles are so specific, one cannot replace another. To learn more, refer to chapter 4, "Vitamins, Minerals, Phy-tonutrients: Variety on Your Plate."
  4. Somewhat like vitamins do, minerals spark body processes. They, too, have unique job descriptions. Refer to chapter 4.
  5. Water makes up 45 to 75 percent of your body weight—and it's a nutrient, too. It regulates body processes, helps regulate your body temperature, carries nutrients and other body chemicals to your cells, and carries waste products away. For more about water, see chapter 8, "Fluids: The Power of Water."
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