The essential nutrients They are essential substances for the proper functioning of the body, which cannot be naturally synthesized by the body but must be provided through food. For example: histidine, lysine, vitamin D.
These types of key nutrients vary according to the species, but luckily they are required in small doses and the body tends to store them for a long time, so deficiency symptoms only occur after long periods of absence.
In fact, excess of some of these nutrients can be unhealthy (such as hypervitaminosis or excess vitamins). Others, on the other hand, can be ingested as much as desired without producing harmful effects.
Types of essential nutrients
Some of these substances are commonly referred to as essential for the human being:
- Vitamins. These highly heterogeneous compounds promote the ideal functioning of the body, acting as regulators, triggers or inhibitors of specific processes, which can range from regulation cycles (homeostasis) to the body’s immune defense.
- Minerals. Inorganic elements, normally solid and more or less metallic, that are necessary to compose certain substances or to regulate processes linked, above all, with the electricity and pH of the organism.
- Amino acids. These organic molecules are provided with a particular structure (an amino terminal and another hydroxyl terminal at their ends) with which they serve as fundamental pieces from which proteins such as enzymes or tissues are composed.
- Fatty acids. Unsaturated lipid-type biomolecules (fats), that is, always liquid (oils) and made up of long chains of carbon and other elements. They are needed as the basis for the synthesis of a whole range of secondary fatty acids necessary for cellular life.
Some of them are required throughout life, and others like the histidine (amino acids) are required only during childhood. All, luckily, can be acquired through food.
Examples of essential nutrients
- Alpha-linoleic acid. Commonly known as omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, a component of many common plant acids. It can be acquired through the intake of flax seeds, cod liver oil, most blue fish (tuna, bonito, herring) or in dietary supplements, among others.
- Linoleic acid. Not to be confused with the previous one: this polyunsaturated fatty acid is commonly called omega-6 and is a powerful lowering of the so-called “bad” cholesterol, that is, saturated and trans fats. It fulfills functions of lipolysis, increase of muscle mass, protection against cancer and metabolic regulations. It can be consumed through olive oil, avocado, eggs, whole grain wheat, walnuts, pine nuts, canola, linseed, corn or sunflower oil, among others.
- Phenylalanine. One of the 9 essential amino acids of the human body, vital in the construction of numerous essential enzymes and proteins. Its consumption in excess can cause laxations, and it is possible to acquire it through the intake of foods rich in proteins: red meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, asparagus, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts, among others.
- Histidine. This essential amino acid for animals (since fungi, bacteria and plants can synthesize it) fulfills vital functions in the development and maintenance of healthy tissues, as well as the myelin that covers nerve cells. It is found in dairy products, chicken, fish, meat and is often used in cases of heavy metal poisoning.
- Tryptophan. Another essential amino acid in the human body, it is necessary for the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in the functions of sleep and in the perception of pleasure. Its lack in the body has been linked to cases of anguish, anxiety or insomnia. It is found in eggs, milk, whole grains, oats, dates, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and bananas, among others.
- Lysine. Essential amino acid present in numerous proteins, necessary for all mammals, unable to synthesize it on their own. It is essential for the construction of molecular hydrogen bonds and catalysis. It is found in quinoa, soybeans, beans, lentils, watercress, and carob beans, among other plant products.
- Valine. Another of the nine essential amino acids in the human body, essential for muscle metabolism, where it serves as energy in cases of stress and maintains a positive nitrogen balance. It is obtained by ingesting bananas, cottage cheese, chocolates, red berries and mild spices.
- Folic acid. Known as vitamin B9, it is essential in the human body to build structural proteins and for hemoglobin, the substance that allows the transport of oxygen in the blood. It is found in legumes (chickpeas, lentils, among others), green leafy vegetables (spinach), in peas, beans, nuts and cereals.
- Pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, it is a hydrosoluble compound of critical importance in the metabolism and synthesis of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Fortunately, there are small doses of this vitamin in almost all foods, although it is more abundant in whole grains, legumes, beer yeast, royal jelly, eggs and meat.
- Thiamine. Vitamin B1, part of the vitamin B complex, is water-soluble and insoluble in alcohol, it is necessary in the daily diet of almost all vertebrates. Its absorption occurs in the small intestine, promoted by vitamin C and folic acid, but inhibited by the presence of ethyl alcohol. It is found in legumes, yeasts, whole grains, corn, nuts, eggs, red meat, potatoes, sesame seeds, among others.
- Riboflavin. Another vitamin of the B complex, B2. It belongs to the group of fluorescent yellow pigments known as flavins, which are very present in dairy products, cheese, legumes, green leafy vegetables and animal livers. It is essential for the skin, the ocular cornea and the mucous membranes of the body.
- Hill. This essential nutrient, soluble in water, is normally grouped with B vitamins. It is a precursor of neurotransmitters responsible for memory and muscle coordination, as well as for the synthesis of cell membranes. It can be consumed in eggs, animal livers, cod, skinless chicken, grapefruits, quinoa, tofu, red beans, peanuts or almonds, among others.
- Vitamin D. Known as calciferol or antirachitic, it is responsible for regulating the calcification of bones, the regulation of phosphorus and calcium in the blood, among other essential functions. Its deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis and rickets, and vegetarians are usually alerted to its dietary deficiency. It is present in fortified milk, mushrooms or mushrooms, soy juice and enriched cereals, but it can also be synthesized in small amounts through skin exposure to the sun.
- Vitamin E. A powerful antioxidant, part of the essence of blood hemoglobin, is found in many plant-based foods, such as hazelnuts, almonds, spinach, broccoli, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, and in vegetable oils such as sunflower, sesame, or olive .
- Vitamin K. Known as phytomenadione, it is the anti-hemorrhagic vitamin, since they are key to blood clotting processes. It also promotes the generation of red blood cells, thus increasing blood transport. Its absence in the body is rare, since it can be synthesized by some bacteria in the human intestine, but it can also be incorporated more by ingesting dark green leafy vegetables.
- B12 vitamin. Referred to as cobalamin, since it has cobalt margins, it is an essential vitamin for the functioning of the brain and the nervous system, as well as in the formation of blood and essential proteins. No fungus, plant or animal can synthesize this vitamin: only bacteria and archaebacteria can, so humans must receive them from bacteria in their intestines or from the ingestion of animal meat.
- Potassium. This chemical element is a highly reactive alkali metal, present in salt water, and essential for many electrical transmission processes in the human body, as well as in the stabilization of RNA and DNA. It is consumed by fruits (bananas, avocado, apricot, cherry, plum, etc.) and vegetables (carrot, broccoli, beet, eggplant, cauliflower).
- Iron. Another metallic element, the most abundant in the earth’s crust, whose importance in the human body is key, although in small quantities. Iron levels directly impact blood oxygenation, as well as various cellular metabolisms. It can be obtained through the consumption of red meat, sunflower seeds, pistachios, among others.
- Retinol. This is how vitamin A is called, essential for the processes of vision, skin and mucous membranes, the immune system, embryonic development and growth. It is stored in the liver and is formed from beta-carotene present in carrots, broccoli, spinach, squash, eggs, peaches, animal livers and peas, among others.
- Calcium. A necessary element in the mineralization of bones and teeth, which gives them their strength, as well as other metabolic functions, such as the transport of the cell membrane. Calcium can be ingested in milk and its derivatives, in green leafy vegetables (spinach, asparagus), as well as in green tea or yerba mate, among other foods.