The nutrients They are the set of substances and elements external to the organism that are essential for its maintenance tasks: obtaining energy for the different biological processes, obtaining matter for structural growth and for tissue repair, etc. For example: sugars, vitamins, calcium, iodine.
To the extent that these essential substances are not present in the body (or cannot be produced spontaneously), they must be ingested or taken from the environment.
In the case of cells and unicellular organisms, this is done through the phagocytosis of desired items or exchange across the cell membranecell transport). In the most complex living beings, it occurs through the ingestion of food.
types of nutrients
There are many classifications of nutrients:
- According to its importance. nutrients essentials Y non essentialthat is, key nutrients for the support of life and that cannot be synthesized within the body, and accessory nutrients that may have some type of substitute.
- According to the necessary amount of your consumption. Here we have macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats, which must be consumed daily in large quantities; Y micronutrientssuch as minerals and vitamins, which should be consumed in small doses.
- according to its function. A distinction is made between energy nutrients, which provide calories for the functioning of the living system; plastic or structural, which give the body the necessary material to grow or repair tissues; and regulators, which allow maintaining homeostasis and keeping the body at its ideal levels of metabolism.
- According to its origin. Organic and inorganic nutrients, that is, substances in whose base carbon is found as a primary element, and others in which it is not.
Difference Between Organic and Inorganic Nutrients
The fundamental difference between these two types of nutrient is due to their molecular chemistry: while organic nutrients They consist of substances elaborated atomically from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and other similar elements, the inorganic nutrients come from minerals and monatomic metal supplements.
Thus, organic nutrients encompass the set of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, essential oils, vitamins and essential amino acids, necessary to compose new organic substances and to feed the energy mechanisms of glucose oxidation.
While inorganic nutrients are roughly mineral salts and water.
Examples of Organic Nutrients
- elemental fatty acids. Like Omega-3 or Omega-6, these are fatty oils that the body is unable to synthesize but requires for the correct metabolism of sugars and lipids. They are present in certain whole grain cereals, vegetable oils, certain nuts, in oily fish (herring, bonito, tuna) and in many artificially enriched foods.
- sugars. Like sucrose (table sugar) or fructose (fruit sugar), many carbohydrates are part of the organic nutrients that we consume daily. These compounds are made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen mainly, and once in the body they are transformed into glucose (immediate energy).
- carbohydrates. The immediate source of energy, whose oxidation keeps the body running and fulfilling its tasks. Carbohydrates (especially simple ones) are quickly and immediately assimilated, so they serve to light the fire but not to keep it burning for a long time. Important carbohydrate sources are potatoes, rice, corn and wheat derivatives.
- antioxidants. Many vitamins, such as E, and other similar organic substances, have an antioxidant effect that preserves cells from the collateral damage of respiration and prolongs their life. These antioxidant elements are highly coveted in contemporary diet, as they allow dealing with free radicals that are produced, for example, by alcohol consumption and that have polluting effects.
- vitamins. Vitamins are essential substances that the body requires for numerous processes of homeostasis and ordinary functioning, but that it cannot synthesize on its own. So we must consume them in food. There is a huge and varied list of vitamins, grouped into different complexes or groups (complex B, Vitamin C, etc.) and present in various dietary sources, from fruits (citrus for vitamin C, for example) to eggs.
- fats. Beyond the fact that the excess consumption of lipids has become a health problem in contemporary times, these are part of the body as energy reservoirs (sugar triglycerides become fat), structural bases (organ support) or protection (lipid layers that insulate from the cold). The most abundant source of fat in the diet is animal meat and fried foods or fatty sauces (such as mayonnaise).
- Vegetable fiber. Like those present in cereals, wheat products, bran, whole grain products and in fruits such as bananas and apples, it is one of the most common forms of complex carbohydrates that we consume and that most nourishes us with matter and energy.
- animal proteins. This is what comes from the consumption of animal meat, whether red meat (cow, pork, camelids) or white meat (poultry, fish). It is one of the most abundant and immediate sources of protein and lipids for human beings, although it often does not represent the healthiest model of food (especially in the case of red meat).
- Essential amino acids. As well as vitamins or fatty oils, there are amino acids necessary for the body that we must obtain from food. Eggs, as a source of animal protein, are also a great provider of essential amino acids, which are nothing more than the biological bricks with which enzymes, proteins and other more complex substances are built.
- vegetable proteins. Legumes, grains, soybeans and many fruits are an excellent source of vegetable protein, alternatives to eating meat and its dangerous saturated fats. With these proteins, the body can obtain different material parts for the long term, such as building muscle or growing.
Examples of inorganic nutrients
- Water. As simple as that, water is an inorganic nutrient essential for life, and it is the largest known solvent, which makes up a high percentage (more than 60%) of our bodies. A human being can survive weeks without food, but barely days without drinking water.
- Sodium. This highly reactive and abundant metal on the planet actually makes up our common salt (sodium chloride), and plays a fundamental role in the body in homeostasis and cellular transport (sodium-potassium pump) to maintain a stable alkalinity level. and body acidity.
- Potassium. This is one of the vital salts in the body, along with sodium and magnesium. It is one of the electrolytes, that is, of the substances that exchange the neurotransmitters of the central nervous system and that helps muscle function, including heart function. A recognized source of potassium are bananas (cambour), citrus fruits and grapes.
- Calcium. Mineral responsible for the hardening of bones and their degree of strength, as well as many other metabolic processes, calcium must be consumed in the daily diet through dairy foods or dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or asparagus.
- Iodine. Iodine is an abundant element in the sea and in the animals that we extract from the ocean. In fact, people who are allergic to shellfish are usually really allergic to iodine, despite the fact that we all need it for the proper functioning of the thyroid, one of the most important endocrine glands in the body. Vegetable (and less allergenic) sources of iodine are cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts.
- Iron. The heart of the earth and much of its crust is made of this mineral. In our case, we require it in small doses to build the hemoglobin that carries oxygenated blood to the far reaches of the body, as well as for other important compounds. Known sources of iron in the diet are meat, eggs, dried fruits, and dried beans.
- Match. Closely linked to calcium, this element constitutes about 1% of a person’s total weight, and is part of their bones and teeth, as well as brain chemistry. Its absorption increases in the presence of vitamin C or vitamin A and it can be ingested by eating fish, poultry and dairy products, or nuts.
- Selenium. Antioxidant mineral, which integrates vitamin E, widely studied as a therapy against aging and as a possible therapy to increase male fertility. Meat and fish are their best sources of consumption.
- Manganese. Many cognitive and brain capacities are attributed to the margins of this mineral, such as memory, lucidity and also less mental functions, such as the production of sex hormones, the assimilation of vitamin E and the production of cartilage. It is widely distributed in the dietary universe, but in general, vegetables, meat and dairy products are rich in this element.
- Magnesium. A mineral salt of great importance for the electrolyte balance of the body, along with sodium and potassium. It is necessary in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and can be found in sea salt, but also in the bones and in cellular energy dynamics.