2 1/2 min read

Our bodies need essential nutrients for daily growth, maintenance and repair. Essential nutrients are those the body cannot make, so we must rely on adequate intake through dietary and/or supplemental sources. The main benefit of maintaining appropriate levels of these nutrients is improved overall well-being.

Here are 5 essential nutrients for our body that we should be paying more attention to:

1. Protein

Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats, are considered macronutrients. Proteins are important components of our cells, and are needed for the structure, function and regulation of our tissues and organs.

For example, our antibodies are made from proteins and help to protect us from invaders such as viruses and bacteria. Proteins are also part of our enzymes, muscles, connective tissues and hormones. Ensure you are getting adequate protein intake by consuming a variety of foods such as plain Greek yogurt, eggs, fish, beef, chicken, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

2. Healthy Fats

We need fats in our diet! Fats are required to build our cell membranes, protect our nerves, and provide more energy than carbohydrates. In addition, fats help us absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

There are different fats available, and the ones you choose to consume are important. Focus on saturated fats (grass-fed organic beef, organic dairy products such as butter and cheese, coconut oil), monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, olives, nuts, seeds) and Omega-3 fatty acids (fish and fish oils, flaxseed oil, walnuts, edamame). Avoid or minimize your intake of trans fats and processed vegetable oils that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids (soybean oil, corn oil).

3. Fibre

Fibre has been shown to promote good health, support healthy heart function and blood sugar. Although it is recommended that a healthy adult needs 21 to 38 grams of fibre per day, surveys show that the average daily Canadian intake is about 14 grams per day. Insoluble fiber is important for promoting bowel regularity and metabolism, whereas soluble fibre helps to maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels already within the normal range.

To add more fiber to your diet, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, add beans or lentils to soups and salads, use whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, barley) instead of refined grains, and add Chia seeds or ground flaxseeds to oatmeal, shakes and yogurt.

4. Vitamin D

All vitamins and minerals are important nutrients for the body, and we can obtain many of them by eating a balanced diet. Vitamin D is one nutrient that research is showing to be vital for many body systems.

This nutrient plays a role in maintaining strong bones, strengthening the immune system, and supporting both the nervous and cardiovascular systems. In addition, vitamin D has been shown to support moods, and the health of both mother and baby during pregnancy and lactation.  Research is showing we need higher amounts of supplemental vitamin D than what was previously thought. Speak to your health care provider about having your vitamin D levels tested to determine how much of this important nutrient you need.

5. Water

Water is a nutrient! Since the amount of water the body needs exceeds what it can actually produce, it is considered an essential nutrient.

Water is required for regulation of body temperature, digestion, and elimination of waste products. It also acts as a lubricant and allows for transportation of nutrients in the body.  Look at your urine to determine if you are getting enough water. Dark urine usually indicates dehydration while clear urine usually indicates you are hydrated. As a general rule, drink ½ of your body weight (pounds) in ounces to get the right amount of water your body needs to function optimally.