Keeping up with what you’re supposed to eat may seem complicated, but there are only six categories of essential nutrients. Those are the substances you need to get from food because your body can’t produce enough of them on its own.
If you want to simplify healthy eating, focus on the six basics. That means protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.
Find out what you need to know with this quick guide.
All your calories come from three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. They give you energy, and you need them in ample supplies.
Keep these tips in mind:
1. Eat enough protein. The main building block for your body cells and tissues is protein. It helps you increase muscle mass and may boost your metabolism. Contrary to popular belief, fruits and vegetables contain protein; some have more than others.
Vegetables with the most protein are broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, typically containing 4–5 grams of protein per cooked cup.
Sweet corn is another food that contains about as much protein as these high-protein vegetables.
Fresh fruits have a lower protein content than vegetables. But some fruits can be a good source of protein; these include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines, and bananas, which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup.
2. Embrace carbohydrates. For short-term energy, your body uses carbohydrates. While low and no-carb diets seem popular, it makes more sense to distinguish between refined and unrefined carbohydrates. Load up on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while mainly avoiding white flour and sugar products.
3. Choose healthy fats. Your body needs fats too. They give you long-term energy and help protect your organs.
The following is a list of vegetables ordered from highest to lowest according to grams of fat per cup.
- Soybeans: 11.52 grams
- Corn: 2.23 grams
- Kidney Beans: 1.54 grams
- Black Beans: 0.9 grams
- Northern Beans: 0.8 grams
- Cooked Lentils: 0.8 grams
- Cooked Peas: 0.6 grams
- Broccoli: 0.5 grams
- Unpeeled Zucchini: 0.4 grams
- Tomatoes: 0.36 grams
- Carrots: 0.31 grams
- Cauliflower: 0.3 grams
- Red Bell Peppers: 0.3 grams
- Kale: 0.3 grams
- White Potatoes: 0.21 grams
- Butternut Squash: 0.18 grams
- Collard and Turnip Greens: 0.17 grams
- Pumpkin: 0.17 grams
- Spinach: 0.12 grams
- Cucumber: 0.12 grams
- Cabbage: 0.07 grams
4. Stay balanced. Current dietary guidelines recommend getting about 45 to 65% of your total daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35% from fat, and 10 to 35% from protein. How much do you need to eat from each group?
Vitamins and minerals are the micronutrients that support your body’s functions. You only need them in small amounts, but they’re still vital to your health and wellbeing. You can also read 14 Herbs & Supplements All Women Should Consider For Good Health
The benefit of these strategies:
1. Understand vitamins and minerals. There are 13 essential vitamins and a wide range of minerals that you need to stay fit. Vitamins help your body use other nutrients and make hormones. Minerals are necessary for your central nervous system and skeleton.
2. Seek variety. Common signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies include hair loss and slow healing. Most symptoms can be treated quickly by changing your diet.
3. Consider supplements. For most adults, food is superior to supplements. However, following your doctor’s recommendations is essential if you’re on a restricted diet.
There’s a slight difference of opinion when it comes to water. Some experts call it a macronutrient because you need a lot of it. Others say it’s a micronutrient because it doesn’t provide energy directly. You may side with those who put it in a separate category of its own.
Add more water to your diet with these tips:
1. Adopt new habits. Maybe you have trouble remembering to drink enough water. Try creating triggers like having a glass when you wake up or making a phone call.
2. Add flavor. If the taste of plain water doesn’t appeal to you, liven it up. Infuse it with fresh basil or a few crushed cranberries.
3. Chew it. Water from solid foods counts too. Use ingredients like cucumbers, celery, strawberries, cauliflower, and cottage cheese for meals and snacks with high water content.
4. Avoid dehydration. You may have heard that you can only live about three days without water. Even under less extreme conditions, dehydration can affect your performance. If you feel fatigued or have trouble concentrating, you may need to drink more. You can also read The Surprising Truth About What Happens When You Drink One Percent More Water
Proper nutrition can be simple. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods is usually all you need to give your body adequate amounts of the six essential nutrients.
If you have medical conditions or other concerns, your doctor or dietician can also help you understand your individual needs.