No matter what diet or lifestyle we have, it is necessary to get all the nutrients a body needs. Those are called essential nutrients for a reason.
This article is about the essential nutrients to have a balanced diet. And I was curious what kind of diets there are, so it is also about specific diets and lifestyles.
The 6 essential nutrients are water, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Some say fibers are the 7th essential nutrient.
Most of these nutrients are provided by food. The body can only produce a few nutrients itself. The rest you get from a varied diet and/or from supplements.
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Table of contents
- 1 The essential nutrients to have a balanced diet
- 2 How about the essential nutrients to have a balanced diet?
- 3 No diet but a lifestyle
- 4 Is one of those diets the best?
The essential nutrients to have a balanced diet
We all need the essential nutrients water, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals to have an optimal functioning body. A varied diet and the right supplements ensure this.
How about the essential nutrients to have a balanced diet?
A word of caution first: whatever diet you would like to choose, I recommend consulting a doctor or dietitian.
Some conditions require a specific approach, which may be counteracted by a particular diet.
A specific diet is followed for a limited time, while a lifestyle is maintained for a longer time. That is why I prefer a change of lifestyle over following a diet.
Water, the most essential of all?
The human body needs a lot of water. We ‘are’ water for about 55% to 60%. The guideline for the quantity of water you need to drink daily is about 2-2,5 l. for women and 2-3 l. for men. Depending on your weight.
It’s pretty easy to know if you’re drinking enough water: your pee should be almost colorless. If it’s dark yellow, you really don’t drink enough.
A related diet
The water diet is a fasting method. During a short period of time, you only drink water. There are variations in the type of water diet. In some, you not only drink water but also eat water-containing vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber.
Most health specialists do not recommend this diet. You will lose weight too quickly and build up a shortage of other essential nutrients, putting your natural immune system at risk.
Don’t drink water with ice cubes. The cold is not good for your body.
Related: Review of Nutriciously – How to Change Lifestyle Habits Sustainably
Carbohydrates are a source of energy
Carbohydrates are in potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, cereals, milk, fruit, and sugar. Carbs are the primary fuel source for the brain and central nervous system.
Whole-wheat products contain a lot of fibers that are good for the defecation process.
Carbs have a bad name nowadays. Mostly because of the refined products. It is best to skip white rice, potatoes, and sugar. As well as candy and soft drinks. Instead, eat whole-wheat pasta, rice, and bread.
Under the guidance of a dietitian, a low-carb diet can help people with type 2 diabetes. Commercial diets like Atkins, South Beach, Dukan, Keto, and a lot more are meant to lose weight. They are low in carbohydrate intake and often rich in proteins.
Protein as building blocks
All human cells contain protein. Our body consists of about 17% of protein. This nutrient is essential for building, maintaining, and repairing cells like skin, blood, and muscle cells. We get protein from meat, seafood, dairy, nuts, legumes, and eggs.
Athletes will eat protein-rich foods because of the building effect of muscle mass. I know a bodybuilder who eats 12 eggs a day! Personally, I would fear kidney damage, but I am not responsible for other people’s choices.
Most low-carb diets will be high protein diets, like Scarsdale and Atkins. Generally, health experts advise following such diets for a short period of time, as they can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Fats are fuel
Fat is an important fuel for your body. It ensures that fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, and E, can be absorbed into our bodies.
Unsaturated fat contains essential fatty acids. Fats are in meat, seafood, oil, butter, margarine, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
We also need a supply of fat as an energy reserve. The subcutaneous fat tissue protects us against the cold. And fat is necessary to build up cell membranes.
A related diet
A low-fat diet suggests eating less unhealthy fats (saturated fats) that are in processed foods like fried foods, chips, and chocolate.
Vitamins for normal growth
Vitamins are part of the micronutrients, where water, carbohydrates, protein, and fat are the macronutrients. Vitamins don’t provide energy but play a crucial role in our immune system and energy metabolism.
Tiredness can be a sign of having a shortage of vitamins. Vitamins are in food. They include the water-soluble B group vitamins and vitamin C and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
I don’t know of a diet that focuses solely on vitamins. Most diets suggest taking vitamin supplements to prevent nutrient deficiencies and enhance dietary function.
Minerals and trace elements, tiny but important
Like vitamins, minerals are small substances that we get from food. We need them for building and maintaining good health. For example, magnesium, iodine, and selenium make sure our immune system functions well.
No diet but a lifestyle
In my personal view, it is better to change your lifestyle if you want to lose weight or counterattack a condition with food than follow a crash diet.
If you lose a lot of pounds in a short time, the chance of a yo-yo effect is very high. By adjusting your lifestyle, perhaps step by step, you lose weight more slowly.
The most simple form of diet: eat less than you are used to. This is how my husband Tom and I managed to lose nearly 25 kilos each in 2 years’ time, in combination with more exercising. We obviously reached our ideal weight, because we still eat less food than we did years ago, without gaining or losing weight.
Weight Watchers is a low-calorie diet.
A diet against allergies or diseases
For example, people with a gluten allergy are better off on a gluten-free diet.
Tom is at risk of gout, so he eats no food with purine in it.
People with high blood pressure can better have a salt-free or low-salt diet.
Current fad diets
The Paleo or caveman diet is based on food believed to be eaten by primeval humans.
A diet based on a certain conviction
Religious diets, following certain eating instructions, such as the Jewish kosher and the Islamic halal.
Vegetarianism that skips eating of meat or fish. Or veganism that avoids the use of any animal products.
Is one of those diets the best?
This website is about health and sustainable behavior. Since I am not a doctor or dietitian, I am always careful what I say. Especially when it is about nutrients and a balanced diet.
And I research many scientifically proven statements. It becomes interesting when it turns out that research regularly produces conflicting ‘certainties’.
For instance, when I was doing my research about high cholesterol, I discovered that in the sixties Ancel Keys stated that saturated fatty acids contribute to an increased cholesterol level.
A hypothesis that is currently highly doubted and even contradicted. However, this has resulted in approximately 28% of the US population taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.
This reinforces my belief that I should read this research, but specifically should listen to my own body and use common sense.
In my personal view, there is no perfect diet. While doing the research for this article I concluded that our eating patterns have elements of several diets:
- No dairy, so that looks like vegan;
- We never eat processed food or refined products, similar to Paleo;
- The main meal is either a combination of carbs and vegetables or of protein and vegetables, like the Montignac diet;
- We never have dinner, just a few nuts around 5pm, which is intermittent fasting.
Do you have a preferred diet? Tell me in the comment box.
16 thoughts on “The 6 Essential Nutrients to Have a Balanced Diet”
It is great to see what all the different foods do for you here. I love how you lay it out and explain what we should be taking or skipping. I have tried some of the fad diets mentioned here and most currently I tried Keto. Will definitely come back to see what else you have posted. Thanks for sharing.
It’s great to try something different, isn’t it, Chris. I like trying out things as well.
I love your articles, and after reading this one it has made me think a little bit more. I need to drink a lot more water than I normally do. I drink far too much tea and coffee when I’m at work and when I’m relaxing in the evening. I’m certain that if I drank water in the evening instead of tea, then I could sleep a lot better. I have also cut out my carbs to try and lose weight, and I have been exercising a bit more too. However, if they are an energy source then they might help my exercise and I could burn them off. I’ll give them a go from today onwards anyway.
Thank you for sharing another great post and keep up the amazing work.
All the best,
Thanks so much for your ever encouraging comments, Tom.
Is herbal tea something you could like? Coffee and black tea don’t ‘count’ for our water intake, but herbal tea does.
Hello, I never took care of my health before I turned 50 years old. I started to take more care of my health and skin so it is great to see what all the different foods do for you here. I love how you lay it out and explain what we should be taking or skipping.
I will definitely come back to see what else you have posted. Thanks for sharing.
Great you like it, Lyne. Isn’t it a pity we couldn’t care less when we were young? It is so much better to live healthy from the start. But what did we know. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and I am really pleased you want to come back as well!
The information you’ve provided here are very unique and are not seen any where else often. I got hungry as I looked at the first image on this article – yummy!
I liked looking at your picture too – looks great! 🙂
Now going back to the article; where you mention processed foods, would you call the normal supermarket bread as a processed too?
I hardly eat bread but eat rice at least with one meal per day. would you say that’s healthy enough?
Hi Habib, both your questions depend on the kind of bread and rice. Some supermarkets have their own bakery for the final stage of the bread, and if it’s whole-wheat as well, it will be good. If the rice you eat is the white kind there is nothing nutritional in it. But you might already have chosen the wild rice or the whole-wheat kind. 🙂
Hi Hannie, thank you for sharing this informative article which helps me to have a better understanding of my diet. Yes, I agree that our lifestyle plays an important part in order to keep healthy. Besides watch what we eat, we have to move our body too.
I know that drinking cold water is not good but I realise most of the people love cold drink especially in a hot day. Sometimes I also will be tempted for cold drink but I will request for less ice so that it will not be too cold. I don’t know if it makes any difference.. 🙂
For you and me both, Janet, we respond best to what we know and what we are used to. I can fully understand it is difficult to change, because I don’t want to think of drinking something ice-cold when it’s warm. I prefer herbal tea then. 🙂
Hello Hannie, this is a great article!
I’ve been paying much more attention to my lifestyle since a couple of years.
My partner and I eat fresh vegetables and meat as dinner (protein based diet). We definitely skipped the potatoes and high-carb products. This has helped us lose weight and feel much fitter.
We also pay attention to healthy exercising. I love yoga and going for a walk.
My caffeine intake has diminished, as I’m drinking more water every day.
At this moment I’m at my best weight and shape in more than 10 years. I do enjoy a glass of red wine once in a while. But I’ve heard that’s even recommend for your health?
Isn’t it great, Catherine, how our health can approve rather quickly when we change our lifestyle? I keep thinking it’s amazing time and again. Good for you! We had about the same development 🙂
Usually, for every recommendation for positive effects you can find recommendations for the opposite. So I don’t trust those recommendations about red wine. The best thing to do is listen to your body. If you respond good to an occasional glass, just enjoy it. I respond very bad to alcohol, but still at times I drink a glass of white wine. We are all entitled to our flaws, aren’t we 🙂
I am diabetic and this list is very helpful! I am on a lifestyle change as I wish to counteract the effects of diabetes. Sugar is my kryptonite. You have to to take it one day at a time!
I am so sorry to hear you are diabetic, Brianna. And you are right, there is a world to gain when you change your eat pattern. Over here they say ‘paso a paso’, step by step 🙂
Good luck xxx
I love lentils, chick peas and beans. They are high in both complex carbohydrates and protein, plus have a ton of fiber- which to me is the 7th essential ingredient of our food indeed. I know they have a bad reputation in Paleo, but both in Indian, Asian and Mediterranean cuisine, lentils and beans are important ingredients.
I don’t do well on a low carb diet, luckily I don’t need to avoid carbs – my body can digest carbs very well. Of course I shouldn’t stuff myself with sugar and refined carbs! I do eat potatoes though. In moderation. But I like them.
Fruits and vegetables are my staple – I get cranky when I eat less of these then I would like 😂
I love lentils, chickpeas and beans too, Kadanza. Unfortunately, we don’t eat them as much as I would like to because Tom has a purine-low diet in order to avoid gout. Which works pretty well by the way.
Tom prepares potatoes in the oven without oil. Then a lot of Curcuma or Curry on them, mmmm, yummy. Depending on the size of the pieces they come out of the oven as French fries or baked potatoes. So we eat that as well. 😉
Thanks for your comment, Kadanza, and stay healthy. 🙂