Fitness, Food, And More Part 7: Essential Nutrients
18 minerals, 13 vitamins, 8 amino acids and 2 fatty acids are ‘essential’ by a specific definition developed by researchers. Essential nutrients are those that fit the following definition.
- Life can’t make them from anything else in your body, but you must have them to live and be healthy, and so you must get them from foods or supplements
- Insufficient intake (getting too little) impairs your health; you get deficiency symptoms that are degenerative in nature, get worse with time, and kill you if you don’t get enough long enough
- They reverse all problems that come from not getting enough if, before death, you return enough to a diet that contains too little of them (by definition, death is not reversible)
- Life knows exactly how to use them to make a healthy body, provided you take responsibility for making sure that enough of each lands in your body for life to do its job
Most essential nutrients come from a program of organic, whole, plant-based foods, herbs and spices. You can augment this program with supplements. Don’t make the silly mistake of thinking you can eat junk and fix it by popping supplement pills.
Antioxidants, Phytonutrients, Gene Modulators
These come from foods, herbs and spices but some are also available as supplements. Food first! A supplement may be useful in addition, but not instead of foods.
You need a source of energy. In order of best to worst fuels: Good oils > good fats > unrefined carbs > protein > refined starch > sugar. Good oils are the best fuel and also contain two essential fatty acids that optimize your health. Small amounts of unrefined carbs (brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, yams) can be good for health, but do not overeat them, because you’ll gain weight and get a long list of problems if you eat more than your body burns. How do you know? A pinch test on your belly or your butt should come up empty. If it doesn’t, lower your carb intake.
Digestion takes place outside your body. This may sound strange, but the inside of your digestive tract is not inside your body. It is a tube through your middle and the foods you eat are digested in that tube outside your body. There, enzymes break down foods and life pulls into your body (absorbs) only the nutrients it needs to build and rebuild your body. Any material that’s not useful is not absorbed. It passes down and out as waste. Probiotics, digestive enzymes and prebiotic fiber aren’t essential nutrients but they’re essential for health. Let us take a look at what each one does.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that protect you from viruses, yeasts, fungi and bacteria that could make you sick. They also protect you from ‘rot’ bacteria whose job it is to recycle your body after you die, but not while you’re alive. Probiotics protect the delicate inside lining of your gut. They make some vitamins. They make short chain fatty acids that protect your colon. They keep your digestive tract, as well as your liver, brain, immune system, weight, and cardiovascular system normal. They also protect your skin and all your body openings from infections by unfriendly microbes.
In nature, probiotics cover raw foods and inhabit the layer of fermenting plant materials on top of soils. They also live in the breast ducts and birth canal of mammals, including humans. The sexiest and most powerful ‘indigenous’ or human-adapted probiotics exist naturally in your digestive tract. They survive strong bile and stomach acid and implant in the lining of your gut. There they live and help health for about 10 days. Dairy-based ‘transient’ probiotics live only a day in your digestive tract before they exit your body.
When you cook foods, you kill the probiotics that you need. Replace them with human-adapted, carefully designed age- and condition-specific probiotic blends.
Digestive enzymes are proteins that break down foods in your digestive tract to free the nutrient building blocks. If you eat raw foods, the enzymes they contain help to digest these foods. Your body also makes different kinds of digestive enzymes in your digestive tract. These ensure complete digestion and optimum absorption of the nutrients. When you cook foods, you destroy the enzymes present in raw foods. For health, replace the lost enzymes with a supplement of different enzymes with each meal to completely break down the proteins, fats and starches you eat. Good digestion is necessary. Gut pain, bloating and gas are not.
Prebiotic fibers come from plants. They’re the preferred food for the friendly probiotics that play health-protective roles in your body. All plant-based whole foods provide prebiotic fiber that makes you healthier and sexier. Animal-based foods contain none.