Macronutrients provide structural material to build up the body’s components. Proteins provide amino acids to build new proteins. Lipids, or fats, provide structural components for our cell membranes. As well, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins all supply a source of energy for the body.
The field of nutritional science is starting to emerge, but many speculated nutritional factors in our health are currently still unclear as to their specific role and function. What do we currently know?
The carbon atoms forming carbohydrates, fats, and proteins compose a carbon skeleton that can be donated to the cycle of cellular respiration. In the process of cellular respiration, the carbon skeleton is broken down to provide energy for the body. Without these carbon skeletons from our food, the body begins to break down its own proteins and fats – potentially forming toxic side products in addition to muscle wasting.
Amino acids link together to form proteins. Proteins form the structure of much of the body – in particular: muscles, skin and hair. Proteins also form enzymes to control chemical reactions. While the body is capable of producing many amino acids from other precursors, it does not possess the machinery to build all amino acids. Essential amino acids are required by the body from the diet and are used to maintain optimal health. The body cannot store amino acids, so their intake is a regular requirement especially as many amino acids are used to replace damaged proteins within the body. During times of growth or stress (i.e. development and maturation, pregnancy, or injury), demand for amino acids increases – making adequate nutrition at these times essential.
Required fatty acids include omega-3 fatty and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are used to derive lipids that the body cannot produce itself and are essential in cellular signaling as well as in the production of molecules influencing mood and the inflammatory response.
Water plays a role in many chemical reactions and is constantly excreted in the urine, feces, through sweat and through water vapor during exhalation. Adequate water intake replenishes lost fluids – facilitating chemical reactions and maintaining the proper homeostatic balance of electrolytes within the body.
Click here to add your own text
Macrominerals are chemical elements outside the basic carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Many macrominerals are electrolytes (i.e. calcium, chlorine, sodium, and potassium) essential to the regulation of neuronal conduction and water balance within and outside of cells. Too few or too many macromineral electrolytes reveal themselves primarily through heart complications. Macrominerals also play a role in structure and stability. In addition to acting as a neuronal signaller, calcium is required to maintain bone strength. Magnesium is used in energy processing and maintaining DNA stability.
Trace minerals are often present as cofactors – inorganic components of enzymes required for their proper function. Cobalt is required for the biosynthesis of vitamin B12 – an important coenzyme. Copper is a required component enzyme of cellular respiration – used in the production of energy. Chromium is required for sugar metabolism – facilitating sugar’s conversion to a carbon skeleton used in the production of energy. Iodine is used to create an essential homeostatic hormone – thyroxine.
Many vitamins are closely linked to minerals and play a role in regulating body functions. They may act as antioxidants to reduce harmful free radicals produced as a by-product of cellular respiration. Phytochemicals found in plants also have antioxidant capacity. Fiber reduces gastrointestinal complications by increasing the weight of stool and softening it.