The 6 Essential Nutrients You Need to Live Your Best Life
So you’ve set some New Year’s resolutions for 2021, have you?
We’ll bet that at least one of them has to do with your physical health. If this is the case, start with the fuel that’s going to power your body through the day: your nutrition. Getting all six essential nutrients in your diet can help keep your body happy and ensure that you’re living your best life this year.
From proteins and fats to vitamins and minerals, we’ll touch on the benefits of each, and how you can make sure you get enough of these nutrients in a plant-based diet (*hint* our dairy-free vegan milks and vegan protein powders might come in handy).
Why Do We Need Nutrients?
The human body is pretty incredible. The way our skin protects us from infection is nothing short of a miracle. So why do we need nutrients in the first place? It turns out that our bodies can’t do everything(/anything) on their own. In order to function properly, they need a bit of help. This is where nutrients come in to save the day.
The World Health Organisation divides nutrients into two categories, both of which are useful for achieving optimal health:
- Macronutrients, like protein, fats, carbohydrates and water, are things the body needs in larger amounts
- Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, are things we need in small doses
Can You Get Enough Nutrients on a Vegan Diet?
The idea that you can’t get enough nutrients on a vegan diet is a common misconception (#fakenews). It’s definitely possible to get enough nutrients on a plant-based diet – you just need to know where to look.
Luckily, the world has come a long way in the last few decades, and these days there are many products designed specifically to help increase your nutrient intake without meat, eggs and dairy. Our hemp-based products, for example, are rich in protein, fibre and omega 3 and we’re one of the UK’s sustainable food brands that cater to vegan diets and deliver to your door.
That’s one excuse refuted!
The 6 Essential Nutrients
A healthy diet starts with learning more about what your body needs. The six essential nutrients are protein, fats, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals. Their health benefits range from supporting vital bodily functions and assisting the immune system, all the way to preventing disease in the long run.
Protein has a very important job in the body. It’s primarily responsible for tissue growth and regeneration, which comes in handy every minute of your life. If you’re following a vegan diet, grains (like quinoa), soy, nuts and seeds (eg our hemp seed hearts) should all be on your shopping list every week. However, you need to ensure you’re getting all of your amino acids which some vegan protein sources lack. Want to know more? Check out our article which breaks down everything you need to know on complete proteins and amino acids.
That’s not to say that you have to limit yourself when it comes to finding other tasty vegan protein sources. Take our additive-free, hemp-based protein powder, for instance. It’s a great way to increase your protein intake without too much effort. The powder works well in pancake mixes, bread recipes, morning smoothies and so much more.
Repeat after me: “Fats aren’t inherently bad!” They have a dodgy reputation because of some misinformation spread in the 90s and fad diets, but the right kind of fat is actually a great energy source, provides essential fatty acids and carries fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
There are two types of fats to look out for in the products you buy: mono and polyunsaturated fats make Santa’s nice list each year, while saturated and trans fats are on the naughty list. The good fats we need can be found in amongst others seeds, coconut oil and nuts. Hemp seeds – the basis of many of our vegan hemp products – are a particularly good source of omega-3, a healthy unsaturated fat. Whereas there are different kinds of omega that all play an important part in activating the immune system, omega 3 is one that our body can’t produce by itself. That’s why you need to get it from nutrition.
If you want to boost your immune system with the good kind of fats, check out our vegan recipes with hemp, one of the best plant-based sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in the body. When converted into glucose, carbs act as fuel for the tissues and cells of the body. The conversion happens in both types of carbohydrates – simple and complex.
The main difference between the two is that the complex carbohydrates take longer to break down. When found in wholegrain bread, cereal, oatmeal, barley and starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and lentils, this makes them a good energy source over a longer period of time. The highly refined complex carbohydrates found in cakes, white bread and pastries are not as good for the body, however.
A complex carbohydrate that has a different function altogether is fibre. Unlike its counterparts, fibre can’t be digested by the human body and therefore doesn’t provide us with energy or nutrients. It does, however, play a very important role in a healthy diet: it’s kind of like the street sweeper of our digestive system. As it passes through our bowels, it helps the body remove potentially harmful waste. In other words: it helps us take a good sh*t. A fibre-rich diet is also known to help sustain regular bowel movement, prevent weight gain and it may even help prevent colon cancer.
The vast majority of people in the UK don’t get enough fibre in their diet and especially coeliacs might struggle to hit the recommended 30g per day. That’s why – on top of fibre-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, peas, beans and pulses and wholegrain bread, barley and rye – we’ve added an extra fibre boost to one of our gluten and wheat-free hemp-protein powders. Add it to your smoothie, porridge or bakes to hit a bunch of essential nutrients at breakfast.
Every glass of water is a modern miracle. This special macronutrient makes up a majority percentage of our total body composition and is essential to our survival each day.
Water not only nourishes our cells but also flushes toxins out, transports other nutrients and acts as a lubricant in the body. We need a lot of it, and regularly, as dehydration can have severe effects on the functioning of your body. The best source of water? The tap, of course. Purified water is another option, especially if you want peace of mind about the quality of every glass you drink.
There are as many as 13 essential vitamins that nutritionists usually divide into two camps: fat soluble (including vitamin A, D, E & K), and water soluble (featuring vitamin B and its variants, as well as vitamin C). These help the body in multiple ways, from metabolising proteins and carbs to strengthening teeth and bones, and even helping with maintaining healthy skin.
If you’re eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you should already be getting most of the vitamins you need. A doctor can easily test for any deficiencies in your body, and suggest a supplement to make up for the shortfall if need be.
Minerals can be divided into two types: major (like magnesium, calcium & sodium) and trace (like iron, zinc & manganese). Major minerals help to improve bone health, balance water levels and maintain healthy hair, nails and skin. Trace minerals assist with strengthening bones, preventing tooth decay, supporting healthy blood pressure and helping to carry oxygen all over the body.
Optimal health comes from having a good balance of both in your diet. Both mineral types can be found in nuts and seeds, leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.
Living Your Best Life This Year
Equipped with all the knowledge you need about the six essential nutrients, now is the perfect time to put a plan together to incorporate them into your vegan diet.
This goes beyond just following a New Year’s resolution. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that there has never been a more important time for us to prioritise our health, and to do what we can to look after ourselves.
Here’s to more mornings of waking up feeling happy and healthy in 2021.