Each season, our culture bombards us with fashion essentials and accessories, but did you know that your body needs nutrient essentials and accessories for maximized health? It’s true. In fact, essential nutrients are essential for life—hence, the name—and they must come from the diet, since the body can’t make them on its own. They include at least 13 vitamins, at least 15 minerals, several amino acids and certain fatty acids.
Essential vitamins are divided into two groups, fat-soluble and water-soluble, and include an array of vitamins. Among the fat-soluble vitamins are: A, D, E, and K. Essential water-soluble essential vitamins include: C (ascorbic acid), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B12, folic acid and biotin.
Additionally, essential minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, chromium, potassium, sodium and a number of trace elements. These minerals make up part of the necessary elements of body tissues, fluids and other nutrients and play an active role in the body’s regulatory functions. And as much as we need vitamins, we also need minerals because the body can make some vitamins, but it can’t make one mineral.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are unsaturated fats required in the diet, with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as the two principal types. The primary omega-3 oil is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), found in flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and other foods. Fish and fish oils, such as salmon, cod and mackerel, contain the other important omega-3 oils, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
It doesn’t stop with essential nutrients. We also need accessory nutrients or cofactors. They are just as important to health because they work in harmony with essential nutrients to aid in the breakdown and conversion of food into cellular energy and to help support the body’s physical and mental functions.
Some of the accessory nutrients include B-complex cofactors choline and inositol, as well as coenzyme Q10 (a close relative of the B vitamins) and lipoic acid. Other accessory nutrients that increase health benefits include PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid) and substance P (bioflavonoids), which work with vitamin C. Likewise, certain amino acids can be synthesized by the body from the essential amino acids. These include alanine, carnitine, cysteine, glutamine, taurine and tyrosine.
And let’s not forget about enzymes…Enzymes are specialized living proteins fundamental to all living processes in the body. They’re necessary for every chemical reaction and for the normal activity of our organs, tissues, fluids and cells. In addition, the body contains an estimated several trillion beneficial bacteria comprising over 400 strains—all necessary for health. Many of these “friendly” bacteria, also called probiotics, reside in the intestines where they are essential for proper nutrient assimilation.
Essential nutrients and accessory nutrients…they’re the “must haves” for health.