is Essential Nutrition the Secret to Optimal Wellness?

20 min read

key takeaways:
  • The body can’t produce all the nutrients it needs on its own. Essential nutrition is about making up the difference with pure, nutritious food choices.
  • Processed foods — and factors such as soil degradation — make essential nutrition harder to maintain in the modern era.
  • “All-in-One” Essential Shakes can help to give your body a daily, balanced boost of essential nutrients.
NUTRITION

It’s a fact of life that our bodies need essential nutrition. Yet too many people are eating the wrong foods, and not getting enough of the nutrients they need to be healthy.

Optimal wellness and performance don’t happen by accident.

We can think of the human body as an incredibly smart (yet high-maintenance!) partner. It’s complicated...

But the good news is, by supporting your body with the essential nutrition it needs, your health can get a welcome boost.

Sounds like a deal you’d want to get in on, right?

So, what steps should you take to fuel your body with the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and natural compounds?

Discover everything you need to know in today’s article. Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Essential Nutrition & How Does It Affect the Body?

Essential nutrition involves looking at what types of nutrients the body needs and how they impact our health. But what makes a nutrient essential, exactly?

Science Daily puts forward this definition:

An essential nutrient is a nutrient required for normal body functioning that cannot be synthesized by the body.

In other words, essential nutrition is made up of nutrients that the body can’t make on its own. The only solution?

Food!

Or more specifically, the optimal types of food...

With chronic diseases costing the United States $3.8 trillion per year in health care costs, it’s clear we have a problem. Particularly when poor nutrition is viewed as a major factor that leads to this high prevalence of disease.

Essential nutrients that many Americans are thought to lack include:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Compounds (e.g. essential amino acids)

So, how can you be proactive and make sure you’re getting enough?

Read on to find out more. We’ll break down the macronutrients, micronutrients, and other compounds every human needs to survive (and thrive!) in this hectic, modern world.

Did you know?

92%percent of the population fails to meet the daily minimum requirements for one or more essential vitamins & minerals.  As a nation, America is overfed, undernourished, and getting sicker by the day.

The Big 6 Nutrient Categories & the Role They Play

Broadly speaking, the dictionary definition of "nutrient" is something that provides nourishment. But for health optimization, we need to deep-dive and get more specific. It’s all in the details!

So, let’s lift the veil on the big six categories of nutrients that need to be promoted in your diet:

1. Macronutrients - Protein, Carbs, and Fat

Macronutrients are often thought of as the big players in human nutrition.

Personal trainers across the country will encourage you to “track your macros.” But what are macronutrients made up of?

Here are the three main types:

  • Carbohydrates (or “carbs”)
  • Protein
  • Fat

Dietary guidelines for Americans suggest that carbs should make up 45-65% of our total daily calories. Protein should provide 10-35%, with the remaining 20-35% coming from fat.

Okay, so let’s talk about carbs…

First, you’ve got “simple carbs,” which are made up of short molecule chains and are quick to digest. Foods like corn syrup and table sugar are in the simple carb camp.

Whereas, foods like whole grains, beans, fruits (e.g. berries), and vegetables (e.g. leafy greens) are in the complex carb camp. They have complex molecule chains and are digested more slowly...

As a result, they offer a more enduring source of energy than the “sugar rush” you get from simple carbs. Make sense?

Nice one.

Now, let’s move on to protein and fat...

Meat and fish offer the most protein-packed options, although non-meat eaters can substitute these with foods like lentils and chickpeas.

And as for fats?

Three examples come from nuts, oils, and cheese, which are some of the most widely eaten, fat-rich foods around the world.

2. Micronutrients - Vitamins & Minerals

Right then, it’s time to zone in on micronutrients — a.k.a. vitamins and minerals!

Although you don’t need as many “micros” as you do “macros,” don’t underestimate them...

As Healthline explains, the body must have a sufficient amount of micronutrients for peak performance.

But what role do vitamins and minerals play, in terms of health and wellbeing?

Let’s start off with vitamins…

Vitamins are the cornerstone of immunity, energy production, and many other important tasks on the body’s never-ending to-do list!

And as for minerals? These micronutrients are required for functions such as bone integrity, fluid monitoring, and muscle growth.

With us so far?

Cool. If there’s one thing to remember above all else here, it’s this:

Our bodies need a helping hand to get enough micronutrients.

Yup, it’s true. Since the body can’t produce the required amount of vitamins and minerals internally, it’s down to us (uh-oh, responsibility!) to be the supplier.

So, how can you supply the body with the micronutrients it relies on?

Well, it’s all about dietary choices. The table below from Harvard Health shows us which food sources contain high amounts of different micronutrients:

Foods to Boost Your Immune System:

MicronutrientFood Sources:
Vitamin B6Bananas, Avocados, Nuts, Potatoes with Skin
Vitamin C
Tomatoes, Citrus Fruit, Sweet Peppers, Broccoli, 
Vitamin ESunflower Seeds & Oil, Almonds, Peanut Butter, Pumpkin
MagnesiumWhole Wheat, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds
ZincBeans, Chickpeas, Lentils, Quinoa, Seeds

Really, your two major options for micronutrient intake are:

a) food, and
b) supplementation

The supplementation route is becoming more popular, with life nowadays leaving people busier than ever.

And the recent case of vitamin C serum is an excellent example of increased demand for nutrient supplementation. Online searches for this vitamin serum have doubled in the past two years. Crikey!

At some point in life, you’ve probably tried to “top-up” your body’s nutrient stores with a multivitamin. Many people swear by them...

But when you’re choosing the foods you eat and the supplements you take, there’s something you must, must, MUST, pay attention to (and yes, we’re passionate about this one). Here it is: 

Quality Control!

You see, no two multivitamins or shakes are the same. They’ll be sourced differently, transported differently, and packaged differently...

And further on in this article, we’ll explain why the average American is now at greater risk of impure diets than our ancestors were.

Plus — perhaps most importantly — we’ll show you how you can avoid making the same mistakes that many people do (without even knowing).

3. Essential Fatty Acids - Omega 3 and Omega 6

Essential fatty acids (or EFAs) are fatty acids that the body struggles to make enough of on its own.

Want the cells floating merrily around your body to function at their best?

It’s probably a logical move to top up your EFAs. There are two essential fatty acids to be aware of, plus two that we call “semi-essential”, as the body makes them but in limited quality.

Let’s go through them briefly, one by one...

The first essential fatty acid is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is part of the omega-3 family.

Other omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Oof, good luck remembering those!

Anyway, EPA and DHA are the two “semi-essential” fatty acids we mentioned above. The body produces them in small amounts, but we can be left with deficiencies.

DHA, in particular, is lacking in modern diets.

And part of why fish oil supplements are so widely used is because they can top-up our EPA and DHA levels.

But what about foods that contain omega-3s, we hear you ask?

Walnuts, flaxseeds, oily fish, and green-leafy veg are all potential sources.

Omega-3s are seen as being vital for:

  • Stabilizing your blood cholesterol 
  • Promoting heart health
  • Fetus growth

Moving on, we’ve got the second group of essential fatty acids — LA (or linoleic acid). This acid is in the omega-6 clan.

Go-to foods for getting LA include vegetable oil, corn, and dairy products.

A few of the most significant functions of omega-6 acids are:

  • Weight management
  • Maintaining hair health
  • Maintaining skin health

4. Essential Amino Acids - 9 Essential Amino Acids

Once again, essential amino acids aren’t made by the body, so you’re tasked with getting them through your diet.

Notice a theme here? Hmm…

There are nine essential amino acids in total. Take a breath, because some of the names may leave you tongue-tied!

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

But why do we need to know about these essential amino acids?

The best way to think of them is as the body’s building blocks.

Essentially (sorry, puns aren’t our strong point), they’re compounds that put together proteins in the body. Without them, we’d be in a bit of a mess!

Or — to be more scientific — a deficiency in amino acids can lead to difficulties with the following:

  • Digesting food properly
  • Repairing body tissue
  • Synthesizing hormones

5. Phytonutrients

“What the heck are phytonutrients?” is the common reaction here, but fear not!

Phytonutrients aren’t scary. They’ve got your back. Some say they’ll even “phyt” your corner — ah, another pun!

Anyway, phytonutrients are chemical compounds found in plants. You may have heard of fancy-sounding ones, like flavonoids and isoflavones.

Phytonutrients are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and receive praise for their health benefits across the board.

In the next section, we’ll go into more detail on why the average American lacks these super plant nutrients.

6. Prebiotic Fiber & Probiotics

Prebiotics, probiotics…

Yeah, they sound cool. Why are they so necessary for health and wellness, though?

Let’s kick things off with prebiotics. They’re a type of dietary fiber that your gut loves, because they help with nourishing “friendly” bacteria (the good guys).

As a result of this nourishment, the gut can keep your digestive system ticking over by giving the colon cells enough nutrients.

Could do with some inspiration for prebiotic food ideas?

Sure thing. Here are a few:

  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Chicory root
  • Fermented dairy products, e.g. yogurt, kefir, sour cream (watch out for added sugars!)
  • Garlic
  • Oats
  • Onion
  • Seaweed

And then there are probiotics, which seem to get even more public attention. These guys are live bacteria (sounds gross, but very important) and yeasts that have wide-ranging health benefits.

Ever taken antibiotics when you’ve been feeling under the weather?

You may be wise to consider supplementing with probiotics anytime you do. Because — while antibiotics may be great for treating infections — they can harm your gut bacteria too.

After your gut’s taken a hit, probiotics help to re-balance the bacterial landscape (it’s a busy place down there!)

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The 9 Most Important Nutrients Missing From Modern Diets

1. Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is found in animal-sourced foods such as eggs, butter, and oily fish, but the primary way of getting Vitamin D is through sunlight or ultraviolet light.  Non-animal sources of Vitamin D are mushrooms, lichen, and ahiflower.

Those who live somewhere that lacks sunlight at certain times of the year, or spend most of their time indoors (as many of us do), may be more at risk of a vitamin D3 shortage.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

400–800 IU, or 10–20 micrograms (mcg), though you may need more if you aren’t exposed to a lot of sunlight every day.

2. Magnesium

Did you know that magnesium is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions throughout the body? Pretty amazing, no?

Magnesium is needed to support your nerves and muscles, as well as vital functions like blood pressure regulation. Unfortunately, though, a large number of Americans fail to get enough magnesium from their daily diet.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

310–420 milligrams (mg) for adults, depending on age and gender. Men need an average of 100 mg more magnesium per day than women.

3. Vitamin K2

Fermented foods, dairy, and animal products are the main sources of vitamin K2, which helps with blood clotting (to stop excess bleeding).

And by being able to break down calcium build-ups in the artery walls, vitamin K2 can also promote healthy circulation.

The result?

Less pressure on the heart, and less chance of cardiovascular disease.

Make sure to watch out for blood thinners and anticoagulants, as they can inhibit how much vitamin K2 the body can benefit from.

Also, recent studies have highlighted a link between vitamin K2 deficiency and poor COVID-19 outcomes, you can read more here.

Following these results, researcher Dr. Rob Janssen — of Canisius Wilhelmina Hospital, Netherlands — reported:

“Considering that vitamin K is important for regulating lung health and blood clotting, vitamin K deficiency during COVID-19 may make both those problems worse.”

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

120 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin K for adult males and 90 mcg for adult females.

4. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is kinda a genius. When you think that it’s a core part of how the body makes DNA and red blood cells, you’ve got to give it credit!

Like with magnesium, many people in the U.S. don’t get enough of this micronutrient. Vegan diets and health conditions such as Crohn’s disease can increase the likelihood of a deficiency.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

2.4 mcg for people over the age of 14.

5. Folate

Studies have explored the connection between a lack of folate in the body and health conditions such as depression and dementia.

And folate supplementation has been shown to reduce certain amino acids in the body that are linked to heart disease.

Those at the highest risk of low folate?

Pregnancy, malabsorptive disorders, and alcoholism are several of the biggest risk factors.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

400 micrograms (mcg) for adults. However, pregnant women (or those planning for pregnancy) should aim for a daily dose of 400-800 mcg.

6. Iodine

Has your thyroid ever been out of whack?

Then you’ll most likely have heard of iodine. The body needs iodine to produce two key hormones in the thyroid (which is the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck):

Thyroxine (T4), and Triiodothyronine (T3)

Together, T3 and T4 are in charge of many physical functions. These include temperature regulation, energy, and weight management...

But here’s the issue — the thyroid is at risk of imbalances. In fact, around 20 million Americans are estimated to have thyroid disease, though as little as 40% are aware of it.

Yikes!

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

150 mcg per day for the majority of adults. Again, pregnant and breastfeeding women will need more to allow their baby’s brain and bones to grow — approximately 250 mcg/day during pregnancy and lactation.

7. Iron

Fancy some spinach?

Iron (which spinach is famously lauded for!) is one of the essential minerals you need for complete nutrition.

Case in point?

The body relies on iron to make a protein called hemoglobin. This protein allows red blood cells to take oxygen from the lungs and dish it out around the rest of the body.

What’s more, iron also promotes healthy connective tissue and muscle metabolism — a.k.a. the “fuel” that keeps you on your feet all day!

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

Men and women differ considerably, here. 8 mg of iron per day is enough for men, whereas women of menstruating age will need 18 mg.

8. Antioxidant-Rich Phytonutrients

The only way to get more phytonutrients is via plant-based food. But the fruits and vegetables we eat may not be sufficient to support the heart and ward off cancers, research has suggested.

U.S. health surveys found that the average diet lacked phytonutrient-dense foods like:

  • Kale (for lutein)
  • Papaya (for beta-cryptoxanthin)
  • Raspberries (for ellagic acid)
  • Watercress (for isothiocyanate)

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

Generally, 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended to get a decent amount of phytonutrients. Ever in doubt which foods to choose? Try to “eat a rainbow” each day — a food in every color.

9. Dietary Fiber

Constipated? Then dietary fiber is your friend!

Made up of the “roughage” of plant foods (which the body can’t absorb), dietary fiber promotes normal bowel movements, lowers cholesterol, and balances blood sugar levels.

Yet, staggeringly, only 5% of Americans meet the Institute of Medicine’s advised fiber intake!

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI):

Under the age of 50? You’ll need 38 grams of daily fiber if you’re a man, and 25 grams if you’re a woman. Over 50s will need anywhere from 21 grams (women) to 30 grams (men).

Did you know?

Elevated carbon dioxide has been shown to significantly reduce the important minerals and nutrients in plants. Increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 has negatively effected the nutritional density of the food we eat - resulting in a nutrient reduction of 9% in C3 plants, which make up about 95% of the crops on planet earth.

5 Reasons Why It's Hard to Get Everything Your Body Needs From Food Alone

1. Soil Degradation

Unless you’re an avid fan of gardening, you may not get your hands “dirty” as much as people did in generations gone by. But soil quality is no less important for our health now as it was 100 — or even 1,000 — years ago.

And here’s the worry:

Environmental schemes and governments have been waving red flags on soil degradation for a while now.

For example, the NSW Government in Australia says that soil quality is at risk due to “improper use and poor management.”

Urban, industrial, and agricultural misuse are being blamed...

At this point, at least one-third of the Earth’s soil is acutely degraded. And 24 billion tons of fertile soil is lost per year, due to intensive farming.

Factors involved with soil degradation include:

  • Contamination from toxic pollutants
  • Erosion from elements such as water and wind
  • Imbalances in soil pH (e.g. too acidic or alkaline)
  • Mass movement, leading to disrupted soil
  • Reduction in organic matter

All of these combined make for unhappy soil!

And when our soil is lower in quality than it once was, what do you think happens to our food?

Exactly the same.

2. Industrialized Agriculture Practices

Aside from soil erosion, industrial agriculture is also stripping away plant nutrients that our bodies need.

The proof?

Take a look at this study on how soil stocks are changing (for the worse) around the world.

Nitrogen stores are down 42%, sulfur is down 33%, and phosphorus levels have fallen 27%.

Plants need all of the above to build proteins and enzymes for optimal function. So, it’s definitely a warning sign...

But what’s caused the decline?

Industrial farming methods are a big part of the equation. Large-scale crop and animal farming — often involving chemical fertilizers for the crops and antibiotics for the animals — impacts the natural world in several ways:

  • Depletes fossil fuels
  • Topsoil damage
  • Unsustainable water consumption

3. Reliance on Ultra-Processed Foods

You’ll have heard of processed foods, but ultra-processed foods?

Maybe not.

Here’s the easiest way to tell the difference:

Processed foods are packaged and have added ingredients, such as oils or sugar. Canned tuna in sunflower oil is one example. It’s convenient, but not necessarily as nutritious as whole foods that haven’t been tampered with.

Ultra-processed foods, though, go further in the wrong direction…

These foods are manipulated in many ways (e.g. processes like milling and molding). They also have a greater list of added ingredients. The candies, fries, and ice-cream of this world often fall into this category.

And yes, we agree — it IS unfair on our taste buds!

Oh well...

But listen to this, because guess what % of calories the average American gets from ultra-processed foods?

50%, according to the Heart and Stroke Association.

So, if we want to give our bodies the essential nutrients they need to thrive, avoiding (or at least, limiting) these types of food seems to be the sensible move.

4. Pesticides & Herbicides

Pesticides, herbicides… even the names sound foreboding, don’t they?!

Pesticides are chemical mixtures intended for pest control. And herbicides are a form of pesticide — used to kill plants like weeds, that can be invasive and hurt farming production.

The problem is, pesticides and herbicides aren’t selective. They kill the unwanted stuff, but they also wipe out much of everything else they come into contact with!

“Evidence?” you ask...

More than 98% of certain sprayed pesticides reach a destination other than the target, and 95% of herbicides do the same.

Basically, this means non-target species like water, air, and indeed food, get spoiled in the process…

And yep, that means most Americans are consuming pesticide-sprayed food. A genuine concern.

5. Nutrient Bioavailability & Absorption

Sorry — more long words!

In a nutshell, bioavailability is the nutrient % your body is able to digest and absorb.

Dr. Suzanne Cole (University of Michigan) states that several big factors have an impact on human bioavailability, such as:

  • Concentration of nutrients
  • Diet-related factors, e.g. food processing
  • Life-stage 
  • Nutritional status

However, many people aren’t taking advantage of strategies that can boost the bioavailability of food nutrients.

Useful methods include eating a balance of raw and cooked foods, and consuming foods that work well together...

For example, citrus foods like oranges (that are high in vitamin C) go well with foods high in iron (e.g. nuts or meat) to improve nutrient absorption.

QUESTION:

Over 95% of herbicides and pesticides reach a destination other than their target, but where do they go?

ANSWER:

In our soil, in our air, in our water,
and in our food!

What Happens When Essential Nutrition Is Lacking?

Bruce Ames' Nutritional Triage Theory of Aging

Dr. Bruce Ames’ bow-tie game is on point (see the video below), but he’s also come up with a fascinating theory of aging. It’s a little complex, so we’ll do our best to explain it in clear terms.

Dr. Ames puts forward that — over time — our bodies have had to ration micronutrients, due to a shortage in our daily diets.

The consequence of this?

When our cells run too low on these essential nutrients, they have to use proteins in the body to survive. Short-term, it works well enough. But long-term?

Not so much...

The reason being is that, in turn, the proteins we need to maintain our health long-term get depleted — leading to DNA breakdown and potential for disability.

Nutritional Deficiencies

As Healthline describes, there are seven common nutritional deficiencies — often due to imbalances in the standard modern diet.

Here are the essential nutrients that some people lack for rounded, complete nutrition:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D

As Healthline describes, there are seven common nutritional deficiencies — often due to imbalances in the standard modern diet.

Here are the essential nutrients that some people lack for rounded, complete nutrition:

Nutritional Deficiencies

In simple words, lifestyle illnesses are health issues caused by how people live.

We know that chronic diseases often begin in middle age, following long-term exposure to factors such as those listed below:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking

Arguably, the modern American is more vulnerable to lifestyle-related illnesses now than ever before…

Why?

Truth is, it’s hard to eat well, drink well, and move well when many people around us are doing the exact opposite!

How to Boost Your Body’s Essential Nutrients

Many thanks for sticking with us!

After reading all of the science, you may be scratching your head...

“Am I getting all of the nutrients I need?”

Don’t worry if this thought has crossed your mind. The team at LYFE Fuel has come up with something extra special to fill the nutrient gap...

That’s right. The Essentials Shake is the first and only complete nutrition shake, designed to make up for insufficiencies in the typical modern diet.

It's your daily dose of wellness, made easy. 

FAQs

References:

  • Harvard Medical School. (2016). Micronutrients have major impact on health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/micronutrients-have-major-impact-on-health (Accessed: 9 February 2021)
  • Nutraceutical Business Review. (2020). COVID-19 and cardiovascular health: the role of K2 in high vitamin D supplementation. Available at: https://www.nutraceuticalbusinessreview.com/news/article_page/COVID-19_and_cardiovascular_health_the_role_of_K2_in_high_vitamin_D_supplementation/171381 (Accessed: 9 February 2021)
  • Vox. (2019). Nearly all Americans fail to eat enough of this actual superfood. Available at: https://www.vox.com/2019/3/20/18214505/fiber-diet-weight-loss (Accessed: 9 February 2021)
  • PubMed. (2017). Global changes in soil stocks of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur as influenced by long-term agricultural production. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27670741 (Accessed: 9 February 2021)
  • Michigan State University. (2018). Are you absorbing the nutrients you eat? Available at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/are_you_absorbing_the_nutrients_you_eat (Accessed: 9 February 2021)
  • Public Health Notes. (2019). Macro and Micro-Nutrient Deficiencies. Available at: https://www.publichealthnotes.com/macro-and-micro-nutrient-deficiencies/ (Accessed: 9 February 2021)

Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on https://lyfefuel.com/. If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.