What Functions of Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fats, Water, Vitamins and Minerals?

Protein, carbohydrates, fats, water, vitamins and minerals provide energy and perform functions that help in a number of physiological processes.

Essential nutrition is a substance that must be obtained from food because the body cannot synthesize it. This includes water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, said Washington State University. Each food component has a specific function that promotes health.

Sources and Functions of Proteins

The National Institutes of Health Genetics Home Reference describes proteins as long chains of hundreds or thousands of building units called amino acids. In making proteins, the body chooses between 20 amino acids, and the order in each type of protein determines their structure and function. Antibodies, enzymes, and hormones are all proteins. Other types of proteins perform structural and transportation functions.

Food sources of protein come from plants and animals, noted the USDA. Plant sources are beans (including soy products), legumes, legumes and seeds. Animal sources of protein are eggs, seafood, poultry and red meat.

For a healthy eating strategy, consume a variety of proteins, the USDA suggests. Eat fish that contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon or tuna, at least twice a week. Peanut dishes such as lentil soup or vegetable burgers are examples of using vegetable protein sources as main dishes. Limit your intake of red meat and processed meat because it is associated with several types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute's warning.

Carbohydrate Function

Three types of carbohydrates are starch, sugar and fiber. The body breaks down starches and sugars into glucose, which is the only source of energy for red blood cells and the energy source of choice for the brain and central nervous system. When the diet is deficient in glucose, the body breaks down protein in muscles to supply enough glucose to the brain.

Because carbohydrates are not damaged, fiber increases satiety and weight management. Two types of soluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol and can help regulate blood glucose, and are insoluble, which facilitates the movement of feces through the digestive tract and fosters regularity. In addition, evidence shows fiber reduces the risk of chronic diseases, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Healthy Carbohydrates vs. Not healthy

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists starch sources as grains, lentils, peas, beans, and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, parsnips, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Food sources of sugar involve natural sugars found in fruit and milk, as well as honey, sugar syrup, corn syrup, white sugar and brown sugar.

Sources of fiber include lentils, peas, nuts, fruits, vegetables and nuts such as hazelnut, almonds and peanuts. Other high-fiber food sources are whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, oats and whole foods consisting of wheat flour. The latter involves bread, cereals, tortillas, and pasta made from 100 percent whole wheat or whole wheat.

Processed grains include white rice and pasta made with white flour, the CDC said. Other sources are bread and baked goods made with white flour such as crackers, cakes, cakes, and muffins. Such foods contain no fiber and lack of nutrients.

Supporters of the CDC choose healthy carbohydrates, which refers to those who are low in sugar, calories and fat but rich in fiber, water and vitamins. For example, eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice and choose brown rice instead of white rice. Choose bread made with 100 percent whole wheat or whole wheat flour, and avoid bread made from white flour. Try boiled apples with cinnamon instead of a slice of apple pie.

In other words, get your daily carbohydrate intake from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, not from refined grains and simple sugars.

Fat function

Fats supply energy and facilitate absorption of vitamins A, E, D and K, MedlinePlus said. Nutrients from fats include linoleic and linolenic fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and contribute to blood clots and brain development.

Consumption of saturated fat and trans fat is associated with unhealthy cholesterol levels, but consumption of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats is associated with lower cardiovascular risk, MedlinePlus said. Omega-3 fatty acids are linked to anti-inflammatory effects, but omega-6 fatty acids are associated with pro-inflammatory effects, noted the Arthritis Foundation.

Limit your intake of foods high in saturated fats, such as meat, cheese and butter, along with foods that contain trans fats such as margarine and white butter. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating fatty fish like salmon. Nuts, avocados, flaxseeds, eggs, and olive oil are also healthy fat choices.

Function of Water, Vitamins and Minerals

The function of water varies. It lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, helps prevent constipation, helps the kidneys in removing waste and protecting organs and tissues, the Mayo Clinic said. Water also wet tissues and carry nutrients to cells.

The functions of vitamins and minerals are many and varied. For example, vitamin A maintains vision and keeps skin healthy, and vitamin C reduces the risk of common cold. Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth, iron allows oxygen transportation in the blood and zinc boosts the immune system.

Nutrition in Brain Development

Brain development during pregnancy and the first two years of life determines lifelong brain function, stressed Harvard Health Publishing. During this time, nerves grow, connect and are encased in an insulating sheath called myelin. The process of creating a system that plays an important role in attention, learning, memory, processing speed, impulse control and mood. Once created, the system is permanent and cannot be changed.

Harvard Health Publishing says that, aside from nondietary factors such as maintaining, certain nutrients are very important for healthy brain development. These include proteins and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Important vitamin sources include:

  • Choline from eggs, milk, meat and many vegetables
  • Folate from spinach
  • Vitamin A from carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes
  • Vitamin B6 from fish, potatoes and noncitrus fruits
  • Vitamin B12 from fish, dairy products and eggs

These minerals are also very important:

  • Zinc from fish, beans, and dairy products
  • Foods from nuts, lentils, baked potatoes and dark leafy vegetables
  • Iodine from iodized salt, dairy products and seafood

A February 2018 study published in Pediatrics emphasized how important adequate intake of protein, fat, and glucose is for the developing brain. The deficit in one of these nutrients is related to lower IQ scores and more behavioral problems.

While malnutrition is caused by malnutrition, they can also be caused by obesity because excess calories often occur at the expense of the food components needed. Both malnutrition and obesity can interfere with brain development, and it is possible for them to coexist in a person.