Nutrients is a collective term describing the various organic and non-organic compounds in our food, from which our body gathers the means to maintain its own life. More and more research substantiates that nutrients play a diverse and vital part not only in warding off diseases of all kinds; the right nutrients will support the body's natural ability to prevent and combat diseases, provide energy and vitality, and aid in repair and healing, short term as well as long term. There's evidence that nutrients may help or prevent many diseases usually linked to ageing, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, a less than fully functional immune system, degeneration of the nerves, and other chronic diseases.
The nutrients in food are legion; basically they can be divided into groups:
- Minerals are inorganic substances necessary for many processes in the body.
- Phytonutrients are small, chemical substances derived from plants which are shown to play significant roles in maintaining health.
- Proteins are chemical molecules utilized in many different ways, from basic building material to transport molecules and for enzymes that are catalysts of a vast number of chemical processes.
- Vitamins are chemical compounds necessary for a diversity of processes in the body, but which the body is unable to produce, or unable to produce in adequate quantities.
In recent years, science has been engaged in determining the various nutrients present in different foods, as well as the roles they each play in health and nutrition. Unfortunately, the further along these lines the research gets, the more evident it is that these nutrients can't really be observed individually. Rather, it seems that purified fractions of foods really do not work nearly as well in isolation as a complex mix of nutrients from whole foods from natural sources. Not unusually, the nutrients working together provides the health benefits that each nutrient on its own simply does not.
In earlier times, the generally accepted belief was that nutrients mainly served to prevent diseases from deficiency; i.e. diseases such as beriberi, rickets and scurvy. The notion that nutrients had any further role to play in health was dismissed, or even scoffed at.
- DeCava, J.A., C.N.C., L.N.C.. "Natural Versus Synthetic Supplements". Whole Food Nutritional Journal. http://jimtherolfer.com/Client%20Newsletter/Natural%20Versus%20Synthetic.pdf.
- Angier, N. (1992). "Editorial". The New York Times, cited in Acres USA (November 1993, 23(11): 1342).