The primary function of food is to provide the body with energy to ensure its functioning. As key elements to maintain its physiological balance and protective substances to maintain fitness. But for it to be optimal, it is essential that it combines food in quantity and quality while taking care to preserve the enjoyment of food. An equation that is not always easy to solve considering everyone’s lifestyle, environmental context and physiological fluctuations!
There are two types of nutrients
On closer inspection, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to meet the nutrient requirements for some of them, and what’s more, for each of them just through a plate. Either because the values to be achieved presuppose the ingestion of a disproportionate amount of food, or because they are simply unattainable from a physiological point of view.
When talking about nutrients, it is important to distinguish between:
- nutrients that provide energy, such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins,
- and nutrients that contribute to the development and proper functioning of the body, such as water, vitamins, minerals, fiber and micronutrients.
If food usually makes it possible to easily cover the needs of energy-providing nutrients, it is more difficult to achieve the recommended daily intake of vitamins, minerals and trace elements in this way alone. To be convinced of this, just look at a few examples of particularly essential nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc or selenium, which play an important role in the immune system.
Vitamin D: difficult to meet needs especially in the winter months
Recommended daily doses of vitamin D for an adult assume a daily intake of approximately 10 to 15 µg (400 to 600 IU) at a strictly dietary level and based on the latest valid recommendations.
Dietary intake of vitamin D is relatively low and can only be ensured by consuming certain naturally high-fat sources (fatty fish, eggs, whole milk products) or fortified foods (oils, margarine, etc.).
The main source of vitamin D remains exposure to sunlight (80 to 90% of intake). This is not without problems even here, especially between the months of October and March. This is why vitamin D deficiency is so prevalent, especially in the winter months.
Zinc: so important for the body and so rare in the diet
Zinc is a vital element for the body. It contributes to the normal function of the immune system, is necessary for cell growth and division (protein and DNA synthesis), contributes to the maintenance of normal fertility and contributes to the metabolism of macronutrients, fatty acids and vitamin A, etc. Unfortunately, only 20-30% of zinc from food is absorbed body, which limits effective dietary intake. The RDA in zinc for an adult male is 11 mg/day and 8 mg/day for an adult female. This is the consumption equivalent to 70 g of wheat germ (12.6 mg), 90 g of oysters (14.4 mg), 250 g of beef (12.5 mg) or 800 g of whole grain bread (14.4 mg)!
Selenium: cannot be satisfied by diet alone
Selenium is a very important nutrient for the body because, among other things, it contributes to:
- protects cells from damage by oxidative stress,
- normal function of the immune system,
- normal thyroid function,
- nail and hair maintenance.
The RDA for selenium is 70 mcg/d for adult men and women. Just to cover this recommended daily intake of selenium, it would be appropriate to eat the equivalent of 80g of sardines (68µg), 200g of oysters (72µg), 190g of calf’s liver (72.2µg) or more than 1kg of wholemeal bread (60µg) !
In addition, unfortunately, soil depletion of selenium (chemical fertilizers, acid rain, etc.) is a reality in Northern Europe. This is an unfavorable factor for the natural content of food grown in these regions.
However, any deficiency or insufficient intake exposes the body to lower resistance to oxidative stress, an increased risk of viral infections and the development of certain pathologies. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.
Considering these three examples, we observe that it is not so easy to provide the body with everything it needs, only with a regular, varied, balanced and high-quality diet. This is why, in certain circumstances, it is wise to use dietary supplements to optimize intake and best protect health capital.
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