Nutrient Glossary

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Essential Nutrient Overview

Your body has innate nutritional needs that it requires for health and function.  These are called essential nutrients.  You cannot live on wood like termites.  You cannot use sunlight for energy like plants.  So, the basic physiology of your body determines what you need to consume for fuel and also for nutrition.  These are the substances that your body is designed to run on.

For example, you need to consume Vitamin C from your food.  If you do not, you will develop scurvy like an 18th century sailor.  Almost all other mammals actually do not need to consume Vitamin C, however.  They can make it from other substances they eat.  Humans and other primates cannot do this.   In other words, you are required to consume these essential nutrients from the food that you eat.

We need to consume Vitamin C from our food to satisfy a need of your body.  This is a basic example of how the essential nutrients you obtain from your food are specific to your body as a human being.  You will find a list of the known essential nutrients below.

What Else Affects the Essential Nutrients My Body Needs?
The essential elements that your body requires from your nutrition are based on both the innate needs of your body and also the specifics of your lifestyle.  The optimal levels are determined by things like your activity level, your age, even your environment.  High levels of physical activity will require greater calorie intake.  So will exposure to cold temperatures.  As we age, often the absorption of nutrients declines so more micronutrients are necessary.  It is important to remember that your body is dynamic and its essential nutrient requirements are dependant on the rest of your lifestyle at the time.

Where Can I Get The Essential Nutrients My Body Needs?
Nutrients are designed to come from eating real food in a manner that supports your lifestyle.  Whether from plants or animals, the food that we eat contains an extremely complex mixture of chemical compounds.  And often times, the name of a nutrient is actually referring to a classification of nutrients, rather than a single isolated element.  And the form and context that these nutrients come from is often crucial in how well our body can use them.  So a best practice is to consume a wide variety of real food that is congruent with your genetics and lifestyle that is in line with the Bonfire Health Ideal Diet.

Macro and Micro Nutrients
The two main categories of nutrients are Macronutrients and Micronutrients.

Macronutrients are the substances that we need in relatively large amounts, and include the three sources of calories – fat, carbohydrates and protein – as well as water.

Micronutrients include a large list of substances that our bodies need in smaller amounts, such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and essential fatty acids.

Minerals play a crucial role in the health of your body. Certain minerals are essential elements that you need to consume in your diet.  They include electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride, bone and teeth components such as calcium and phosphorus, and vital components of energy production such as magnesium.

The health of the digestive system influences its ability to properly absorb nutrients.  Key factors in mineral absorption are the mineral’s form (bioavailability) as well as interactions with other nutrients and substances present in the digestive system.  The digestive system needs to be properly acidic for the absorption of certain minerals, for example.

Minerals are typically broken down into two categories:  macrominerals and microminerals.  Larger amounts of macrominerals are consumed than the microminerals.  Just like all substances taken into your body, there are specific ranges of amounts which your body needs.

These macrominerals do not provide energy (calories) but serve many important functions in your body.

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride

Microminerals are present in all types of real, natural food to varying amounts.  Often times, the health of the soil will determine the micromineral content of food.  They are typically absorbed by your body in the small intestine.

Microminerals serve most commonly as co-factors for enzymes, meaning they are important for specific biochemical activities in your body.

Here are some microminerals:

  • Chromium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Iodine
  • Molybdenum

The importance of fiber in your diet has been a topic of great research interest during recent years.  Fiber is found in natural foods – whole plant foods, in particular, are great sources of the various types of fiber.  Fiber includes both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Both are important for digestive health.  Fiber was a large part of our ancestors‘ diet.  Great sources of fiber include bananas, apples, pears, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, green beans and zucchini, as well as various berries, nuts and seeds.

Essential Fats
Certain fats are essential nutrients for your body.  For many years, conventional nutritional advice was to keep fat intake as low as possible, particularly saturated fat from animals.  However, it had been observed as early as 1929 that people and animals did not thrive when fed a processed diet specifically designed to remove all fat – and that adding a fatty component back to the diet will reverse ill effects. So after many years of a “minimize-fat” stance (low fat, non-fat, no fat), it has become apparent that numerous health problems occur when healthy natural fats are deficient in people’s diets. To read more about fat in general and saturated fat in particular, read Fat Is Good.

While it has now become recognized that fat is a necessary component of a healthy diet, certain specific types of fat are essential to the body.  The specific types of fats described as essential fall into two types: Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • are unsaturated
  • are only found in certain foods
  • are a long chain fat, meaning they are a longer molecule than the majority of fats we consume

There are also several differences between them.  We consume far too many Omega-6 fatty acids in our modern diet, and we consume far too little Omega-3 fats, especially DHA and EPA.  Omega-6 fats are found in many sources commonly found in our diet, while Omega-3, especially the essential DHA and EPA, are not commonly found in our diet today.  In addition, Omega-6 fats tend to have pro-inflammatory effects, while Omega-3 fats have an anti-inflammatory influence on your body.  The best source of DHA and EPA Omega-3 fatty acids is fresh water fish.  The easiest way to make sure you are consuming enough Omega-3 fatty acids is to take a daily supplement.

Many nutrients play an essential role in your body by acting as antioxidants.  Antioxidants protect cells, DNA and proteins from damage by free radicals.  Free radicals are produced by normal metabolic processes in your body as a by-product of energy production and use.  However, unhealthy lifestyle choices create excessive free radicals that create damage to your body.  Free radical damage is associated with blood vessel damage and cardiovascular disease, DNA damage and cancer formation, and dementia.

Antioxidants are most concentrated in plant foods, especially those with bright colors.

The most commonly discussed antioxidants include:

  • Vitamin A:  found in carrots, kale and broccoli; critical for vision
  • Vitamin C:  found in red peppers, parsley and citrus fruits; supports the immune system
  • Vitamin E:  found in avocados, eggs, oils, leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds; promotes a healthy heart and aides in the absorption of nutrients
  • Carotenoids:  found in oranges, tomatoes, bananas and brightly colored peppers; aide in healthy immune function and fight free radicals
  • Lycopene:  found in tomatoes, pink grapefruits, watermelon and papayas; important for preventing heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and male infertility.
  • Glutathione:  found in raw fruits and vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, avocados, and cauliflower; detoxifies carcinogens and free radicals and plays an important role in the immune system, gastrointestinal system, and the nervous system.

There is a broad range of nutrients in food that have levels of antioxidant activity; many are known, and likely even more remain to be uncovered.

Research shows that antioxidants are best obtained from whole foods, rather than as isolated chemicals.  A Bonfire diet-style provides a high level of antioxidants by supplying you with a broad range of fruits and vegetables, and at the same time, a genetically congruent lifestyle minimizes excessive free radical production.

One of the most dynamic areas of nutritional research has been into the body’s needs for fruits and vegetables.  The complex chemical compounds found in plant foods have been shown over and over again to have proven health effects and protect us from disease.  The chemicals in plants are often referred as phytochemicals, or phytonutrients.

The Linus Pauling Institute at the University of Oregon:

“Phytochemicals can be defined, in the strictest sense, as chemicals produced by plants.  However, the term is generally used to describe chemicals from plants that may affect health, but are not essential nutrients.”

However, in combination, research shows that they are in fact a critical essential element.  A key to this aspect of phytochemicals is that their effects add together.  Rather than a single chemical from a specific plant, the effects are from the spectrum of phytochemicals, and the total amount consumed.  This is why a Bonfire Health Diet Style includes eating a wide variety of vegetables!

Here are some of the more well known classifications of phytochemicals (although there are many thousands, most unknown):

See more about phytochemicals here at the Linus Pauling Institute.

It became clear that there were specific substances in food that were necessary for health, and that the lack of certain substances led to disease.  In 1912, the term “vitamin” was coined to describe these substances.  At first, there were two known vitamins, or classes of vitamins:  Vitamin A, the fat-soluble vitamin, and Vitamin B, the water-soluble vitamin.

There are now 13 essential vitamins, broken down into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin A (carrots, kale, and broccoli)
  • Vitamin D (fatty fish such as salmon, sunlight)
  • Vitamin E (avocados, eggs, oils, leafy greens such as spinach, nuts and seeds)
  • Vitamin K (green leafy vegetables such as kale, swiss chard, spinach, parsley and lettuce)

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin B1 (green vegetables, beets, almonds, turnips and beans)
  • Vitamin B2 (eggs, nuts, fish and lean meats)
  • Vitamin B3 (turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, avocados, dates and mushrooms)
  • Vitamin B5 (broccoli, avocado, and meats)
  • Vitamin B6 (meats, raw vegetables, nuts)
  • Vitamin B7 (egg yolk, liver, some vegetables)
  • Vitamin B9 (liver, turkey, tuna, banana, potatoes, chili peppers)
  • Vitamin B12 (fish and shellfish, liver and other meat sources, eggs)
  • Vitamin C (red peppers, parsley, citrus fruits)

Your body requires protein in your diet.  Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids.  Your body connects various amino acids together to form long protein chains that are an essential part of every cell and tissue of your body.  Therefore, your body does best when an array of the various amino acid types are consumed.

Essential Amino Acids
Certain amino acids are essential.  Essential amino acids must be consumed in the diet or a deficiency results.  In other words, they cannot be made by your body.  The essential amino acids, however, can be used by your body to create all the other non-essential amino acids.

The essential amino acids are:  threonine, lysine, methionine, arginine, valine, phenylanine, leucine, tryptophan, isoleucine and histidine.  They are abundant in animal products like eggs, chicken and beef.  Be sure to select free range, grass-fed, naturally raised meats and eggs.  They can also be found in various nuts and seeds.

These amino acids cannot be made by your body.  They need to be consumed in your diet.  These ten amino acids are referred to as the essential amino acids.

Movement as a Nutrient

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Critical Thinking:  Regular exercise is one component of being healthy – I need/want to exercise regularly.

Best Practices:  I work out every day (you only have to work out on the days you eat :) ).

Move or Die – Why Exercise is Essential
Want to be truly healthy?  Want to have boundless energy and avoid heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and senile dementia, not to mention obesity?  Well, it is now a scientific fact that to be healthy, to be “well,” you must exercise regularly.  It is no longer simply a luxury or for people who want to “be in shape” – the effect regular exercise has on your overall health is now known to be critical and essential for health and well being.  That’s why exercise must now be considered an essential element or required nutrient, not simply some form of therapeutic activity.  It should be thought of as important as breathing.

Exercise must be looked upon as an integral part of a complete health regimen (just like eating deep-fried food or smoking is part of a disease regimen).  For example, it’s been known for decades that regular exercise benefits the cardiovascular system, preventing heart attacks and high blood pressure.  Now, however, studies have also shown that women with breast cancer who exercised have a much greater survival rate compared to those with breast cancer who didn’t exercise.  The average person will read that and say “I don’t have breast cancer, so that doesn’t apply to me.” But what that study reveals is that exercise supports and enhances immune function – that’s why the women who exercised had three times the survival rate!

Although exercise, combined with proper dietary lifestyle practices, is a viable method of reversing many disease processes, the obvious conclusion is that we should all experience the benefit of an optimal functioning whole body physiology, which includes the immune system, by incorporating exercise into our daily and weekly regimen – as a priority, not “If my schedule allows it” or “Well, now that I’ve been diagnosed with XYZ condition, I better start getting in shape.”

Your Future Health Is Exercise-Dependent
Scientific evidence has proven that, combined with proper eating habits, regular exercise can prevent and even reverse diabetes.  Again, you may not have diabetes [5.3 million Americans have diabetes and don't know yet that they have it - The China Study, pg. 145], but do you see the inherent importance that exercise has on blood sugar and insulin regulation?

Want to avoid Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease?  That’s right – exercise!  Just as in the example described above involving diabetes, exercise combined with optimal, whole food nutrition high in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants from fresh organic fruits and vegetables, and sufficient Omega essential fatty acids from fish oil and flax oil has been found to be the best defense against the ravages of senile dementia.  Furthermore, none of those requirements listed previously can be substituted for another – we need the whole package:  exercise, proper dietary nutrients, rest, and a positive attitude.

And of course, last but not least – exercise is critical to avoiding obesity.  You knew that, right?  But did you also know that obesity is highly associated in causal effect with diabetes, cancer, and heart disease?

The Bottom Line:  exercise regularly to optimize your health and your life.  Or, then again you could choose to die an early, painful, and crippling death – the choice is yours!

Vital Behaviors:

• Get up earlier to allow time for a workout.
• Utilize your Bonfire Health workouts.
• Always take the stairs, park far away, walk to the mailbox.
• Bring lunch to work, eat at your desk after working out during lunch hour.
• Leave work on time and drive straight to the gym/health club (may require afternoon snack or snack on the way to gym (raw nuts and fruit).
• Schedule out/map out your week’s workouts (e.g. Mon:  bike ride; Tues:  swim; Wed:  Pilates class; Thurs:  run; Fri:  spin class; Sat:  yoga class; Sun:  core class, etc.).
• Join a gym, health club, or CrossFit; if that isn’t possible, then watch the Bonfire Video Coaching.

You can do it!

Week 1 Air Insight: Movement As A Nutrient

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Movement as a Nutrient

Critical Concept:  Exercise is not a luxury – it’s an essential nutrient
You have inherited an incredible genetic legacy.  One thing is for sure – you are the direct descendent of successful human beings.  The definition of success here is, of course, someone who survives long enough to reproduce.  Your genetic make-up can be thought of as a microscopic, “cellular blue print” for your health potential.  Your genes were shaped over thousands of generations by environmental pressures and the choices that your ancestors made in order to adapt and survive these challenges.  Not only was an active lifestyle a trait that all successful human beings had in common, but it is a critical concept to think of movement as a nutrient - just like water or hydration is critical to all aspects of cellular function, movement is an essential elementfor health. It’s not simply about “being in shape.”

If your ancestors didn’t move, they didn’t eat.  In fact, if they didn’t move, they were eaten.  Early man lived an incredibly demanding lifestyle – hunting, gathering, fishing, defending; life was active.  This genetic legacy that we’ve inherited expects and requires an extraordinary level of movement.  In fact, genetic experts agree that our genome has remained nearly unchanged over the last ten thousand years, yet our lifestyles today are nearly unrecognizable to the world that shaped them.

When was the last time you chased down your lunch?  And we don’t mean with a diet soda.  Did you fetch water today?  Build a shelter or collect wood?  In all of man’s history, there has always been an intimate relationship between energy acquisition and energy consumption (read:  getting food and eating food).  Today this is far from the case.  In the modern world there has been a divorce between securing calories (finding food) and consuming calories (eating food).  This has created a devastating energy imbalance that has led to an obesity epidemic that is at the root of our world’s chronic illness crisis.  At the epicenter of the chronic disease epidemic is a lack of regular movement as part of our lifestyle.

Your Paleolithic Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors never had the option of sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a nutritious dinner off of a menu – never mind driving up to a take-out window and have someone throw a bag of fast food into their car.  This lack of calorie-burning activities such as hunting and foraging has been compounded by the toxic and deficient food choices that we make.  This “disconnect” between our active genetic design and our current sedentary lifestyle is killing us.

Bottom Line:  Your cells require and expect movement to be healthy.

Our ancestors did not work out; they did not “exercise” – their existence was exercise.  This is not the case with us.  We must supplement our comparatively sedentary, movement-deficient modern lifestyles with exercise and activity.  The first place to start is to add activity to every area of your regular life. Best Practices include: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to school, or biking to work.  Parking your car as far away from your destination as time allows is a vital behavior.  Remember, research shows that all activity is cumulative; it all adds up.  In other words, three ten minute walks are the energy equivalent of one thirty minute walk – so get to it!