Most micronutrients are essential and can only be supplied from our food, so we need to consume them regularly and the micronutrients they contain. 

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Minerals – Small molecules that usually enter the body in combination with another atom and assist in various bodily processes. Examples include sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, sulfate, magnesium, and iron.  

Vitamins – Molecules that the body cannot manufacture but needs for growth and maintenance. Two exceptions are Vitamin D, which can be produced internally from sun exposure, and Vitamin K2, which intestinal bacteria can produce. Both can also be obtained from food. 

Vitamins are larger molecules than minerals. They are either fat-soluble (D, E, A, and K) or water-soluble (folate/folic acid, B series, and C). They have many functions in the body - Vitamin A helps grow and maintain eyes, teeth, bones, soft tissues, and skin; Vitamin C is used in the immune system and is an antioxidant.

Vitamins are most prevalent in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, but some are also in meats and dairy. Similar to minerals, too little or too much is not good. Vitamin C must be consumed regularly, or scurvy will occur. Still, large doses of Vitamin C supplements can cause diarrhea, nausea, and other problems.  Dietary supplements can also interfere with medications.

Added sugars

  • Raw, brown, and white sugar (sucrose)

  • Corn sweetener and syrups

  • Malt syrup

  • Turbinado sugar

  • Rice syrup

  • Date sugar

  • Glucose

  • Fructose

  • Lactose

  • Dextrin

  • High fructose corn syrup

  • Invert sugar

  • Maple sugar or syrup

  • Agave sugar

  • Maltose

  • Honey

  • Trehalose

  • Maple Sugar or Syrup

  • Caramel

  • Dextrose

  • Molasses

Added sugars are sugars added to foods or food products, not sugars that are naturally contained in the food. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those found in fruit or milk, are generally considered healthier options because the foods that contain natural sugars also include other vital nutrients like vitamins and fiber. Added sugars are not naturally occurring in food groups and include syrups and other caloric sweeteners found in candy (sweets) and sweetened beverages (soda).

Fiber

Fiber represents most of the indigestible portions of plant food; it is not a single compound. It is a group of compounds that share similar characteristics and are generally classified as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber originates from the inside of the plant cell, including Pectins, gums, and mucilages. They are called soluble because they either dissolve or swell when placed in water, and most can be digested by the bacteria living within the large intestine. Therefore, they are also sometimes called fermentable.

 

Soluble fibers are found in oat bran, oatmeal, beans, fruits (e.g., apples or pears), vegetables (e.g., artichoke, leeks, or sweet potatoes), and many commercial products like salad dressings, jams, and jellies. 

Several benefits include the following

  • Weight loss can delay gastric emptying (from the stomach) and promote an overall feeling of fullness, potentially reducing caloric intake.

  • Reducing risk for cardiovascular disease—It can bind to cholesterol particles. It can prevent its absorption and help remove this compound from the body.

  • Bowel movement and intestinal health—It attracts water and promotes bulk to the stool, safeguarding against constipation.

  • Diabetes protection—This carbohydrate is not absorbed. It can, therefore, reduce potential blood sugar spikes.

  • Improved absorption of foods—It slows the movement of food through the small intestine. It can enhance nutrient absorption.

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber (water-insoluble) form the structural parts of plants and include compounds like cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and are often found in the outermost portion of grains, vegetables, fruits, and seeds (e.g., whole-grain wheat, celery, brown rice, quinoa, apple peels, or broccoli). 

They are called insoluble or non-fermentable because they do not dissolve in water and are easily digested by intestinal bacteria. When many of these compounds have their outermost portions removed, this produces processed starch (e.g., whole-wheat kernel to white bread or brown rice to white rice).

 

Like the soluble fibers, insoluble fiber also provides many health benefits that include the following 

  • Digestive health—It adds bulk and draws water into the GI tract. It improves regularity in the large intestine to avoid constipation and other bowel-related health problems (e.g., hemorrhoids).

  • Reduces risk of cancer—It improves movement through the large intestine. It reduces the risk of colon cancer and other prominent intestinal diseases (e.g., diverticulosis).

  • Weight loss—Delaying gastric emptying (from the stomach) promotes an overall feeling of fullness, reducing caloric intake.

 

If a food is listed as a good source of fiber, it may contain insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, or both.