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Building Nutrients
This section includes information on major nutrients
needed for the body, such as carbohydrates,
protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.
The Building Nutrients
The body needs various important nutrients to function and repair. These are
carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fluids. These building
blocks for the body are found in the major food groups that are:
Milk group
Starch group
Meat group
Fruits and vegetables group
Fat group
Getting all nutrition needed
“My Plate” method is an excellent tool to use to ensure consuming all the necessary
nutrients from the major food groups and can be used for healthy shopping and
The plate is divided into five sections:
Tips for using “My Plate” method:
Fill half of the plate with fruits and vegetables. Select the ones with bright
colors, such as tomato, strawberry, orange, carrot, spinal, green pepper,
cauliflower, red apple, green apple and broccoli.
Fill one quarter of the plate with complex carbohydrates, such as rice or
potatoes or pasta or whole grain bread or oat or barley or corn.
Fill one quarter of the plate with lean protein, such as lean meat or skinless
poultry or sea food or eggs or nuts or seeds or legumes
Add a cup of low fat or non-fat milk, such as laban or yogurt or buttermilk
“My Plate” includes healthy oil to prepare food, such as olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil,
canola oil. “My Plate” method does not support using excessive salt and refined
carbohydrates such as sugar and sweets.
The carbohydrates are used for energy
The proteins are used for growth and repair
The dairy product are used for bone health
The oils provide essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins
The fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
Carbohydrates (starchy foods) provide the body with energy; they are made from
glucose (the fuel of the body). The body uses the glucose for its function and stores the
excess in the liver and muscles.
Types of carbohydrates:
Complex: such as whole grains and cereals (wheat,
barley, corn, rice, oat) legumes (such as beans or
lentils or peas), vegetables (such as potato, carrot)
and milk (milk sugar is called lactose).
Simple: such as refried bread, pasties, jam, sweetened juices, soda,
honey, syrup, sugar, white flour.
Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly and raise blood sugar fast,
making the pancreas release insulin that lead to low blood sugar level.
These foods are called ‘High Glycemic Index Foods’. Consuming a lot of
simple carbohydrates is related to an increase in the blood pressure,
obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. The fluctuation of blood sugar up
and down does not support mental health and leads to obesity.
Health Messages:
Complex carbohydrates are healthier than simple carbohydrates. They provide the
body with many nutrients beside the energy, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and
antioxidants. Complex carbohydrates are digested and absorbed slowly and
converted to glucose gradually. Complex carbohydrates are called ‘Low Glycemic
Index Foods’.
Carbohydrates should make 50% of the daily needed calories where complex
carbohydrates are recommended.
Complex carbohydrates are also useful for the people with diabetes, cancer,
heart diseases and high blood pressure.
Fruits and vegetables are considered complex carbohydrates. They contain
fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are fat and cholesterol free and
contain very little sodium (salt). They are filling and not caloric dense.
Five servings of fruits and vegetables are needed per day where the ones with
bright colors are recommended such as red, orange, green, yellow and blue.
Poor intake of carbohydrates rich foods leads to constipation, low blood sugar,
fatigue and poor concentration.
Is used by the body to build cells and tissues and is made of small
components, called amino acids. The protein foods are also rich in
iron, and many vitamins and minerals.
Protein is found in animal products and in plants:
Examples of animal protein are meat (lamb, veal, and beef), poultry, seafood,
eggs, milk and its products.
Examples of plant protein are legumes (lentils, beans, peas, hummus, soy), nuts
and soymilk its product
Excessive intake of animal protein increases the risks for cancer, kidney disease,
high blood pressure and heart disease.
Tips to make animal protein healthier:
Select low fat or nonfat milk and its products rather than full-cream
Select lean meat and trim fat before and after cooking.
Remove the skin from poultry.
Consume 3-4 eggs yolks per week. Egg white can be consumed daily.
Bake or roast or grill meat or poultry or seafood rather than fry them.
Eat protein food in moderation with (3-4 ounces i.e. 90 – 120 grams) at a meal.
Tips to increase the intake of plant protein
Foods rich in plant proteins contain fiber, iron, vitamins, minerals
and antioxidants. They are fat free and cholesterol free.
Add them to rice and pasta dishes.
Mix them with salads and soups.
Replace meat dishes with legumes several times per week.
Use healthy oil (examples are olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil) in preparation
rather than butter or ghee or palm oil or coconut oil.
Avoid adding a lot of salt when cooking.
Protein is necessary for growth, during pregnancy, lactation and to heal wounds. Poor
intake of protein leads to weak immunity, anemia, malnutrition and improper healing
and repairing of cells. Protein is also needed for bone health, skin health and vital
functions of the body.
People with kidney disease, gout or advanced liver disease should consult their doctors
on the proper amount of protein intake.
Fats are important for heath and provide energy to the body in addition
to essential fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants. Fats are
divided into animal and plant fats.
Animal fat is saturated and mostly unhealthy and increases the level of
cholesterol. Excessive of consumption of animal fat such as butter or lard
increases the risks of heart diseases, cancer, and stroke and reduce immunity.
Plant fats are oils that are liquid in room temperature. They provide the body with
essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. The essential fatty acids are
important for growth, brain health and skin health. Plant fats are either
monounsaturated, such as olive oil or canola oil; or polyunsaturated, such as
corn oil or sunflowers oil. Monounsaturated oils are good for heart health,
support immunity; reduce the risk of cancer and stroke. But excessive intake of
polyunsaturated oils is not healthy.
Omega 3: fatty acid is important for brain health and immunity. It improves heart
health and reduces the risks of cancer and stroke. It is found in green leafy
vegetables, seeds, salmon fish, tuna, walnuts, almonds and olive oil.
Coconut oil and palm oil are plant fats, but contain large amounts of saturated
fatty acids. Using them in food preparation is not recommended for health, as
they increase the risks of heart diseases and stroke.
Transfat: are formed when turning vegetable oils to shortening in order to
improve food shelf-life and stability. Transfat are unhealthy and increases the risks
of heart diseases and stroke. Ghee, shortening is not recommended to be used
in food preparation. Some foods (such biscuits, sweets, chips, crackers and
popcorns) contain Transfat through using hydrogenated oils. Reading food label
and avoid purchasing products that contain hydrogenated or partially
hydrogenated fats is important.
In general,
All fats should be consumed in moderation. They provide a lot of calories (9
calories per 1 gram). Supplements of essential fatty acids should be with
doctors’ approval.
Overheating of oil is not recommended and turns them to unhealthy.
Vitamins are essential nutrients for over-all health and wellbeing, support body functions, growth, brain function and aid
the repairing process of damaged cells.
Vitamins are divided into two categories:
1. Vitamins soluble in water, such as vitamin B, C and folate.
2. Vitamins soluble in fat, such as vitamin A, D, E and K.
Consuming healthy and well-balanced meals ensures providing the body with all the
needed vitamins. Supplements are not recommended without doctor approval. Excess
intake of certain vitamins has potential harm to the body.
The body does not store water soluble vitamins and any excess intake is excreted with
urine. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the body.
Fat Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A
Health Benefits:
Useful for maintaining good vision, healthy hair and skin. It is important for
growth, immune system and repairing of damaged cells.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Milk Products and Liver
Plant Sources: (vegetables and fruits with yellow or orange or green colors,
such as carrots, spinach, orange, broccoli, sweet potato
pumpkin and mango
Vitamin D
Health Benefits
Important for bone health as it support calcium and
phosphorus to be absorbed from intestine. Also,
important for mental health and reduces the risks of
diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Milk Products that are fortified with Vitamin D, salmon fish,
tuna, sardines, fish oils, egg yolk.
Plant sources: Sunflower seeds and fortified cereals.
Exposure to direct sunlight for 15 minutes on daily basis is
important for getting vitamin D but the exposure to sunlight
through windows or clothes or after putting sun block
creams are not beneficial for the body.
Vitamin E
Health Benefits:
Important for repairing damaged skin and keeps red blood cells healthy.
Food Sources:
Animal sources: Liver and egg yolk.
Plant sources: Plant oils, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and
Vitamin K
Health Benefits:
Important for blood clothing to stop bleeding.
Food Sources:
Animal sources: Milk products and liver, fortified cereals.
Plant sources: Green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
Water Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin B1
Health Benefits:
Supports appetite, nervous system function and
essential for the process of providing energy to the
body from carbohydrates.
Food Sources:
Animal sources: Liver.
Plant sources: Oatmeal, nuts, whole grain, fortified cereals, legumes (such
as lentils, beans or peas) and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin B2
Health Benefits
Important for growth and for keeping the eyes, hair, skin, and nails
healthy. It is essential for the process of providing energy to the body.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Milk products, eggs and meat.
Plant sources: Green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals.
Vitamin B6
Health Benefits
Important for making protein and red blood cells by the body. It supports
the functions of the nervous system.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Meat, poultry, sea food and liver.
Plant sources: Legumes, fruits and green leafy vegetables, walnuts and
Vitamin B12
Health Benefits
Important for the nervous system and for making red blood cells.
Food Sources:
Animal sources: Sea food, eggs, poultry, milk products and liver.
Plant sources: Fortified cereals.
Health Benefits
Important for making red blood cells and for keeping
the nervous system healthy.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Liver.
Plant sources: Fortified cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds
and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C
Health Benefits
Important for skin, bones, gums and blood vessels health. It supports
immunity and body cells repairing. It is also important for iron absorption
from plant sources.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Vitamin C does not exist in animal foods.
Plant sources: Citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, green pepper and green leafy
Minerals are essential for body health, growth, development and wellbeing. They are
divided into two groups:
Major minerals: such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and sodium.
Trace minerals: such as zinc, copper, iodine and phosphorus. These are needed
in lesser amounts than the major minerals, but are extremely important for health.
Supplements of minerals are not recommended without doctors approval, as
consuming well balanced food ensues provided the body with the needed
nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Overdose of any nutrient is as
dangerous as its deficiency.
Health Benefits
Important for strong bones and teeth, and helps in muscles’ contraction,
blood clotting and in regulating blood pressure.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Milk and its products (preferred fortified with Vitamin D),
sardines with Bones.
Plant sources: Fortified cereals, Tofu, fortified soy milk, broccoli, legumes.
Health Benefits
Important component of red bold cells and muscles’
protein. Iron enables the red blood cells to carry oxygen
all body organs and tissues cells. Iron helps in preventing
anemia and improving activity level. Its deficiency leads
to weakness and fatigue.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Red meat, poultry, liver, eggs and sea foods.
Plant sources: Fortified cereals, spinach and other green Leafy vegetables,
dried fruits.
Health Benefits
Important for bones health, muscle health and nerves function. Regulates
calcium levels in the body, and helps it to maintain the bone structure.
Food Sources
Animal sources: milk and its products, eggs, sea foods.
Plant sources: dates, oat, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fortified cereals, okra.
Health Benefits
Important for controlling blood pressure within normal range, supports
regulating the body fluids along with sodium, supports heart health and
nervous system health, but its high or low levels are dangerous for the
Food Sources
Animal sources: Meat, milk and its products, salmon, poultry, sardines.
Plant sources: Spinach, potato, mango, tomatoes, grapes, banana, sweet
melon, dried fruits, grapefruit, oranges, legume, pumpkin,
fortified cereals.
Health Benefits
Important in regulating the body fluids along with potassium, supports
healthy nerves and muscles.
Food Sources. The main source is table salt.
Animal sources: Seafood, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat.
Plant sources: olives, pickles, beetroot, artichokes, soy milk.
Health Benefits
Important for teeth and bones building and
maintenance. Supports healthy nerves and muscles.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Milk and its products, sea foods.
Plant sources: Nuts, seeds, fortified cereals.
Health Benefits
Important for the immunity, skin, hair, eyes, nails and for healing of
wounds. It is also essential for growth, sexual development and for making
protein and enzymes.
Food Sources
Animal sources: Meat and poultry.
Plant sources: Dried fruits, whole grains, fortified cereals, avocado, okra,
corn, oat, legumes, nuts, potatoes.
Health Benefits
Important for making red blood cells, brain health, bones health and skin
Food Sources
Animal sources: Seafood and liver
Plant sources: Legumes, nuts, sesame seeds, dried fruits, whole grains,
fortified cereals.
Health Benefits
Important for regulating thyroid hormone. It’s necessary for the growth
and for making protein.
Food Sources: the man source for Iodine is Iodized Salt
Animal sources: Sea foods
Plant sources: Available in most of plant food