Health comes from the plate! We know better and better the links between nutrition and health. Numerous studies show the impact of nutritional factors on the occurrence of certain diseases and, conversely, other studies prove the benefit of certain foods, nutrients and behaviors in preventing pathologies. Therefore, nutrition is a key element in maintaining or even improving our level of health. Through this guide, discover the foundations of nutrition with a presentation of essential nutrients, macronutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements) and other active compounds (guaranine, curcumin, etc.) found in our food.

This article was updated on 03/09/2022

Who are macronutrients?

The proteins

Proteins, often called proteins by misnomer, are essential for the proper functioning of our metabolism. Proteins include proteins, amino acids and peptides : the combined amino acids form peptides and the sequence of these peptides forms proteins. Proteins are then macromolecules, formed of one or more polypeptide chains.

There are 20 different amino acids, 12 of which are synthesized by our body and 8 of which are called “essential”, that is to say they must be supplied through food because we are not capable of synthesizing them.

Sufficient protein contributes to maintain and increase muscle mass but also play a role for the maintenance of normal bones.

For 1 gram of protein consumed, these are 4 Calories made to the body.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy, they constitute a vital fuel for the brain, the muscles and some are essential for the proper functioning of the intestine. Commonly called sugars, carbohydrates are made up of hydrogen (H), carbon (C) and oxygen (O), forming the oses. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates such as glucose, lactose and sucrose and complex carbohydrates such as starch, glycogen or fiber.

Just like proteins, for 1 gram of carbohydrates consumed, they are 4 Calories made to the body.

Dietary fiber

Dietary fibers are polysaccharides (made up of several simple sugars, sugars) and are part of the carbohydrate family. There are two classes, soluble fibers like pectins, which as their name suggests are soluble in water, and insoluble fibers like cellulose which have a high swelling power. Fibers are not digested by the enzymes of the digestive tract, however they will have benefits in regulating intestinal transit, satiety and in the prevention of many diseases.

Fiber provides less energy than simple carbohydrates, only 1.9 kcal per gram of fiber consumed.

Lipids

Lipids are essential constituents of our body. They are made up of fatty acids, of which there are two types, unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

THE unsaturated fatty acids (AGI) consist of one or more carbon-carbon double bonds (C=C), allowing them to be classified into two categories: monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). MUFAs have only one double bond, this is the case for oleic acid, an omega 9, while PUFAs are made up of several carbon-carbon double bonds. Among the latter, we find for example omega 3 and 6 respectively bringing together the following fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, essential fatty acids that must be provided by our diet because humans are not able to synthesize them.

As to saturated fatty acids (SFA), they only have simple carbon bonds, that is to say that all the carbons are linked to hydrogen atoms. We favor unsaturated fats in the diet over saturated fats in order to maintain normal cholesterol levels and more largely to improve cardiovascular health mainly.

Unlike proteins and carbohydrates which each provide 4 kcal per gram, lipids provide 9 kcal per gram. They therefore contribute significantly to covering energy needs.

More details on: lipids and fatty acids in our diet

To know

In addition to these macronutrients, only certain organic compounds such as ethanol, polyols or even certain acids have an energy value. 

Who are micronutrients?

The minerals

Minerals are not a source of energy, but are often incorporated into cellular structures and are essential for the activity of hormones and enzymes. They must be supplied through food because the body cannot produce them. There exists a twenty minerals presenting benefits for humans, the main ones are calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium or potassium.

Trace elements

Trace elements are present in small quantities in our body but play a role major role in many metabolic reactions. The main trace elements are iron, copper, chromium, selenium, zinc, manganese or iodine.

More details on: minerals, trace elements in our diet

Vitamins

Vitamins are essential substances for the body and in particular for the proper functioning of physiological processes. These are molecules active in very small quantities and whose deficiencies can cause serious illnesses or dysfunctions. The intake of vitamins through food is essential since it cannot produce them, with the exception of two vitamins, K and D.  It exists 13 families of vitamins distributed in two categories :

  • THE fat-soluble vitamins capable of dissolving in fats, we find vitamins A, D, E and K.

  • THE water-soluble vitamins capable of dissolving in water, we find the vitamins of group B (B1, B2, B3 or PP, B5, B6, B8, B9 and B12) and C.

More details on: vitamins in our diet

Who are phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are nutrients from plants, they are present naturally in foods of plant origin such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain products or legumes.

Among the phytonutrients we find in particular the phenolic compounds with polyphenols, flavonoids or phenolic acids and carotenoids.

These active compounds are often found in our food and are recognized to be powerful antioxidants. These nutrients as antioxidants help fight against oxidative stress and impacted diseases such as cardiovascular, degenerative diseases, cancers and even premature aging.

More details on: antioxidant power

In addition to their antioxidant properties, phytonutrients may also have health benefits and in particular at the level of the immune or hormonal system for example. They can also act as bacterial or antiviral agents and are responsible for the coloring of certain fruits and vegetables such as the orange color of carrots, which is mainly due to beta-carotene.

More details on: phytonutrients in our diet

Learn more about recommended dietary intakes (ANC)

THE ANC designate the benchmarks set by ANSES for a large number of nutrients in order to define the average nutritional needs of a population. They are updated regularly based on scientific advances. Currently, energy intake is distributed as follows:

  • For a man (18 to 69 years), the ANC are 2600 Kcal per day.
  • For a women (18 to 59 years old), the ANC are 2100 Kcal per day
  • For the children depending on age and sex, the ANCs are between 1100 and 2200 Kcal per day.

ANSES recommends composing your average daily consumption so that the contribution to calories from each major group of macronutrients is as follows:

  • 40 à 55 % calories (Kcal) in the form of carbohydrates.
  • 35 à 40 % calories (Kcal) in the form of lipids
  • 10 à 20 % calories (Kcal) in the form of protein, whether animal or vegetable
  • 30 g per day of fiber.

The questions we all ask ourselves...

What are the PNNS nutritional recommendations?

What is the PNNS? 
Launched in January 2001, the PNNS is a National Nutrition and Health Program whose challenge is to improve the health of the entire population in France, Europe and the world by acting on nutrition. He takes into account the biological, symbolic and social dimensions of eating and physical activity. 
The objectives of the PNNS
  • Reduce obesity and overweight in the population
  • Increase physical activity and reduce a sedentary lifestyle at all ages
  • Improve dietary practices and nutritional intake, particularly among populations at risk
  • Reduce the prevalence of nutritional pathologies
Recommendations on diet, physical activity and sedentary lifestyle

To help the population make the best food choices and adopt a more active lifestyle, benchmarks become recommendations and new products appear!

  • Increase : unsalted nuts, dried vegetables, fruits and vegetables, homemade products but also physical activity.

  • Move towards : whole grain products, seasonal fruits and vegetables, foods from local producers and, if possible, organic foods, alternating between fatty and lean fish, various vegetable oils, and limited dairy products.

  • Reduce : red meat, sweet and savory products, cold meats, alcohol, time spent sitting and products with a nutri-score D and E.

What is the difference between Kcal and Calories?

Scientifically speaking, 1 kilocalorie (1,000 calories or 1 kcal) is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1°C.

In the dietary and food domain, a single apple provides approximately 52 kcal or 52,000 calories. So, for ease of calculations, energy is expressed in units of 1,000 calories which are also called kilocalories. That's to say, 1 Calorie is equivalent to 1 kilocalorie ; The capital “C” in Calories stands for “kcal”. Thus, Calories and kilocalories are used interchangeably to express the same thing.

In practice, it is therefore normal and acceptable to use the lowercase “c” instead of the uppercase “C”, particularly when speaking.

ANC, AJR, RNJ or VNR, what is the difference?

We find several terms in terms of nutritional recommendations such as ANC, RDA, RNJ or even VNR.

  • ANC : recommended nutritional intakes. These are points of scientific benchmarks for a given population. They represent the sufficient quantity of the different nutrients necessary to ensure that the nutritional needs of different populations are covered.

  • RDA: recommended daily intake. Those are regulatory values european standards used as a reference in the nutritional labeling of food products. Unlike ANCs, RDAs do not take into account age, sex or lifestyle.

  • Rnj: daily nutritional benchmarks. Those are basic values provided by manufacturers, in order to position the energy and macronutrient content of drinks or foodstuffs in relation to the ANC.

  • NRV: Nutritional Reference Values. They constitute a set of nutritional recommendations relating to different nutrients, such as recommended intakes (RDA) or average nutritional requirements (BNM). 

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Bibliography

Work : Manetta, J. (2014). Micronutrition and nutritherapy: General summary for health professionals. Sparta editions.

Work : Vasson, MP. (2015). Food supplements: The keys to recommending them to the pharmacy. Paperback editions.

Website : Recommendations | Eat Move. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from http://www.mangerbouger.fr/Les-recommandations

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