There are very few things and nutrients deemed essentials for living. Let’s review them and why carbohydrates are not truly necessary. This should flash you back to a beginners level of science nutrition.
Mammals need to consume the following things to stay alive
2. ENERGY FOR FUEL
Energy can come from carbohydrates, protein, or fat.
These minerals are found throughout nature. Some of them are major parts of your diet, others are known as trace minerals. Skip out on these minerals for too long and your body will ‘fail to thrive.’ This is the language doctors use when we are trying to politely say, “You are dying.”
- MAJOR ELEMENTS: include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium.
- TRACE ELEMENTS: Trace elements are a little harder to find, but without them, you can’t go on for long.
You only need a few bites of nutrient-dense food every week to get your body’s quota of these trace elements. Once you meet these minimum requirements on these essentials for living, your body thrives.
4. AMINO ACIDS
Amino acids come mostly from protein and are very important for survival. Your body needs these to create and repair your tissues.
5. FATTY ACIDS
Fatty acids are the scientific term for fat. These come in three natural types and an extra man-made one: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. The first three are all found in nature. Trans fats are not found in nature. They are produced by chemical processes to enable them to remain solid at room temperature. If you wanted to stop reading right here, you could end your fat education with this general statement: Eat fats made in nature.
These fats are those found in animal products, fish and even plants that are “fatty” in nature. (i.e. avocados, olives, peanuts, safflower oil) Throughout my career, I have chirped at patients to eat less saturated fats. That turns out to be wrong. Just plain wrong. Instead, we should have been measuring what fats do to your body’s inflammation.
My new and improved advise may appear to be oversimplified. I now tell patients to not eat “over processed” fats. For example, corn oil. Say that out loud. Take a minute to think about oil that comes from corn. Corn is not oily. To squeeze the oil out of corn, we have a great deal of chemical processing that needs to be done. Other vegetable oils go through similar processing. Those highly processed fats spark a storm of inflammation in your body when you eat them. As a general rule, stay away from the fats that take a high amount of processing.
Why Omega 3’s are Essentials for Living
Your body makes most of the fats it needs from the food you eat or the energy stored inside your cells. However, two fatty acids are the exception. These two are essential for you to eat because you cannot make them yourself. These essential fats are called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid (a very short acid also called linoleic) and omega-6 fatty acid (a slightly longer compound called linolenic) are required for life.
Without omega-6, your body can’t make the hormones that activate your immune system. Omega-3 assists in cell communication, blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. Omega-3 fats are also needed for the formation of cell membranes.
This picture shows an image of a cross-section through the membrane holding your cells together. Look closely to see the repeating structure of a sphere with 2 tails lining up in perfect formation. The tails projecting from the spheres are chains of fat. This pattern is perfect, free from defects, because of the ample supply of these 2 fats that are essentials for living. If your body makes cells without enough Omega-3 fats it won’t be long before you find defective and eventually cancerous cells.
These nutrients either dissolve in water (water-soluble vitamins) or oil, (fat-soluble vitamins.) Without these compounds, your system will soon fail to function, repair and protect you.
The 3 components left (inositol, choline, and carnitine) are also required for life. They don’t fit into any of the above sections. Did you notice something? That’s right-nowhere in the seven listed items above will you find ‘essential’ carbohydrates.
There simply is no nutrient that we can’t get from other sources if we stop eating carbs. If you start your day with eggs, tomato, and butter, you’ve already loaded up on vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, and all kinds of other nutrients. When your mom calls and says you need to eat fruit, show her this chart. Ask her EXACTLY why does the body need carbohydrates and which essential nutrient is needed to sustain life!
- Cockayne S1, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, Shearer MJ, Gilbody S, Torgerson DJ.; Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials; Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1256-61; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16801507
- Jeffrey S Hampl, PhD, RD, Christopher A. Taylor, PhD, RD, and Carol S. Johnston, PhD, RD; Vitamin C Deficiency and Depletion in the United States: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994; Am J Public Health. 2004 July; 94(7): 1078; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448351/
- David R Jacobs, Jr Myron D Gross Linda C Tapsell; Food synergy: an operational concept for understanding nutrition; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, 1 May 2009, Pages 1543S–1548S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736B