I want to take a little time to talk about real nutrition and nutrients. We’re all pretty much familiar with the standard nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, fats, etc. But I would argue there are a lot more nutrients necessary to be healthy that aren’t generally considered nutrients.The above nutrients are kind of the standard nutrients that most people worry about getting enough of. We’re educated about them in school when we’re children and we’re constantly reminded of them as adults. I’d also like to point out that these are all physical things that we have to take into our bodies.
But I think there are other nutrients that a human being needs to be healthy and live a full life. Movement is a nutrient that a person needs at a certain minimum level. Katy Bowman, who I love, refers to a lot of her exercises as nutritious movements. Moving is literally what keeps our bodies useful. Use it or lose it holds true here.
A sense of community is another one. Actually, it’s an extremely important one that is very often overlooked in modern society. Modern society is very mobile and fractioned off. Many people don’t even know who their neighbors are, let alone have regular interactions with them. Many family members have moved apart, often for economic reasons. And it’s very rare to have anyone in your life regularly that you’ve known since childhood. Humans are social critters. If you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, or don’t have anyone in your life, you will be extremely stressed.
Time in nature is also an important nutrient. Studies are starting to emerge that show that the chemicals given off by plants in natural spaces affect our biological systems in healthy ways. We need to have time in and around nature to function at our best.
Sun contact with our skin is a nutrient that is really feared these days! I’m pretty sure if the sun were going to kill us, it would have done it thousands of years ago. We spend most of our time indoors now. So when we do go out in the sun, we’re no longer adapted to endure it. Building up your tolerance over time is the best option. Covering up when you notice the tell tale signs of sunburn is far better than applying sunscreen.
Experiencing heat and cold is an essential nutrient so that our bodies can develop their abilities to thermoregulate. We spend so much time in spaces of similar temperature year round, that anything at even a tiny variance outside those norms can cause a ton of stress to a person. Blood vessels have muscles that control the diameter of the vessels. If they never get used, how can they work effectively when needed?
Sleep is possibly the most underappreciated nutrient in our society. There are always things to do and the first thing left at the door to make more time is rest time. Sleep is what allows our body to undo the harm done to it during the day. It organizes and processes what we’ve learned during the day. And it normalizes our hormones so we can be ready for the following day.
While these things are generally not thought of as nutrients, that’s really what they are. The absence of one or several of these things will lead to a very unhealthy person. Lacking in these nutrients will also negatively affect one’s health. It’s not just what you eat that affects your nutrition!