All animals, and mankind is no exception, require a well balanced diet suitable for their species, physiological condition and life stage. We all know that we and animals require a combination of different nutrient types and groups to remain healthy. But what do these things do in our bodies and the bodies of our animals? All nutrients can be divided into six categories:
Water (H2O) is the most vital of all nutrients in a diet. It has many functions in the body, for example it acts as the solvent that materials, such as vitamins, are transported around the body. It allows chemical reactions to take place, it helps in thermoregulation and acts as a lubricant and protection for body tissues. A lack of water in an animal’s diet can quickly lead to dehydration and ultimately death.
Proteins have a number of functions in the body. They are used as structural components of organs and tissues. They also form enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein can also be utilised as an energy source. A lack of protein in the diet can lead to reduced growth, poor coat/feathers/skin, anaemia and muscle atrophy.
3. Lipids (fats, oils and waxes)
Lipids have many functions; they are primarily used as an energy source. Fat is approximately 2.25 times more energy dense than protein or carbohydrates. They are also required in cell membranes (e.g. phospholipids), protection of internal organs, as insulation from the elements, and also for the waterproofing of fur or feathers. Lack of lipids can have various effects, lack of sufficient energy for bodily functions is one, dry coat and scaly skin is a secondary symptom.
Carbohydrates are also used as an energy source by animals or can be stored as glycogen or converted to fat. Fibre is a complex carbohydrate, although not classed as a true nutrient; this substance helps in the digestion process in some animals and assists in other nutrient’s absorption rates by delaying food transit through the body. Excess carbohydrates can cause excessive weight gain, whereas conversely not enough leads to weight loss, and can place strain on other metabolic pathways as an animal tries to gain energy from body protein for example instead.
Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential, normal physiological processes within the body. Not all vitamins are essential in all species. A deficiency in an essential vitamin will lead to health problems, for example Vitamin K deficiency in poultry can lead to abnormal bleeding and bruising.
Minerals are inorganic substances and elements required by the body to function. They can act as catalysts in chemical reactions in the body. A deficiency of salt in an animal’s diet can lead to retarded growth, exhaustion, fatigue and an inability to maintain water balance.
So now you know the six categories of a healthy balanced diet, make sure you and your animals are getting the right amounts to stay strong, fit and healthy!
Are you getting your six categories a day? Are your pets? Let me know below!