Everything You Wanted to Know About Nutrients Have you ever thought about how your body amazingly digests, absorbs, and utilizes the food you eat every day? Have you wondered how the nutrients within the foods you eat work to keep you alive and healthy? This chapter will give you some basic nutrition knowledge to help you better understand what exactly you are eating and how the nutrients work within your body to keep you alive. It will provide you with an overview of the six classes of nutrients and discuss how you can adequately obtain the most essential nutrients during cancer treatment. I find that when I help my clients learn the different aspects of the nutrients, they then understand how each nutrients plays its own role in their treatment, and why the may need to put in extra effort to eat well during treatment. By giving you a detailed understanding of these nutrients, you will understand why feeding your body food and liquids is not only crucial for your well-being, but also necessary for survival. The six classes of nutrients are: Carbohydrates Lipids (Fats) Proteins Vitamins Minerals Water Among these six nutrients, three of them are considered to be energy-yielding, which means they are broken down to give your body energy. The three nutrients that provide energy are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The other three nutrients, water, vitamins, and minerals, do not provide energy in the human body; however, they are still vital to life. Many foods have combination of these nutrients, so when you hear a food described by its nutrients class, such as meat as a protein and pasta as a carbohydrate, it means it is a food rich in those nutrients. For example, in addition to carbohydrate, pasta contains small amounts of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals. In addition the protein, meat contains water, fat, vitamins, and minerals, getting enough of these nutrients is very important for people with cancer because cancer itself and some of the treatments for it can greatly affect your appetite, your ability to consume enough food and tolerate certain food, and your ability to use the nutrients appropriately. The nutrients you need may differ from another person with cancer. Your doctor, nurse or dietitian can help you prioritize your nutrient intake based on your condition. Generally speaking, eating a balance of food from all the nutrients classes-carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water-will help to keep you as healthy as possible to fight cancer. What exactly do we mean when we say the word “calorie” When you eat carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, the energy released from those foods are measured in calories. The amount of energy a food provides depends on how much carbohydrate, fat, and protein it contains. For example, one gram of carbohydrate and one gram of protein both provide four calories of energy, whereas one gram of fat provides nine calories. This explains why foods with a higher fat content contain more calories than foods with a lower fat content, even though they are the same weight in gram. This also gives you insight into why many of the foods recommended for weight gain are higher in fat because they provide more calories. Your body requires the energy-yielding nutrients as its fuel for physical activities and metabolism. When describing the importance of eating adequate amounts of all three of the energy-yielding nutrients during treatment, I tell my patients to think about their car. Simply put, if your car does not have fuel (gas), it will not work. By the same token, if your body doesn’t get its fuel (calories), it simply will not work. The energy that food provides not only supports your activities of daily living, such as breathing and walking, but it also provides you with the energy necessary to help your fight against cancer. What makes me gain or lose weight? Here’s the way weight gain and weight loss work. When you eat food, it first goes to fuel your metabolic and physical activities. Whatever is not used to assist with these activities is stored to be used when energy supplies run low, such as overnight or in between meals. In short, if you consume more calories than you expend, you will again weight. Similarly, if you consume fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight.