According to contemporary studies, there are six major nutrients and each one has an important role to play. These nutrients include Fats (Lipids), Carbohydrates, Vitamins, Proteins, Minerals, and Water.
While assessing the value of each nutrient, it’s best to recognize the amount of energy used to digest, transport, and store them. Research has shown there are subtle differences in how the body reacts to each nutrient. Some nutrients digest quickly, while others continue to linger around for a long time.
This article is going to dive deeper into the world of nutrients to better understand which ones require the least amount of energy.
1. Fat (Lipids)
Yes, the number one answer would be fat and this can be a fascinating discussion for many.
In general, it’s assumed fats are stubborn and/or seem to have a considerable impact on the human body in terms of energy expenditure.
However, research has shown this is not the case and in fact, it’s the exact opposite!
There was extensive work done to assess the energy expenditure into each nutrient. The goal was to determine whether or not carbs, minerals, water, proteins, vitamins, or fats took up the most energy during the digestion process.
As a result, the numbers were as follows: proteins (20%), carbs (10%), and fats (3%) with everything else being retained by the body.
Fats are easier to digest because they remain in their current setup inside the body. This means they are easier to digest and don’t take up too much time while working through the esophagus down into the intestines.
Of course, the average person will associate fat with negativity but remember, there are good fats as well! All types of fats are digested by the human body on a daily basis and they don’t take up as much energy as one may assume.
With this in mind, fats are also the least energy-intensive when it comes to transportation (through the body) or storing. The latter is often assume with fats because they quietly store into the body creating fat deposits. However, good fats are the same and are going to transport through the body without much of a fuss.
This is one of the reasons eating good fats is essential and shouldn’t be left out of your diet plan. They serve a purpose as a nutrient and should be taken seriously while creating something meaningful to consume.
This is one of the more underrated nutrients because most people don’t associate H2O with the term.
However, in terms of science, water is indeed a nutrient and has to be assessed as such. Therefore, water is among the least energy-intensive nutrients on the planet. Keeping this in mind, there is a variable at play that has to be kept in mind when it pertains to digesting water.
The variable entails the temperature of the water.
Let’s imagine grabbing a chilled water bottle in the middle of the summer and chugging away. This is going to have a cooling effect, but it’s important to remember the body’s temperature is set between 91.8–100.8 °F. This means anything colder than this is going to be warmed by the body and that requires energy.
As a result, water is all about the temperature and that is going to play a role in how much energy is used to consume a glass of H2O. For example, a room temperature glass of water is going to take far less energy than an ice cold water bottle. It’s simply not the same and this is going to play a role in how everything works out.
To take the appropriate approach towards consuming water, it’s best to focus on the positives rather than how much energy it takes to digest water. There are many positives associated with drinking water (i.e. cleansing bad toxins, improving kidney function) and it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Otherwise, you are going to welcome a long list of health concerns over the long-term and that’s never a good thing!
The human body seeks an energy source (even for digestive processes) and this is going to tap into the number of carbs in your body.
The body looks to use carbs up throughout the day and will do so as long as they are readily available. However, this is also why many people go on low-carb diets as a way to tap into their fat deposits and slim down. There is a considerable amount of science behind these theories, however, carbohydrates indeed are easy to digest.
They will take no more than 5-10% of the calories needed to digest food.
This is a small amount in comparison to proteins, which take up to 20-30%. This is why it is best to understand how the body reacts to carb-heavy foods as soon as they enter the system.
Since it doesn’t take up a lot of calories, carb-heavy foods can have a negative impact on the body and lead to lethargy. In many cases, these foods can also end up becoming “empty calories” according to nutritionists. However, just like fats (lipids), carbohydrates serve a purpose and offer real value when it comes to bodily functions.
Eating a decent amount of carbohydrates throughout the day is a good thing as long as they are coming from the right source.
With more and more research being done on the impact of nutrients on humans, it’s become essential to understand the slight differences between each type. By keeping this information in mind, it becomes easier to put together a comprehensive meal plan without eating the wrong foods or ignoring certain nutrients.
By having the right balance between fats, carbs, and water, it’s possible to expend less energy depending on the situation. Of course, as mentioned before, do not ignore certain nutrients and continue to eat with an eye towards maintaining balance.
A good diet is always going to incorporate all six major nutrients throughout the day, week, and year.
Ben Corbin brings more than 20 years of experience as a health and wellness author and writer. He holds a master’s degree, has a passion for health and fitness, and is driven to provide readers with accurate and honest information. Learn more about Ben and the DadQuarters mission at our About page.