What are the Six Essential Nutrients?


Nutrition is a vital component of our health. Our bodies require essential nutrients to provide us with energy, to build and maintain body tissues, and to regulate our body functions. An essential nutrient is a nutrient that the body cannot synthesize on its own — or not to an adequate amount — and must be provided by the diet. The six essential nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. The best way to get these nutrients is by following a varied, healthy diet featuring plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, nonfat dairy products and healthy fats. This article will tell you the role of these nutrients for our bodies.


Carbohydrates are your primary energy source for the body. They’re fuel for your muscles and brain, they also power the body’s involuntary functions, including heartbeat, breathing and digestive processes. Most calories (55-60%) should come from carbohydrates. Sources of carbohydrates include grain products such as breads, cereals, pasta, and rice as well as fruits and vegetables.


Protein from food is broken down into amino acids by the digestive system. These amino acids are essential for building and repairing muscles, red blood cells, hair and other tissues. They’re also needed for the manufacture of hormone enzymes and antibody function. Ten to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from lean protein sources such as low-fat meat, dairy, beans or eggs.


You may think fats as dietary enemies, but they are as necessary to the body’s normal functioning as the other essential nutrients. Dietary fat helps the absorption of vitamins, supports cell membrane health and helps maintain the immune system. The fat in food includes a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fat. Choose healthy unsaturated fats such as omega-3-rich foods like fish, walnuts and vegetable-based oils. Other smart choices include nuts, seeds and avocado. Twenty to 35 percent of your daily intake should come from fat.


Vitamins perform a variety of functions including their assistance with building body tissues, their action in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and their role in the prevention of nutritional deficiency diseases as well as the promotion of good health. There are 13 vitamins, including vitamins A, B complex, C, D, E, and K. Because most vitamins cannot be made in the body, we must obtain them through the diet.


Minerals are found in plants and animal foods and play a very significant role in various bodily functions essential to physical movement. For example, calcium and magnesium are important for bone structure, iron is needed for our red blood cells to transport oxygen, and sodium helps to maintain fluid volume outside of the cells and helps cells to function normally. Like vitamins, minerals are not a source of energy and are best obtained through a varied diet rather than supplements.


Water is a vital nutrient for good health. Most of our body weight (60-70%) is made up of water. It helps cleanse your body of wastes and toxins, carries essential nutrients to your cells, lubricates your joints and helps maintain your body temperature. Click here to learn the more benefits of water.

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