Essential Nutrients in Food

The human body needs food for energy, to keep warm, and for growth and repair. We need many nutrients on a daily basis in order to stay healthy. Six types of essential nutrients necessary for human survival, they are:

1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a major energy source. Along with providing fuel for physical activity, they also power the body’s involuntary functions, including heartbeat, breathing and digestive processes. See more on carbohydrates.

2. Proteins

Every cell, from bone to skin to hair, contains protein. 15 percent of the average person’s body weight is from protein. Protein is used primarily for growth, health, and body maintenance. All of your hormones, antibodies, and other important substances are composed of protein. See more on proteins.

3. Fats

Fats 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. Fats are high in calories, but those calories are an important energy source for your body. See more on fats.

4. Vitamins

Vitamins are micronutrients, meaning the body needs them in small quantities. Vitamins are organic compounds produced by living beings. Because most vitamins cannot be made in the body, we must obtain them through the diet. There are 13 essential vitamins that the body needs to function properly. Each vitamin plays an important role in the body, and not getting enough of them can cause health problems and diseases. Vitamins are essential for healthy vision, skin, and bones. But vitamins are not a source of energy (i.e. vitamins have zero calories).

5. Minerals

Minerals are also micronutrients, so the body needs them in small quantities. Minerals are inorganic elements that originate in the earth. Much like vitamins, minerals help support the body. They are essential for many body functions, including building strong bones and teeth, metabolism, and staying properly hydrated. Some of the most common minerals are calcium, iron, and zinc. Like vitamins, minerals are not a source of energy (i.e. minerals have zero calories) and are best obtained through a varied diet rather than supplements.

6. Water

Water is a vital nutrient for good health.  Most of our body weight (60-70%) is made up of water.  Water helps to control our body temperature, carries nutrients and waste products from our cells, and is needed for our cells to function. Water improves your brain function and mood. It also helps to hydrate the body, and prevent constipation. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and impair your concentration and physical performance.

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. Dietary requirements vary with age and sex. Consult your doctor or dietitian about the diet that is best for you.

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