Essential Nutrients: What to Know About It and Food Sources


According to Britannica essential nutrients, diets are likely tiny helpers in the food we eat, making sure our bodies grow and stay healthy. So, in this article, we’ll explore what nutrients are and how they work together to create a balanced and good for you diet. The six vital nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates. So, these nutrients are necessary for the body to function properly and must be obtained from the diet.

What are Essential Nutrients?

Essential nutrients play a crucial role in supporting reproduction, good health, and growth. These nutrients are divided into two categories, Micronutrients and Macronutrients. Micronutrients are needed in small doses and include vitamins and minerals. Even though the body requires them in small amounts, a deficiency can lead to health issues. Macronutrients are required in larger quantities and include water, protein, carbohydrates, and fats. So essential nutrients are special parts in our food that our bodies need to stay strong and work properly. There are two main types: big ones (macronutrients) and small ones (micronutrients).

What to Know About Macronutrients and Micronutrients?


These are the big helpers we need more of:

So, how much do you consume the macronutrients per day?

  • 45-65% carbohydrates
  • 20-35% fats
  • 10-35% protein


So, these are the smaller helpers we need a bit of:

Read on to learn more about where to find these nutrients and why they are essential for the body.


Vitamins and micronutrients that provide various health benefits, including:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Helping prevent or delay certain cancers, such as prostate cancer
  • Strengthening teeth and bones
  • Aiding calcium absorption
  • Maintaining health skin
  • Assisting the body in metabolizing proteins and carbs
  • Supporting healthy blood
  • Aiding brain and nervous system functioning

So, nutritionists divide the 13 essential vitamins into two groups: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Fat Soluble Vitamins:

Water Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B2  (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B5  (Pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin 3   (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate, folic acid)
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Vitamin C

So, individuals who consume a diet abundant in vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins can obtain all the vitamins they require from their food. However, individuals who consume fewer fruits and vegetables, as well as those with digestive conditions, may need to take a vitamin supplement to prevent or alleviate a deficiency.


Minerals make the second category of micronutrients. They fall into two groups: major and trace minerals. The body requires a balance of minerals from both groups for overall health.

Major Minerals:

  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur
  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride

The major minerals assist the body in:

  • Regulating water levels
  • Maintaining healthy skin, hairs, and nails
  • Enhancing bone health

Trace Minerals:

  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iodine
  • Fluoride
  • Molybdenum

Trace minerals help with:

  • Strengthening bones
  • Preventing tooth decay
  • Aiding in blood clotting
  • Helping to carry oxygen
  • Supporting the immune system
  • Supporting healthy blood pressure

A person can ensure they consume enough minerals by including the following foods in their diet.

  • Red meat
  • Iodized table salt
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Leafy greens
  • Fruits
  • Poultry
  • Fortified bread and cereals
  • Egg yolks
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Legumes


Protein is a vital macronutrient necessary for the proper functioning of every cell in the body. Proteins perform various functions, including:

  • Facilitating the growth and development of muscles, bones, hairs, and skin.
  • Producing antibodies, hormones, and other essential substances.
  • Serving as a source of fuel for cells and tissues when required.

Protein can be obtained through diet. The following foods are excellent sources of protein:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Seafoods
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Quinoa

While meats and fish typically have high protein levels, vegans and vegetarians can also meet their protein needs through various plant-based products.


Many people believe that high-fat foods are detrimental to health. However, the body actually requires certain fats to maintain optimal health. Fats play a crucial role in providing energy and supporting various bodily functions. It’s important to focus on consuming healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, while limiting or avoiding saturated and trans fats. Healthy fats contribute to the following functions:

  • Cell growth
  • Blood clotting
  • Building new cells
  • Reducing the risk or heart disease and type-2 diabetes
  • Muscle movement
  • Balancing blood sugar levels
  • Brain function
  • Absorption of minerals and vitamins
  • Hormone production
  • Immune function

According to the recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals should aim to consume 20-35% of their calories from healthy fats. Healthy fats can be found in various foods, including nuts, fish, vegetable oils, and seeds.


Carbohydrates are crucial for the body as they provide energy for all cells and tissues. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. It’s important to limit intake of simple carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, and rice. However, complex carbohydrates are essential for:

  • Supporting the immune system
  • Brain and nervous function
  • Providing energy for daily tasks
  • Digestive function

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45-65% of daily calories come from complex carbohydrates. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Baked goods
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits
  • Barley

Avoid overly processed products containing bleached white flour and foods with added sugar.


Water is the most vital nutrient the body needs. Without it, a person can only survive for a few days. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches and decreased physical and mental performance. So the human body is mostly water, and every cell relies on water to function properly. Water serves several essential functions, including:

  • Flushing out toxins
  • Absorbing shocks
  • Transporting nutrients
  • Preventing constipation
  • Lubricating joints
  • Keeping the body hydrated

The best way to get water is by drinking plain, unsweetened water from taps or bottled sources. For those who don’t enjoy plain water, adding a squeeze of lemon or other citrus fruits can enhance the taste. Additionally, consuming fruits with high water content can help increase hydration levels. So it’s important to avoid sugary drinks like sweetened teas, coffees, soda, lemonade, and fruit juices as they can add unnecessary calories and lead to health issues.

Changing Your Diet, Choosing Essential Nutrient-rich Foods:

Choose a diet made of essential nutrient rich foods. Nutrient rich foods are low in sugar, sodium, starches, and bad fats. They contain a lot of vitamins and minerals and few calories. So your body needs vitamins and minerals known as micronutrients. They nourish your body and help keep you healthy. They can reduce your risk for chronic disease. Getting them through food ensures your body can absorb them properly. Try to eat a variety of foods to get the different vitamins and minerals. Foods that naturally are nutrient-rich include fruits and vegetables. Lean meats, fishes, whole grain, dairy, legumes, nuts, and seeds also are high in nutrients.

Path to Improved Health:

You may not get all the micronutrients your body needs. Because Americans tend to eat foods that are high in calories and low in micronutrients. So, these foods often also contain added sugar, sodium, and saturated or trans fats. This type of diet contributes to weight gain. It can increase your risk of health issues, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) American adults may not get enough of the following micronutrients.

Essential Nutrient Diet & Food Sources:


Nonfat and low-fat dairy, dairy substitutes, broccoli, dark, leafy greens, and sardines.


Bananas, cantaloupe, raisins, nuts, fishes, and spinach and other dark greens


So legumes (dried beans and peas) whole-grain foods and brands, seeds, apples, strawberries, carrots, raspberries, and colorful fruit and vegetables


Spinach, black beans, peas and almonds

Vitamin A:

Eggs, milk, carrots, sweet, potatoes and cantaloupe

Vitamin C:

Oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, red and green bell peppers

Vitamin E:

So, avocados, nuts, seeds, whole-grain foods, and spinach and other dark leafy greens. All of the above foods are good choices. Below are suggestions for changing your diet to be more essential nutrient-rich.


Whole-grain foods are low in fat. So they’re also high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. This helps you feel full longer and prevents overeating. So check the ingredients list for the word “whole”. For example, “whole wheat flour” or whole oat flour”. Look for products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Some enriched flours have fiber but are not nutrient-rich. So, choose these foods:

  • Rolled or steel cut oats
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Whole-grain (wheat or rye) crackers, breads, and rolls
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Barely, quinoa buckwheat, whole corn, and cracked wheat

Fruits and Vegetables:

So fruits and vegetables naturally are low in fat. They add nutrients, flavor, and variety to your diet. Look for colorful fruits and vegetables, especially orange and dark green. So, choose these foods:

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens, such as chard cabbage romaine and bok choy
  • Dark, leafy greens, such as spinach and kale
  • Squash, carrots, sweet, potatoes, turnips, and pumpkin
  • Snap peas, green beans, bell peppers, and asparagus
  • Apples, plums, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, and bananas
  • Blueberries, strawberries, cherries, pomegranate, and grapes
  • Citrus fruits, such as grapefruits and orange
  • Peaches, pears and melons
  • Tomatoes and avocados

Meat, poultry, fish, and beans:

Choose low-fat, lean cuts of meat. Look for the words “round”, “lion”, or “leg” names. Trim outside fat before cooking. Trim any inside separable fat before eating. Baking, broiling, and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare these meats. So limit how often you eat beef, pork, veal, and lamb. Even lean cuts contain more fat and cholesterol compared to other protein sources.


Because chicken breasts are a good cut of poultry. Because they are low in fat and high in protein. Remove the skin and outside fat before cooking, baking, broiling, grilling, and roasting are the healthiest ways to prepare poultry.


Fresh fish and shellfish should be damp and clear in the color. So they should be a little clean and have a firm, springy flesh. If fresh isn’t available, choose frozen or low-salt canned fish. So wild-caught oily fish are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. This includes salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Poaching, steaming, baking, and broiling are the healthiest ways to prepare fish.

Beans and Other Non-meat Sources:

Non-meat sources of protein also can be rich in essential nutrients. Try a serving of beans, peanut butter, other nuts, or seeds. So, choose these foods:

  • Lean cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb
  • Turkey bacon
  • Ground chicken or turkey
  • Wild-caught salmon and other oily fish
  • Haddock and other white fish
  • Wild-caught tuna (canned or fresh)
  • Shrimp, mussels, scallops, and other lobster (without added fat)
  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • Seeds and nuts including nut butters

Dairy and Dairy Substitutes:

So choose skim milk, low fat milk, or enriched milk substitutes. Try replacing cream with evaporated skim milk in recipes and coffee. Choose low-fat or fat free cheeses.

Choose these foods:

  • Low-fat, skim, nut, or enriched milk, like soy or rice
  • Skim ricotta cheese in place or cream cheese
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • String cheese
  • Plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream


What are the basic essential nutrients in a diet?

There are 6 basic essential nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. All of these are classified as essential. Your body requires essential nutrients to function properly. These nutrients must be obtained from the foods you eat your body cannot make them on its own.

What are the 6 basic forms of essential nutrients?

They are 6 major essential nutrients. Such as:

  • Water
  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

What essential nutrient is most important?

Water is the most important essential nutrient in daily life. Water is probably the most important nutrient that a person needs. A person can only survive a few days without consuming water.

What is saturated food?

So, saturated fats are found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy products and eggs and tropical oils like coconut and palm. Because they are typically solid at room temperature they are sometimes called solid fats.

How to burn fat naturally?

So, here’s how to whittle down where it matters most. Such as:

  • Try curbing carbs instead of fats
  • Think eating plan, not diet
  • Keep moving
  • Lift weights
  • Become a label reader
  • Move away from processed foods
  • Focus on the way your clothes fit more than reading a scale
  • Hang out with health-focused friends

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