Nutrients are classified as essential because the body cannot make them, yet they are needed for various vital processes, including growth, repair, disease prevention, and good health. There are 6 essential nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy.

Most of these nutrients can be found in supplement forms, however, the World Health Organization insists that they be obtained completely from food if you have a varied diet.

Essential nutrients are classified mainly into micronutrients and macronutrients.

This article explains more about the different categories and why you need them.

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A macronutrient is a type of nutrient that the body needs in large amounts. There are three main types of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each type of macronutrient plays an important role in keeping the body healthy.

1. Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a key role in many bodily functions. It’s the building block of tissues, muscles, bone, hair, skin, and any other cell in the body. It is responsible for the growth and repair of tissues, the production of enzymes and hormones, and the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. Protein can also help support immunity, prevent bone loss, regulate metabolism, and control appetite, leading to a healthy weight.

There are many different types of protein, but all proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and there are 20 different amino acids that can be used to make protein. 9 of these amino acids are considered essential, meaning that they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet.

Animal products (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy) are the best sources of protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. However, animal-based products are not the healthiest to consume.

Plant proteins (such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds) are the best, but most plant sources may not contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Some plant sources that can offer complete protein include quinoa, soy, buckwheat, hemp, chia seed, spirulina, tempeh, and amaranth.

If on a plant-based diet, it is important to eat a variety of protein-rich foods to get all of the essential amino acids needed for good health.

Most people get enough protein from their diet, but some groups of people may need to increase their intakes, such as athletes or people who are recovering from an injury. Protein supplements are also available, but it is important to speak to a healthcare professional before taking them.

2. Fats

Fats are an important part of a balanced diet. They are a source of essential fatty acids that the body cannot make by itself, such as omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

Fats are also necessary for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, as a source of energy, and for proper cell functions.

They can be classified into saturated and unsaturated fats. While the body requires both types of fats, too many saturated fats can be harmful to your health. Research shows that saturated fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that no more than 30 percent of your daily calorie requirement should come from saturated fats.

That being said, your source of saturated fats is also essential. Animal products are a major source, but also the worst to consume followed by plant sources such as coconut oil.

Unsaturated fats are the best type to consume. In addition to a healthy diet, they can help maintain healthy weight, lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, lower blood sugar levels, and support brain health. The best sources include nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, and flaxseed.

3. Carbohydrates

Carbs are one of the three macronutrients that the body needs in order to function properly. They are essential for proper metabolism and energy production. Carbs are also necessary for proper brain and nervous system function.

The body breaks down all carbs into sugar molecules which are then used for energy. The type of carb you eat will determine how quickly this process happens. Simple carbs are broken down very quickly, while complex carbs take longer to break down.

How many carbs you need depends on a number of factors, including your age, activity level, and overall health. The average person needs between 225-325 grams of carbs per day. However, if you are trying to lose weight, you may need to consume fewer carbs than this.

Carbohydrates are classified into three groups:


Starches are also known as complex sugars, because they consist of many sugar molecules that are joined together. They are the commonly consumed type of carbohydrates.

Starchy carbs are often found in legumes, whole grains, and starchy vegetables like white potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and butter squash.

However, the starches consumed today are highly processed with minimal nutrients. This speeds up their digestion, causing a spike in blood glucose. High glucose in the blood can cause fat storage leading to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.


Sugars are also called simple carbohydrates. They are easily broken down in the body to release energy. They are found naturally in foods such as vegetables and fruits.

Sugars are also available in processed foods such as candy, soft drinks, table sugar, and syrups. However, you should avoid the latter as much as you can.

While carbohydrates have their benefits, the type of carbohydrates you consume matters the most.

Always avoid refined carbohydrates and processed sugars, and consume healthy forms in moderation.

According to the dietary guidelines for Americans, carbohydrates should make up to 45-65 percent of your total calorie intake per day. These can include whole complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruit.


Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, so it doesn’t contribute calories. It also speeds up digestion by absorbing water, which helps keep waste moving through your system. Fiber is essential for your health: if you don’t eat enough of it, you could experience constipation and other digestive problems. The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men—think of it as eating one apple with your meal each day.

Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugars. However, fiber remains intact. This helps regulate how your body uses sugar, which controls hunger and maintains glucose levels within normal.

Fiber may even lower cholesterol and promote fullness, which may cause you to eat less, leading to low-calorie intake and weight loss.

Also, when fiber gets in the colon, it helps feed the good gut bacteria, increasing their number and diversity, thus promoting a healthy digestive system and strong immunity.

All whole plant food contains fiber, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.


Micronutrients, or micronutrients, are a type of nutrient that is required by the human body in very small quantities. They are compounds that cannot be synthesized by the human body and must be acquired through foods or dietary supplements. They include:

4. Vitamins

Vitamins are essential nutrients that your body needs in order to function properly. Vitamins are found in food, but you can also get them from supplements. There are 13 different vitamins, and each one is important for different things. Some vitamins provide energy, help the body to absorb nutrients, or protect against disease. Other vitamins help the body fight disease and stay healthy. 

Vitamins can be classified into fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins.

Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that dissolve in fats, rather than in water. That means they are only absorbed in the presence of fat. They include vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins are important for maintaining healthy skin and red blood cells and helping maintain a healthy immune system.

Vitamins such as vitamin A and E also offer antioxidant benefits and may help lower cancer risk, fight inflammation, improve vision, support skin health, and generally boost the immune system.

Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin B complex and vitamin C) are those that dissolve in water and are not stored in the body. After the body has taken up what it needs, excess water-soluble vitamins are lost through urine. That’s why it’s difficult to overdose on these kinds of vitamins.

That being said, high consumption of processed foods today has rendered people deficient in most essential nutrients, including vitamins. And even though some people may opt for supplements, natural sources are healthy and contain other added nutrients. A well-balanced diet full of vegetables and fruits should keep your requirements met.

5. Minerals

Minerals are essential for our bodies to function properly. They are responsible for helping to form bones, teeth, and muscles. Minerals also play a role in regulating blood pressure, digesting food, and controlling nerve impulses.

There are two groups of minerals that you need. Major minerals, which the body needs in large amounts, and trace minerals, which are required in small quantities.

Major minerals include calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and chloride. Trace minerals include copper, manganese, iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, fluoride, and cobalt.

Minerals help the body function and stay healthy by keeping your heart, bones, muscles, nerves, and brain working properly. They are also essential for the production of hormones and enzymes.

You can meet your minerals requirement by incorporating various foods into your diet, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.

6. Water

Did you know that you can go days without food, but you may not survive without water? That’s how important water is. In fact, 62 percent of your body weight is made up of water. That’s why any slight dehydration can result in poor physical performance and concentration, headaches, and fatigue.

Water is essential for transporting nutrients and oxygen into the cells, aiding digestion, cushioning joints, preventing constipation, flushing out bacteria from the bladder, normalizing blood pressure, improving brain function and mood, and protecting tissues and organs.

Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough of it. The CDC says that around a third of Americans are dehydrated on any given day—that’s about 75 million people! Drinking lots of water helps stave off dehydration and keep your organs in tip-top shape.

So how much should you drink?

That depends on several factors, including your size and activity level. For example, if you’re very active or live in a hot climate, you may need more water than someone who’s sedentary or lives in cooler climes. But as a general rule of thumb, aim to consume half your body weight in ounces every day.

To figure out how much water that is, simply take your weight in pounds and divide it by two. If you weigh 200 pounds, for example, aim to drink 100 ounces of water each day. You can do so by drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water throughout the day, or just one 16-ounce glass four times a day.

Remember: Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated beverages do not count toward your daily fluid intake; they actually act as diuretics, causing you to lose water instead of retaining it. And alcohol has a dehydrating effect as well. So be sure to drink plenty of water even when you’re enjoying a cocktail or beer at happy hour!

Final Thoughts

The human body needs these 6 essential nutrients to function properly. No matter how much you eat, if you are not getting enough of these nutrients, your body will suffer. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your diet is providing you with the right amount of vitamins and minerals every day.

These nutrients can be split into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. They include proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and water. Making sure you consume these on a regular basis will keep your body running in good shape.

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