Everything You Need to Know About the 6 Essential Nutrients

Nutritionists have long known that there are six vitamins and minerals that the body needs in order to function properly. They’re called essential nutrients because your body can’t produce them on its own, so you must get them from your diet or supplementation.

Knowing about the essential nutrients can help you live healthier and longer! So, what are the six essential nutrients? The six essential nutrients are calcium, choline, copper, iodine, iron, and selenium. Read on to learn more about each of these important substances!


1) Fat

A nutrient that makes up about 33% of our bodies is fat. Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad for you and can actually be beneficial in helping with brain development and overall health.

One type of fat known as omega-3 is an essential nutrient, which helps with neurological and heart functions in your body. Omega-3 is found primarily in animal sources such as fish, eggs, and dairy but also some vegetable sources like flax seeds or chia seeds.


All types of oils including olive oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and peanut oil contain these fatty acids as well. However only 1 out of every 3 people get enough omega-3 from their diet alone so it’s best to supplement this vitamin through food sources or a daily supplement pill.

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2) Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a form of energy and make up 4 calories per gram. Your body uses carbohydrates as its main source of fuel, especially when exercising or going without food for a while.


When it comes to carbohydrates, foods that contain refined sugars aren’t considered essential because they can contribute to weight gain and unhealthy eating habits.

It’s best for people on carbohydrate-restricted diets (e.g., diabetes) or those who live a largely sedentary lifestyle limit their consumption of these foods so that they don’t consume too many calories from carbohydrates.

Complex carbs are preferred over simple carbs because they take longer to digest and cause less spikes in blood sugar levels. Complex carbs include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruits. Protein: Protein is necessary for muscle growth, cell repair and making hormones like insulin.

As long as you eat enough protein each day (at least 0.36 grams per pound), your body will be able to use all the protein you need even if you’re doing lots of physical activity or not getting enough restful sleep. Fat: The most common type of fat is unsaturated fat which come in mono-saturated fats like olive oil and polyunsaturated fats like sunflower oil.

3) Protein

Protein is essential for cell growth and repair. It’s also important for our muscle, organ, and immune systems. Our bodies can’t store protein, so we need to eat it regularly. It’s found in almost all animal-based foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

You can also find plant-based protein in nuts, beans, grains and vegetables.
Many people mistakenly think they’re not getting enough protein if they’ve eliminated meat from their diet or they’re following a vegan lifestyle.

Thankfully there are many high-quality options available including tempeh (a fermented soybean product), tofu (soybean curd), seitan (wheat gluten), and lentils (lentil bean). These protein sources can be enjoyed by anyone looking to reduce the amount of meat they consume, as well as those on a vegan diet.

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4) Vitamins

1. Vitamin A is involved in cell growth and regeneration, immune system health, healthy eyesight, and reproductive health. It can be found in spinach, cantaloupe, carrots, yellow squash.

2. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is an important vitamin for brain development and blood vessel function. It can be found in oats, sunflower seeds, cabbage.

3. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is important for skin health and as a cofactor of certain enzymes like those that are involved in digestion of protein and carbohydrates. It can be found in dairy products like milk or yogurt or dark leafy greens like kale or bok choy.

4. Vitamin B3 (niacin) helps the body use food energy and build muscles and make sex hormones.

5. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) helps with fat metabolism, makes red blood cells, synthesizes some hormones and aids in energy production by breaking down sugars into usable energy sources. It can be found in avocado, egg yolk, peanuts.

6. Vitamin B6 is required for neurotransmitter synthesis and supports nerve health by preventing damage to myelin sheaths on nerves which can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease or peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes mellitus type 1 . It can be found in chicken breast, turkey breast, salmon, bananas.

7. Vitamin C plays a major role in connective tissue repair and immune system defense against infection-causing agents. Citrus fruits like oranges are high in vitamin C.

8. Vitamin D regulates absorption of calcium and phosphorus which affects bone density, teeth and muscle strength among other things. Fish oil supplements are often high in vitamin D so look for brands with 400 IU per capsule when you’re buying them over the counter because they’re not available over-the-counter at pharmacies without a prescription from your doctor!

9. Vitamin E is an antioxidant responsible for protecting cellular membranes from oxidation and slows aging by reducing oxidative stress. It can be found in wheat germ, nuts, avocados.

10. Vitamin K promotes normal blood clotting and builds strong bones. It can be found in green vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

5) Minerals

We usually think of macronutrients when we’re discussing nutrients, but minerals are also a very important part of a healthy diet. Minerals are essential to body processes like hormone production and muscle contraction and they help regulate blood pressure and acid balance.

Minerals also play an important role in bone health, so it’s especially important for women who may be at risk for osteoporosis or even kidney stones.

The six most common minerals in our diet are calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, selenium and copper. A deficiency in any one of these minerals can lead to problems such as dizziness or heart palpitations. The good news is that it’s not too difficult to get enough minerals through food—we just need more variety! It’s helpful to eat dark leafy greens, whole grains, nuts and seeds because these foods have high levels of both potassium and magnesium.

Magnesium-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, quinoa, cashews, kale and halibut while potassium-rich foods include bananas, potatoes with skin on them (like sweet potatoes), avocados and beans. Some people might find that adding in supplements makes it easier to stay on top of their mineral intake; supplements are available for all six minerals mentioned above.

One way to ensure you’re getting your daily requirement of each mineral is by taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement each day. These types of supplements will contain small amounts of all six minerals without overloading your system with excess vitamins and minerals which could lead to side effects such as digestive issues or nausea.

Make sure to ask your doctor before starting any new supplement routine though! Supplements can’t replace the importance of eating nutritious meals made from fresh ingredients—the key is moderation!

6) Water

The most important nutrient of all is water. Every day your body loses water because of perspiration, breathing, urination, and evaporation.

No other nutrient is as important as water; every cell in your body depends on it. It keeps you alive and healthy by maintaining your internal balance (homeostasis).

Without enough fluid you will feel thirsty, suffer dehydration, and finally die from a lack of water in your body (dehydration). Your brain needs water to function well. Lack of water causes headaches, fatigue, constipation, decreased concentration, nausea and more serious consequences like heat stroke or kidney failure.