6 Essential Nutrients Your Body Needs and Why

Our bodies need specific types of nutrition to remain healthy and functional. Therefore, it’s important to understand each of these nutrients so that you can incorporate them into your diet. Here are the six essential nutrients your body needs and why.

What Are Nutrients?

Our body needs basic nutrition in order to grow, heal, and function at an optimal level. We get this nutrition from substances in our food called nutrients. The human body cannot produce nutrients by itself, so we need a balanced diet to provide those nutrients for us. The major functions of these nutrients are to regulate the body’s chemical processes, provide energy, and contribute to the body’s structure. All of these functions are necessary for us to breathe, move, grow, reproduce, and essentially live a healthy life. Nutrients separate into six different classes: vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and water. Our bodies need each of these six types of nutrients to function.


Nutrients break into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that our bodies need in large amounts. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are the three types of macronutrients. Each individual macronutrient has a different function within the body. Our bodies metabolize and process these nutrients into cellular energy. This cellular energy provides our bodies with the power we need to perform basic functions and tasks throughout the day. We measure the energy in food with something called “calories.” Macronutrients fuel our bodies with these calories (energy) so that we can function the way we need to every day.


Proteins are macronutrients that contain chains of amino acids. Oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen make up amino acids. We obtain these amino acids from food, which have essential functions for the body. Foods that are rich in protein include red meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, beans, soy products, nuts, seeds, and dairy products like milk, even if it’s powdered milk. Proteins provide our bodies with energy. It structures our skin, muscles, and bones. Proteins also conduct the majority of our body’s chemical reactions. Amino acids build and repair tissues within proteins. They also create enzymes and hormones, balance pH levels, and provide structure to our nails, hair, skin, and organs.


Carbohydrates are macronutrients that provide an energy source for our bodies. Carbohydrates also provide structure for the formation of new cells. Carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen make up carbohydrate molecules. We classify carbohydrates into two groups: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Foods that contain carbohydrates are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and dairy products. Simple carbohydrates contain sucrose, or glucose, which are two different units of simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates contain chains of simple sugars that can be branched or unbranched together. During digestion, complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, such as glucose. This glucose then goes to our cells, and our body uses it to make energy. Fiber is another example of a complex carbohydrate, but it does not break down during digestion.


Fats are macronutrients that store energy, provide structure for cells, signal proper cellular communication, insulate vital organs, and transport and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen make up fats. You can find fats in meats, oils, butter, fatty fish, nuts and seeds, dairy products, and processed foods. Fats break down into fatty acids and glycerol during digestion. There are three main types of fats: phospholipids, triglycerides, and sterols. The main functions of these fats are energy storage, cell membrane health, organ protection, and insulation to regulate temperature.


Water is another macronutrient that our bodies need in large amounts. Water is essential for us to live, as our bodies are more than 60 percent water. The main functions of water include transportation in and out of the body, assistance with chemical reactions, cushioning for organs, and temperature regulation for the body. The average adult consumes about two liters of water every day. Therefore, we need water to survive and function at a healthy and balanced level.


Micronutrients are the other category of nutrients that are essential for our bodies to function correctly. However, we need them in smaller quantities than macronutrients. Minerals and vitamins are examples of micronutrients. Sixteen minerals and 13 vitamins make up this group. Unlike macronutrients, micronutrients are not energy sources. Instead, micronutrients assist in the process of energy production as coenzymes. Enzymes are involved in all bodily functions and jump-start chemical reactions within the body. While we need fewer micronutrients, they are still crucial elements in the human body’s overall operations.


Thirteen different vitamins that make up this group of micronutrients. We categorize these vitamins as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. For example, vitamin C and all the B vitamins are water-soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Take your vitamins” at some point in your life, and for a good reason. These micronutrients have several vital purposes in the human body. These functions include red blood cell production, supporting healthy vision, immune system function, nervous system function, and synthesizing bone tissue.


Sixteen different minerals make up this group of micronutrients. Minerals are inorganic substances that we typically find in soil and water. We classify minerals into two groups: macrominerals and trace minerals. We need macrominerals in larger amounts, while trace minerals we need in quantities as small as a few milligrams or less. Macronutrients include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Trace minerals include zinc, iron, copper, manganese, fluoride, iodine, and selenium. The primary purposes of minerals are enzyme function, bone tissue production, nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, synthesizing hormones, and protecting the body against harmful free radicals.

Now that you know the six essential nutrients your body needs and why, you can begin incorporating these nutrients into your diet to live the healthiest life possible. A well-balanced diet is imperative to functioning at an optimal level, so you need to eat food that is rich in essential nutrients. In times of emergency, you may not have access to a large food supply, but you still need all those nutrients to survive. Therefore, you’ll need a solution to create a healthy, nutrient-rich long-term food supply in emergency situations that don’t contain potentially harmful chemicals or ingredients. NuManna Foundation offers helpful solutions for healthy long-term food products such as freeze-dried meat buckets that are a fantastic source of protein for you and your family in emergencies.

6 Essential Nutrients Your Body Needs and Why

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Amber Butler