What Are Essential Nutrients?

What Are Essential Nutrients?

What Are Essential Nutrients?

There are six basic essential nutrients.  There are three nutrients that provide energy to your body in the form of calories. These three are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The other three nutrients are vitamins, minerals, and water. These three do not provide you with any calories, however they are essential to all metabolic activity that takes place in your body.

The six essential nutrients are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protiens
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water


Carbohydrates are made up of sugars and starches. There are two different types of carbohydrates, Simple and Complex carbohydrates.

Simple Sugars- Are the sugars that can be found in foods such as: candy, soda, juices, and fruits. They are made up of two or less sugar molecules. This type of carb can be broken down quickly and used immediately as a source of energy, often referred to as a “sugar rush.” Simple sugars will cause an instant increase in blood sugar levels causing a spike in your insulin levels, in order to remove the access sugar from your blood circulation, often causing your body to store it as fat to be used as a source of energy later.

Complex Carbohydrates-Are found in foods such as; potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta. Complex carbs are made up of many sugar molecules bonded together. Complex carbs are different from simple sugars because the sugars are released at a much slower rate, because it takes longer for the body to break them down. 


Protein is made up amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscles cells. There are 22 amino acids, divided up into essential and non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are naturally produced by our bodies. Essential amino acids cannot be and as a result they must be consumed in our diets.  

There are two different types of proteins. There are animal proteins and plant proteins. Sources of animal proteins include; meats, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Sources of plant protein usually are; beans, nuts, and grains.

Protein is a key component to building lean muscle, which will increase your metabolism. The more lean body mass that you have the more calories it takes for your body to maintain it so as a result your body burns more calories all day long, even at rest.


The term fat is commonly associated with obesity and heart disease and has taken a bad rap. However, it is important to understand that not all fat is bad for you. There three main types of fat; saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, and mon-unsaturated fat.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are the type of fats responsible for increasing cholesterol levels and elevating your risk for heart disease. They can lead to clogged arteries, which will in turn slow down your metabolism.  These fats come from animal fats such as butter, fatty meats, high fat dairy products.

Polyunsaturated and Mon-unsaturated fats

These are you “Good Fats “. Unsaturated fats on the other hand do not have an impact on cholesterol levels. The majority of your daily fat consumption should come from these two types of fats. Common sources of unsaturated fats are found in your nuts and vegetable oils.  


Vitamins are used by your body in to assist in chemical reaction that take place within your body’s cells. In addition they help the body build proteins and repair injuries. There are two types of vitamins fat soluble and water soluble. The difference between the two types of vitamins is that fat soluble vitamins are stored by your body in the liver and in fat tissue. Water soluble vitamins are not stored by your body and as a result they need to be regularly replaced by your body.

By eating a well balanced diet you can meet all of your daily vitamin needs. However, you have a hard time eating a balanced diet I recommend that you take a daily multivitamin supplement.   


Minerals are used by your body to support growth and to assist in your body’s chemical reactions. Sources of minerals come from various foods, water, and supplements.


Water is the most essential nutrient for all life. Water is used in all chemical reactions in your body. It is estimated that the average person uses approximately 2 to 3 quarts of water a day. This is why it is so important to keep yourself hydrated and to constantly drink water throughout the day.

By Benjamin Petitpas, CSCS, CPT
Personal Trainer Newington, CT

About the Author Coach Ben


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