What are Essential Nutrients?

Felicia Dye

Supplying the body with essential nutrients is one of the main reasons why people need to eat. Essential nutrients are nutritional components that allow the body to perform functions that would otherwise not be possible and which could lead to a deterioration of health or death. There are six nutritional components that fall into this category. These are fats, proteins, water, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Water is the most critical essential nutrient for the body.
Water is the most critical essential nutrient for the body.

Water is the most important of the essential nutrients. The body is composed largely of water. Actually, all of the body’s tissues contain this nutrient. It is needed for the digestive process to function properly and for proper blood production. It is, therefore, very important to shower the body with a sufficient supply of water.

Recommended Daily Intakes (RDIs) have been established for both macronutrients and micronutrients.
Recommended Daily Intakes (RDIs) have been established for both macronutrients and micronutrients.

Many of the dietary components that popular weight loss plans advise people to drastically reduce or eliminate are important parts of the human diet. In addition to being important, they are essential, meaning that when the body lacks sufficient amounts, the body does not function properly. Two prime examples of essential nutrients that often have bad reputations are carbohydrates and fats.

One important role of the human diet is to provide the body with energy. There are three types of essential nutrients that can fulfill this capacity — fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The body’s preferred source of energy, however, is carbohydrates, which reveals how unwise diet plans are that advise people to eliminate these nutrients.

Fats and proteins also have other important functions. One important role of fats is that they act as insulation, thereby, helping humans regulate their body temperatures. Every cell in the human body contains protein. This means that without sufficient protein, proper cellular development is not possible.

Vitamins are organic materials the body extracts from food so certain processes can be maintained. Energy consumption is a good example. Without vitamins, the body could not process the energy derived from the other nutrients. Vitamins are also responsible for regulating metabolism.

Minerals are inorganic materials. These substances are needed to regulate bodily processes and help build bodily structures. For example, minerals are needed for the formation of bones and hormones.

Essential nutrients tend to work together to keep the body functioning. However, there is one thing they have in common that makes them essential. These nutrients must be obtained by consumption. Although the human body is dependent on them, it is either incapable of producing them or incapable of producing sufficient amounts of them to maintain human health.

Many of the essential vitamins and nutrients a person needs to maintain their health can be found in fruits and vegetables.
Many of the essential vitamins and nutrients a person needs to maintain their health can be found in fruits and vegetables.

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Discussion Comments


The six essential nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.


I have always found water to be the most misunderstood essential nutrient today. Very few people actually know that drinking down 8 to 10 glasses of water of day is more of an urban legend than actual fact.

Nutrition experts studied this and discovered that it was a leftover belief from the World War II era that never got properly debunked. It really has no real scientific basis. They haven't actually ever set solid guidelines on water consumption because everyone is a bit different. They believe though, that most people get enough from their food and other beverages.

It is really best not to drink too much water though, as it can actually make you ill.


If you are not sure whether or not you are getting enough essential nutrients it is best to see your doctor for a physical. A doctor can give you a simple blood test to show how your vitamin and mineral levels are doing, and he or she can then tell you if you will need any supplements.

I think that most people who live busy lives don't always have the most diets, so drinking lots of water and adding a multi-vitamin to your diet can do wonders. There are vitamins specialized for people of all ages and activity levels. Check out your local nutrition store and find something that works for you.


@MrsWinslow - I like that idea! I feel like making a point of eating six servings of carbs and two of protein crowds out fruits and veggies, but I guess it doesn't have to.

I think the biggest problem people have in this country with a non-whole food is refined carbs! White flour and added sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, yum) are everywhere. The official government recommendation is no help--they say to make half your grains whole grains, as if you should be eating half refined grains! There is no reason why your diet needs nutrition-free refined grains, with essential nutrients removed, ever.

My tip for eating healthier is to avoid drinking calories in any form--coffee, juice, soda, etc. (Tea is a good choice if you don't sweeten too much.) Think of these as special treats, not an every day thing.


I find it helpful to think of protein, carbohydrates, and fats as vehicles for delivering fruits and vegetables. Obviously, protein, carbs, and fats are essential nutrients for the body, but most people will get plenty if they eat, for instance, rice loaded with vegetables, chicken soup with twice the veggies and half the meat, spinach sauteed in olive oil, etc.

And try to eat foods in their whole form. Whenever you take something away, like turning fruit into juice, essential nutrients are lost.

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