Nutrients and Your Body

We are always hearing about the importance of nutrients in our diet - that's why we eat fruit and vegetables, take supplements, and buy enriched products. But what exactly are nutrients and how do they help our health?

Nutrients and You

Nutrients are substances used by your body to make energy and to repair itself. They are necessary for the proper working and growth of your body, and they must come from the environment. In other words, you need nutrients for a number of bodily functions and upkeep, and you have to eat nutrients because you can't make them yourself.

Nutrients can be used to provide energy, such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and they can also be used to support metabolism and the upkeep of your body, such as vitamins and minerals.

Although all of us need to ingest water and oxygen to survive, there are not considered nutrients since we do not eat them as food.

Nutrient Classification

Nutrients come in organic form (meaning they are taken from living things) and inorganic form (they were never part of a living thing, rather they come from the earth). Proteins, fats, vitamins, and amino acids are organic nutrients because they are derived from living things like plants, dairy and meats. Minerals are inorganic nutrients because they come from non-living things the earth.

Nutrients can also be classified by how much of them you need. Macronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in large quantities for its upkeep, such as the chemical elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. These are the elements that humans consume in the largest quantities, because they are the components that make up living things. The minerals calcium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium are also sometimes called macronutrients because we require them in relatively large quantities compared to other vitamins and minerals. Together with phosphorus and sulfur, these minerals are also sometimes called macrominerals. Eamples of organic macronutrients (as opposed to the inorganic macronutrients discussed so far) are the chemical compounds that we use for energy: fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

In comparison to macronutrients, micronutrients are all other vitamins and minerals that we need to consume to stay healthy, but not in near as large quantities as the macronutrients.

One more classification used on nutrients is whether they are essential or inessential. Essential nutrients are those which our bodies can't make themselves. Therefore we must get them thorugh what we consume (our food). Essential nutrients to human are essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, vitamins, and certain dietary minerals. Inessential nutrients are those our bodies can synthesize themselves, using the essential nutrients.

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