Essential Nutrients

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Essential Nutrients

The body’s essential nutrients are composed of chemical elements found in food and used by the body to perform many different functions. Food provides heat, promotes growth, repairs tissues, and regulates body processes. The six essential nutrients include:

  1. CARBOHYDRATES        
    1. Major source of human energy
    2. Easily digested
    3. Cheaper source of energy than fats or proteins
    4. Made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen
    5. Main dietary sources: bread, pasta, crackers, cereals, potatoes, corn, peas, fruits, sugar, and syrups
    6. Carbohydrates should make up 40% - 50% of the daily diet.
  2. FATS
    1. Provide the most concentrated form of energy but are a more expensive source of energy than carbohydrates
    2. Made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen but contain more oxygen than carbohydrates
    3. Maintain body temperature by providing insulation; cushion organs and bones; aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins; provide flavor to meals 
    4. Two classifications of fats:

                                                               i.      Saturated: fats that are solid at room temperature (shortening)

                                                              ii.      Unsaturated: fats that are liquid or soft at room temperature (oils)

    1. Cholesterol: a fatty substance found in body cells and animal fats and also manufactured by the liver. An excess can contribute to atherosclerosis
    2. Main dietary sources: butter, margarine, oils, cream, fatty meats, cheeses, and egg yolk
    3. Daily diet should consist of no more than 25% - 30% fat.
    1. Basic components of all body cells
    2. Essential for building and repairing tissue, regulating body functions, and providing energy and heat
    3. Made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and some also contain sulfur, phosphorus, iron and iodine
    4. Proteins are made up of 22 building blocks called amino acids:

                                                               i.      Complete proteins: contain 9 of the amino acids that are essential to life. Found in meats, fish, milk, cheeses, eggs

                                                              ii.      Incomplete proteins: contain any of the remaining thirteen amino acids and some of the nine essential amino acids. Found in vegetable foods such as cereals, soybeans, dry beans, peas, and peanuts.

    1. Daily diet should consist of 10% - 15% protein
    1. Vitamins are organic (living) compounds that are essential to life
    2. Vitamins are important for metabolism, tissue building, and regulating body processes
    3. Vitamins allow the body to use the energy provided by carbohydrates, fats and proteins
    4. Only small amounts of vitamins are required; a well balanced diet usually supplies adequate amounts
    5. Vitamins are classified as one of two types:

                                                               i.      Water soluble: dissolve in water, are easily destroyed by cooking, air and light (vitamin C and B complex)

                                                              ii.      Fat soluble: dissolve in fat, can be stored in the body, are not easily destroyed by cooking, air and light, (Vitamins A,D,E,K)

    1. Minerals are inorganic (non living) elements found in all body cells
    2. Minerals regulate body fluids, assist in various body functions, contribute to growth, and aid in building tissues
  2. WATER
    1. Water is found in all body tissues
    2. Water essential for the digestion (breakdown) of food, makes up most of the blood plasma, helps body tissues absorb nutrients, and helps move waste material through the body.
    3. The average person needs 6 to 8 glasses of water each day


Understanding Food Labels and Six Essential Nutrients:

Kid’s World Nutrition Information: Food Guide Pyramid:

Mayohealth Nutrition Page Understanding food labels:

Mayohealth Nutrition Basics:


Explore the following link to live internet broadcasts. Choose a broadcast about nutrition or a disease that can be linked to a nutritional issue. Watch the broadcast and submit a summary of the show to the instructor. Document the summary below. The summary should include Web address, Title of the show, primary points made during the show, your analysis of the presentation.









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