The human body cannot make essential nutrients to stay alive on its own.  Essential nutrients come directly from food. They are crucial for your growth, and disease prevention.



6 Essential Nutrients and their functions


A nutrient is a substance in food that the body uses to promote normal maintenance, repair, and growth.


The nutrients need to maintain good health can be grouped into six categories. These nutrients are:


  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water.


Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats make up the major bulk of the diet and are called macro-nutrients


Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals.



The function of  Carbohydrate in the diet.


Your body cell use carbohydrates for energy. Carbohydrates include starch, sugar, and fiber.


There are two kinds of carbohydrates complex and simple carbohydrates.


Simple Carbohydrates are sugars.

6 essential nutrients
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Sources include

  • cakes 
  • pastries
  • mangoes
  • honey
  • sugars
  • molasses
  • sodas
  • jams
  • jellies
  • boxed cereals
  • spaghetti sauce 
  • sugary drinks.  
  • corn syrup
  • Processed foods- They are packed with refined sugars.


Try to avoid foods that list sugar in the first three ingredients. Look for words ending in  ose ( means sugar) and saccharine which means sugar unit.


Simple sugars are empty calories which provide little to no nutrients.



Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs keep your blood sugar more stable and provide more nutrients than simple carbs.


Because there is no one diet that fits all. Each person carbohydrate intake will vary. You should eat more complex carbohydrate foods.



Complex Carbohydrates are fiber and starch.

Sources include:

  • potatoes
  • peas,
  • grains
  • beans
  • bread
  • nuts
  • Rice
  • vegetables
  • lettuce
  • cereals.
  • Whole grains,
  • fruits,
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Quinoa


Nutritionists have suggested that carbohydrates should provide at least 45-65% of our total calories.


 The percentage of carbohydrate you choose to intake is dependent on your energy output.



If an excessive amount of carbohydrate is eaten it can make you obese. But if too little carbohydrate is eaten fats and tissue proteins can be used for energy.


A deficiency of carbohydrate in babies and young children causes the disease Marasmus.

Children with Marasmus have a slow growth rate and low body weight.




the function of Fiber or Roughage  in the diet        


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Fiber with the absorption of water helps to keep faeces soft for bowel movements. Sources of fiber include:

  • Vegetables
  •  Fruits
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Bulgar
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Currants
  • Beans
  • The outer part of fruits


A lack of fiber in your diet can result in constipation, cancer, haemorrhoids, impotence, diabetes, and diverticulitis.



The functions of   Fats in the diet.

Fats are found in animals and plant foods.

  • Your body uses fat for energy.
  • It also provides insulation and helps to keep the body warm.
  • It cushions your organs and bones.
  • Fat provides fatty acids that are needed for growth and development.
  • Fat also carries fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) to body cells.


Plant sources:

  • corn, soy
  • olive oils
  • coconut
  • peanuts
  • chocolate
  • Cotton seeds.
  • Avocadoes
  • Nuts


  • organ meats
  • kidney
  • brains
  • liver
  • egg yolks
  •  Small amounts can be found in meat and milk products.



Animal source of fats

  • Meat
  • Lard
  • Eggs
  • Milk products
  • Poultry.
  • Butter
  •  Margarine
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolk

Essential Fatty Acids

  • Fish oil
  • Wheat germ
  • Soy oil

There are three types of fats – polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and saturated.


Polyunsaturated fats

  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Trout
  • Mackerel
  • Corn oil.


These fats lower bad LDL cholesterol, But should not be overdone in the diet. Fat has 9 calories per gram.

Monounsaturated fats:

Lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. This fat also helps to prevent arthritis. It also helps to control diabetes, blood pressure, and some cancer.


Great sources of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil,
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil.
  • Monounsaturated fats tend to remain liquids at room temperature.


Saturated fats.


Saturated fats raise your cholesterol levels. You get most of your saturated fats from animal sources.


  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Meats
  • Egg yolks.
  • You can reduce the amount of saturated fat you consume by less fat come on low-fat diets.


When deciding which fats to eat always remember that the harder the fat is at room temperature, the more likely it is to do more harm to your arteries.


Omega-3 fatty acids that are found in sardines, salmon, tuna, mackerel will keep your blood from becoming too sticky and forming clots.


This helps to prevent stroke.


Trans fatty acids. ( hydrogenated oil)


Lowers your good HDL cholesterol and raises your bad LDL cholesterol. Too much trans fat in the diet can result in high blood pressure and diabetes.



  • fried foods,
  • snacks
  • Biscuits
  • cakes
  • doughnuts
  • cookies
  • pizza
  • chips



The functions of  Proteins in the diet.

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Proteins are essential for the growth and repair of your body. Protein essentially is a part of every cell in the body.


It is needed to repair and grow muscles, ligaments, hair, eyes, and tissues.


Proteins are made up of 22 amino acids. There are nine important amino acids that are found from the 22 that are essential to life.


The protein that contains these nine essential amino acids is called complete protein. The best sources of complete protein can be found from animal foods.



Sources of Complete proteins include

  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Milk

The remaining 13 amino acids and some of the nine essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins.


Sources of incomplete protein

  • Soybeans
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Corn
  • Dairy products in general.


Deficiencies of protein cause kwashiorkor.


  • Low metabolism
  • Muscle Loss
  • Poor Concentration
  • Low Energy
  • Weight Loss
  • Growth Retardation in Children
  • Anaemia
  • Edema


Deficiencies of protein during pregnancy may result in miscarriage or premature birth.


Too much protein in your diet can increase cholesterol levels. It may also cause obesity and kidney stones. This may happen if most of your protein comes from meats and dairy products.


The functions of Water in the diet.


 Water is also a major nutrient. It accounts for about 60% of the volume of food we consume. Due to the vital role water plays in the diet and overall human health it is in a class by itself.


You cannot live without water. Water is needed to flush toxins from the body, to build and repair cells, to keep your body temperature stable and to make blood.


Your body also uses water to break down food during the process of digestion. 


Try to drink 8-10 glasses of water daily. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, you could also try drinking detox water.


The functions of Vitamins in the diet.

You need vitamins for bodily functions like thinking, metabolism, tissue building, regulation of body processes, and to fight free radicals.


Vitamins are needed daily in small amounts to keep your body healthy. Sources of vitamins include:


  • Fruits
  • Green leafy
  • Vegetables
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Mangoes
  • Guava
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  •  Seafood.



There are two types of vitamins water soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by the body as they can be dissolved in water.

6 essential nutrients
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Be careful when cooking Water-soluble vitamins as they are easily destroyed by heat, light, and air. The body does not store water-soluble vitamins so they have to be ingested daily.


Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for a longer period of time. Fat soluble vitamins don’t have to be eaten on a daily basis like water soluble vitamins. They also are not easily destroyed by cooking, light, and air.


Functions of Minerals in the diet.

Minerals build the body. They are essentials for building strong bones, teeth, skin, and hair. They are used in the formation of hard tissues such as teeth and bones. Minerals also regulate body fluids.


A deficiency of minerals can lead to weak or brittle bones and low immunity.


Sources of Minerals:

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Yeast
  • Cheese
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Vegetables
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Milk




There are 6 essential nutrients that the body need to maintain health. They are carbohydrate, fats, protein, water, vitamins and minerals. Your body is unable to make these nutrients on their own. These nutrients come directly from the food we eat.

How well are you incorporating these 6 essential nutrients in your diet?



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