Topic 1.1: What are the nutrients?

Nutrients are chemical substances required by the body to sustain basic functions.1 They are important for cellular functions and energy production.1,2 They are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients.

The Main Nutrients

Macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fat)

Macronutrients are needed in large quantities and provide the body with energy.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the human diet.

  • Examples of food sources include bread, rice, milk, potatoes, spaghetti and starchy foods.

Proteins are responsible for cell and tissue growth and are significant during periods of rapid growth (childhood, adolescence, pregnancy)

  • Examples of food sources include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy and legumes.

Fat is a source and storage of energy. There are unsaturated (good) and saturated (bad) fats. An important subcategory of unsaturated fat is the essential fatty acids that the body cannot make itself and should be taken from foods.

  • Unsaturated Fat Sources: fatty cuts of meat, savory snacks, palm oil
  • Saturated Fat Sources: avocados, nuts, olive oil
  • Essential Fatty Acids Sources: oily fish such as sardines and mackerel.

Micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals)

Micronutrients are needed in small amounts and are vital for the function and development of the body.

Vitamins are essential components of maintaining optimal health. Each vitamin has a different function. There are water-soluble (dissolved in water) and fat-soluble (absorbed by fat) vitamins.

  • Water-Soluble Vitamins are vitamin C and vitamins of the B complex (e.g., B1, B2, B12)
  • Fat-Soluble Vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K

Minerals are elements our bodies need to function; they can be found on the earth and in foods.

  • Minerals are calcium, iron, fluoride, iodine, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, sodium and zinc.