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What actually are "nutrients" and why do we need them?

You will often hear people say, eat this or drink that as it contains really good nutrients, but what actually are these "nutrients" they speak of?

There are 6 essential nutrients that your body requires to function well, they are:

  1. Water

  2. Carbohydrates

  3. lipids (fat)

  4. Proteins

  5. Vitamins

  6. Minerals

Our bodies are incredible organisms as they can derive most of the nutrients that we need from the food we eat.

Foods contain a chemical composition of organic and inorganic compounds, organic meaning they contain carbon, which is a chemical element found in all living things. Your macronutrients which are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats all contain carbon making them organic compounds.

Inorganic compounds are nutrients such as vitamins and minerals and water, vitamins and minerals are what we call micronutrients, and the body only needs smaller quantities of them.


Water: is an indispensable and abundant essential nutrient that participates in many life processes, it is essential for your survival even though it provides no calories or organic nutrients.

Vitamins: are essential nutrients that allow the body to obtain its energy from carbs, fats, and protein.

Minerals: are essential nutrients that are found in bones, teeth, and body fluids.

There is only one vitamin that in New Zealand specifically is not obtained from food and that is vitamin D, which is absorbed through the skin from the sun. Some countries you will find add vitamin D to their foods, however in New Zealand that is not the case.


Are carbohydrates, fats, and protein which all can be obtained from the food that you eat, these 3 nutrients are most important for your survival and must be consumed daily in larger (grams) quantities compared to the inorganic nutrients.

In order to ensure you are getting the nutrients that are essential to living you need to eat food, we don't eat nutrients, we eat food! So ensuring that you are getting a variety of foods especially vegetables that are quality, fresh and colourful you know that you are getting an array of nutrients into your diet, it's not only important for your health, but also your quality of life.

Renee xx

Information for this blog obtained from my own understanding and knowledge from lectures attended during my Bsc Science - Human Nutrition degree lectures. Massey University, New Zealand.


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