There are six categories of nutrients essential for the body. They are "essential" because the body can't make them on its own. For some of these essential nutrients, the body can make just a little bit of it, but not enough to keep up with daily needs. For this reason, all essential nutrients must be incorporated into a balanced diet or supplement regimen to maintain good health.
Importance of Water
Two-thirds of the human body consists of water; in fact, people are made up more of water than anything else. Water is involved with every function that takes place within the body. For example, it's necessary for digestion of food, absorption of other nutrients, and circulatory functions, like the pumping of blood. The body loses water every day from heat as well as excretion processes, like sweating and urine. This is why it's essential to drink water every day to replenish what's lost. Although a general recommendation is to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses per day, water will also be filling this need through other drinks and foods.
Vitamins and Energy
Vitamins are substances needed in small amounts for health. Fourteen different vitamins have been categorized as essential. Vitamins are identified by letters in the order of their discovery, with Vitamin A being the first recognized vitamin. There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble, meaning they can be dissolved in water, and fat-soluble, meaning they need fat in order to be absorbed into the body. Vitamins themselves don't provide energy, but they do participate in chemical reactions in the body that helps create energy, as well as many other functions. Small amounts of most vitamins can satisfy the body's requirement to avoid deficiencies.
Minerals, A Must Have
Minerals are regularly lost from the body, such as through urine, feces, secretions, and degradation. One example is that after about the age of 30, the body loses calcium from bones, which over time could make them more fragile. Minerals have to be returned to the body then to keep "homeostasis," which means keeping the normal balance of systems. There are seven major minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, required in larger amounts and 13 trace elements that are needed in much smaller amounts, including iron and zinc.
Fiber and Energy
Fiber provides little or no energy to the foods you find it in, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yet fiber is loaded with health benefits. It helps fight obesity, as foods high in fiber make you feel fuller, longer, reducing your urge to overeat. Fiber also helps protect you from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, constipation and several forms of cancer, reports Harvard School of Public Health. The recommended fiber intake is between 25 and 35 grams per day, yet most get no more than 15 grams per day, according to Harvard.
- Understanding Nutrition; Elanor Noss Whitney, et. al.
- Human Physiology, Ninth Edition; Arthur J. Vander, et. al.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy Dense Foods and Weight Management
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber -- Start Roughing It!