Photograph by Joanne Swallow©

Substances that we need to consume:

  • Water

  • Carbohydrate

  • Fat

  • Protein

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals

  • Fiber

What are the types of nutrients?

Macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins provide energy or fuel for the body.1 ¬†Fiber is a unique type of non-digestible carbohydrate. Any macronutrients eaten in excess of the body’s needs are stored as fat (except fiber). Yes, that means eating too much protein increases body fat.

Micronutrients: vitamins, minerals, and water are essential for bodily functions.

How many calories does each fuel have?


4 cal/g


4 cal/g


9 cal/g


7 cal/g

*Alcohol is not a necessary nutrient and slows digestion of the true nutrients.

Why do we need them?

  • Water is 1/2 to 4/5 of the weight of the human body depending on muscle or fat composition.

  • Carbohydrates are the main energy source for muscles, red blood cells, and the brain.

  • Fiber improves gut function and lowers blood cholesterol.2

  • Fat is used for the outer lining of cells (membrane), making hormones, and energy storage. Essential fats (ALA, EPA or DHA) are used in the central nervous system for cell structure and function.3

  • Proteins serve as enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones, muscle fibers and are used by the gut among many functions.

  • Vitamins aid in cell growth and division, and numerous metabolic reactions.

  • Minerals are used in electrolytes, bone structure, enzymes, blood cells, and connective tissue etc.

What are some rich sources?

  • Water: filtered water contains less lead, mercury, chlorine and other harmful chemicals. Coconut water has many of the same electrolytes as human blood plasma (so it helps hydrate the body).

  • Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans

  • Fat: nuts, olive oil, avocado

  • Protein: beans, tofu, soy milk, peanuts, low fat milk, fish

  • Vitamins: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds

  • Minerals: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes

  • Fiber: almost all whole plant foods have fiber.

Which foods are unhealthy sources?

  • Water: soda, punch, sports drinks

  • Carbohydrates: candy, cookies, cake, soda, high fructose-sweetened foods, etc.

  • Fat: lard, butter, partially hydrogenated margarine, dressings/sauces with partially hydrogenated oils.

  • Protein: fried chicken, hot dogs, ham, cheeseburgers, bacon and sausage.

  • Vitamins: kids cereals with added sugar, and canned fruit in syrup.

  • Minerals: sports drinks with added sugar and high sodium canned soups.

  • Fiber: white bread, white pasta, and many refined processed foods.



  1. Lieberman, Michael and Marks, Allan. Marks’ Basic Medical Biochemistry: A Clinical Approach, Third Edition. Lippencott Williams & Williams, a Wolters Kluwer business. 2009
  2. Lunn, J and Butriss, JL. Carbohydrates and Dietary Fibre. British Nutrition Foundation-Nutrition Bulletin. 32, 21-64. 2007 The Authors
  3. Kuratko, Connye and Salem, Norman. Biomarkers of DHA Status. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids Volume 81, Issue 2 , Pages 111-118, August 2009