October 6, 2017

Understanding Essential Nutrients

Note: this post has been updated in October 2023.

Essential Nutrients Necessary For Life

Eating healthy foods is important for good health but making sure that you are getting all the essential nutrients your body needs can be a bit confusing. Fortunately, understanding essential nutrients doesn't have to be complicated! Read on to learn more about the key vitamins and minerals that are necessary for proper body functioning.

Nutrition Crisis

We are in the midst of a nutrition crisis as a nation where we’re overfed, yet undernourished. Data suggests we’re falling short of the recommended nutrient intake of several essential nutrients—namely fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, and vitamin D—even though we’re eating more calories than our bodies need. In other words, America has a “broken diet” problem that fortunately can be changed with a few simple tweaks. Here’s why you need to pay attention to these often-neglected nutrients, along with the easy ways to pack them into your diet. In this section we are go to discuss essential proteins and fats, and fiber.

On a fundamental level, we all know that the food we eat each day nourishes our bodies and keeps us charged with energy to live our lives. But how much do you know about the exact nutritional content of the food you eat? Are you getting what you need each day on the right balance? Fiber is not shown in the chart but is considered by many to be one of the essential nutrients.

Every day you consume food to nourish and fuel your body, as eating many different nutrients that are essential to maintaining optimal health. These are called essential nutrients and include vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. However, some nutrients are made in the human body, and these are called non-essential nutrients. Although termed non-essential, they are still required by the body for supporting daily bodily processes. Some non-essential nutrients are also found in the diet, although many are also made by the body.

Essential Fats and Proteins


Fats provide energy for the body and are essential to cells. Additionally, some fat sources contain essential fatty acids that cannot be synthesized in your body and must be consumed in the diet.

Essential Fatty Acids:

  • α-Linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid
  • Found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts
  • Linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid
  • Found in nuts, most vegetable oils, and some whole grains


In addition to being the precursor for amino acids, proteins make up the structural foundation of the cells, tissues, and organs. But the body needs to consume proteins with enough of the essential amino acids to synthesize the non-essential amino acids. Proteins are found in plant and animal foods.

Essential Amino Acids:

  • Arginine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

– via www.fitday.com

Why Fiber matters and how to get more

If you’re lacking in certain nutrients, such as fiber, your body may not be functioning at its peak each day. Check out the fiber your body needs, and determine you are getting the right amount!


The recommendations from the Institute of Medicine for 19- to 50-year-old men is to get around thirty-eight grams (g) of fiber daily. That’s a crazy high mark to hit—think nine apples, for example. (Most people only eat about 15 g of fiber daily.) While the RDA is more than double what most guys are eating, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get more. Aside from helping with digestion and making it a bit easier in the bathroom, fiber-rich foods can keep your heart health in check, control your cholesterol, and protect you from diabetes and high blood pressure.  Therefore, Does Fiber Matter

The easy Fiber fixes

Simple additions throughout the day include snacking on fruit and nuts, topping your salads with beans, and building your meals around vegetables. Or try this recipe for breakfast: Add ½-cup of cooked rolled oats to a bowl, top with 1-cup milk, 1-cup blueberries, and a dash of cinnamon. Soak overnight and enjoy it cold the next morning to add around 6 g of fiber to your morning routine.

Consider your health and take action to change

he science confirms that a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods can help you live to the fullest. In fact, a growing number of physicians advocate a completely plant-based diet for many of their patients who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Two great sources:

 Plant-Based Nutrition, 2E (Idiot’s Guides),

Nutrition Facts: The Truth About Food,

The Forks Over Knives Plan — a simple plan that focuses on hearty comfort foods and does not involve portion control or worrying about obtaining single nutrients like protein and calcium.

The next step in your journey to health

Join the Physicians Committee’s 21-Day Vegan Kick-start to receive meal plans, recipes, and advice from nutrition experts. This service is free and will help you take control of your health with a vegan diet. Again, this service is FREE for you.

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Express your opinion

Is your nutritional intake in balance? What could you do to give your body better fuel each day?  If I can answer any questions or if you have an opinion that you would like to express, please let me know your thoughts by connecting with me below.

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