Overview of Nutrients

Overview of Nutrients | How Nutrients Work | By Nutrients | By Health State | Cell Regeneration


  • Are nutrients needed in large quantities
  • There are 3 major categories of macronutrients:
    • Carbohydrate
    • Protein
    • Fat
  • There are many different points of view, but, in general, most experts recommend that the caloric composition of diet be: 45-65% carbohydrate, 10-35% protein, 20-35% fat


  • Provides energy for the body
  • Dietary sources are generally in the form or sugars and starches from grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes.
  • A healthy body has a tight control on blood sugar levels and has three way to dispose of excesses: (1) burned during activities (healthy); (2) stored as glycogen in the liver (healthy); and (3) converted to body fat (unhealthy and a clear indication of consuming too many carbohydrates).
  • Carbohydrates are put into two categories: simple carbs and complex carbs. These have massively different effects in the body:
    • Simple carbs: are easy to digest sugars. Simple carbs are over-consumed with the high sugar diet of today, which leads to obesity and poor health. Many snacks are appealing because they give a quick energy, but are loaded with sugar and unhealthy.
  • Complex carbs: are slower to digest and rich in fiber. These promote satiety, leading weight loss and better blood glucose and cholesterol control.
  • In general, we should be eating more complex carbs and fewer simple carbs. To understand the quality of carbs, you need to know which type you are consuming.


  • Humans consume dietary protein, but the body really only wants the amino acids, which make up protein.
  • There are 12 essential amino acids (12: leucine, isoleucine, valine, tryptophan, tyrosine, phenylalanine, methionine, cysteine, threonine, histidine, lysine, arginine). These are essential, because our body does not make these amino acids and must get them from protein-rich foods like meats, seafood, legumes, and dairy products.
  • There are 8 non-essential amino acids (8: alanine, asparagine, aspartate, glutamate, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine). These are non-essential, because our body can make these amino acids. Some essential amino acids are used to make the non-essential ones.
  • Protein is used to make all body parts, particularly all tissues and cells, and to maintain and grow muscle mass.


  • There are 3 major fat categories: omega 3, 6, and 9.
  • Essential fats are omega-3s and -6s
    • In general, we consume too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3s
  • Omega-9s are made by the body, but extra consumption of them from foods like avocados and olive oil enhances health
  • Saturated and trans fats are unhealthy
  • All fats provide a slow-releasing energy source
  • Excess fat is stored around the body, but in some cases, in the abdominal region and on the liver, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes


  • Are nutrients needed in small amounts, but are equally important as the macronutrients – we just need them in small amounts
  • Micronutrients are 2 categories: vitamins and minerals
  • 14 vitamins (vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B6, B12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, choline)
  • 14 minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, chromium, iron, molybdenum, sodium, chloride, potassium, zinc, copper, iodine)
  • Two minerals are consumed in excess (sodium and chloride)


  • Sugar is a carb, which is overconsumed in today’s diet
  • Average total sugar intake is 32 teaspoons (130 grams). Comprised of:
    • Naturally found in foods: milk, fruit, honey, root vegetables, fruits, vegetables, and sugar cane/beets
    • Added to foods: sucrose (table sugar), corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup
  • Amount added sugar recommended ranges from 25 grams to 50 grams (20% to 40% of what we consume today) by different organizations: FDA = 12 teaspoons (50 g; 200 calories), IOM = 31 teaspoons (125 g; 500 calories), WHO = 6-12 teaspoons (25-50 g; 100-200 calories)
  • The body reacts the same to naturally sugars (i.e. in fruit) and to added sugars (e.g., in sugar-sweetened beverages). All sugars are equally bad at promoting obesity and chronic disease, whether they inherently are in foods (like in an apple) or added to foods (like a donut)
  • The one exception is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which has a worse effect on the body than sugar because:
    • HFCS is cheaper and sweeter, so people consume more
    • Mostly found in beverages, which are not satiating and promote hunger
    • With sugary beverages, there is no corresponding decline in the same number of calories in solid foods to match what is in the beverage
    • Obesity is almost a guaranteed result of consuming beverages sweetened with HFCS


  • Water is an essential nutrient and critical for life
  • The recommended amount of water: 15 cups for men; 11 cups for women; comes from both foods and beverages
  • Water is critical to hydrate the body and allow for the blood to deliver nutrients throughout it.


  • Fiber is a type of edible carbohydrate from parts of plants that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine
  • All fiber makes its way to large intestine for complete or partial digestion
  • There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both are important and provide different functions.
  • Soluble fibers. Good sources are: beans, legumes, oats, nuts, vegetables like Brussels sprouts, and fruits like blueberries and oranges. This type of fiber slows digestion, so it takes longer for the body to absorb sugars, thereby preventing blood sugar swings. This is important part of preventing and managing diabetes. The slowing of digestion promotes satiety, which could lead to weight loss. Soluble fibers also bind with fats, which facilitates lowering the bad cholesterol in the blood (LDL). Soluble fibers make the intestine stronger and healthier by creating healthy short fatty acids, which are preferred fuel for GI cells.
  • Insoluble fibers. Good sources: seeds, skin of fruits, brown rice, and whole grains. These fibers draw water from the blood into the colon. This helps move waste through your body, thereby promoting laxation and preventing constipation.

Healthy Fats (w-3, -6, -9)

-Essential fats (omega-3 and omega-6):
  • Are essential because the body cannot produce them, so they must come from the diet.
  • Primary ones: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3)
  • Are important structural components of cell membranes, affecting fluidity, flexibility, permeability and the activity of membrane-bound enzymes.
  • Omega-6s heighten immune responses and most people consume too many of them.
  • Omega-3s dampen immune responses and are under-consumed.
  • The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should be 1:1 but today’s diet it is 10:1 in favor of omega 6s
  • Correction of dysbalance will moderate the immune system.
  • Omega 6’s come from most vegetable oils, but those with the highest amounts are corn, safflower, and sunflower oils.
  • Omega’s 3 are found in seafood, and some vegetable oils like flax, soy, and canola oils.
  • Unsaturated fat made by the body
  • Commonly found in vegetable fats, like canola oil, safflower oil, olive oil, mustard oil, nut oils and, nuts such as almonds.
  • Protects the heart by lowering bad cholesterol and increasing the good one; it may also lower blood sugar levels
  • Don’t over-do eating foods containing omega-9 oils. Excess intake leads to weight gain. Unhealthy fats (trans, saturated)

Unhealthy fats (trans, saturated)

  • Saturated: stable fats found in
    • Animal fats: meats, poultry, butter, lard, cheese, milk.
    • Others: coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils
  • Trans: manufactured, unnatural fats used by the food industry to enhance taste and texture and maintain a long shelf life of processed foods
    • Found in fried foods like doughnuts, baked goods including cakes, pie crusts, biscuits, frozen pizza, cookies, crackers, and stick margarines and other spreads.
    • Ingredients: partially-hydrogenated oils
  • Raise cholesterol levels leading to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia
  • Diet should consist of <10% of calories (<200 calories; <20 grams) are saturated fats and zero trans fats
  • Replace foods containing saturated and trans fats with poultry, seafood, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, and vegetables
  • Trans fats worse on heart health than saturated fat (raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol)


  • Most common body steroid, used to make of bile acids, vitamin D, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and cell membranes.
  • Blood cholesterol mostly comes from what the body makes
  • There is good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) floating around in the blood. The bad cholesterol sticks to the insides of the blood vessels and hardens into plaque, increasing the risk of a heart attack. The good cholesterol is a scavenger for the bad cholesterol. It attaches to it and takes it to the liver where it is processed into a non-harmful fat and removed from the blood.
  • Dietary sources: meats, especially organ meat, dairy products
  • No guidelines exist for optimal cholesterol intake. Saturated fat is more important to limit.
  • Excess cholesterol in blood increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke

Amino acids

  • Obtained from dietary protein, which is broken down by digestive enzymes
  • Bioactive component of dietary protein used for major functional and structural component of all the cells e.g., enzymes, blood transport molecules, hair, fingernails, skin, and hormones)
  • 12 are essential and need to come from the diet; the body can make the remaining 8
  • Too few in the diet leads to malnutrition, poor immune function, and adverse effects on all organs

High fructose corn syrup

  • Compared to other sugars found in foods or added to foods, high fructose corn syrup is worse because:
    • It is cheaper than sugar, so more of it is used
    • Sweeter than regular sugar and is more desired
    • Digested differently leading to increased disease risk
    • Mostly found in beverages that do not promote satiety
    • Enhances appetite
    • High fructose is root cause of adverse health effects
  • Consumption has gone down by 27% between its peak in 2000 and 2015
  • Highest intake: 189 calories per day per person, of which 158 calories are from sugared-sweetened beverages [carbonated and fruit juices]
  • Today’s intake: 138 calories per day per person, of which 115 calories are from sugared-sweetened beverages [carbonated and fruit juices]
  • Increases the risk of: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and gout