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The Different Types of Nutrients & Vitamins

By Stephanie Chandler

The human body requires a variety of different nutrients to support normal growth, development and functions. Macronutrients include those nutrients needed in large quantities including carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Micronutrients, those needed in smaller amounts, are divided into essential vitamins, which consist of organic compounds and essential minerals.


Macronutrients provide calories used as energy, as defined by the McKinley Health Center. These nutrients make up 90 percent of the dry weight of your diet, according to the Merck Manual. Carbohydrates consist of sugars that breakdown quickly and serve as the quickest source of energy. The National Institutes of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board recommends adult consume between 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories in carbohydrates, concentrating on unrefined carbohydrates -- those that retain their fiber, bran and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Proteins consist of amino acids, building blocks necessary for the production of the thousands of proteins in the body. Because proteins are more complex than carbohydrates, they take longer to digest and therefore serve as a longer-lasting source of energy. The average adult should consume 0.8 g of protein for every 1 kg of body weight, which averages out to about 15 percent of the calories, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Fats, the slowest but most efficient form of energy, should only make up 25 to 35 percent of your total calories.

Essential Vitamins

Your body requires 13 vitamins, making these the essential vitamins. The National Institutes of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board provides a list of the essential vitamins with the recommended daily intake -- the amount a healthy person needs each day to remain healthy. The essential vitamins include all those classified as part of the vitamin B family including biotin, folate, niacin, patothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. The other essential vitamins include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K and vitamin D. Most people meet their daily vitamin needs through consuming a healthy diet but failing to eat a variety of foods can result in a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin deficiencies can lead to a variety of medical conditions.

Essential Minerals

Minerals, also known as elements, are inorganic compounds found in the soil. The body requires larger amounts of some minerals classifying these as macrominerals. The macrominerals include calcium, chlorine, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and sulfer. Other minerals, including chromium, zinc, manganese, copper, iron, fluorine, cobalt, tin, iodine, selenium, vanadium, nickel and molybdenum also support normal body functions but are needed in small amounts classifying them as trace minerals. Some minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, support the formation of strong bones. Other minerals, such as sodium and potassium, act as electrolytes and help balance the volume of fluids in the cells. The body uses many of the trace minerals for the production of enzymes and proteins. To help ensure adequate mineral intake, eat a balanced diet that incorporates a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

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