Consuming the right balance of nutrients can help maintain a healthful lifestyle.
Macronutrients are nutrients that people need in relatively large quantities.
Sugar, starch, and fiber
are types of carbohydrates.
are simple carbs. Sugars
The body quickly breaks down and absorbs sugars and processed starch.
They can provide rapid energy, but they do not leave a person feeling full.
They can also cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
Frequent sugar spikes increase the risk of
type 2 diabetes and its
is also a carbohydrate. Fiber
The body breaks down some types of fiber and uses them for energ; others are metabolized by gut bacteria, while other types pass through the body.
are complex carbs. It takes the body some time to break down and absorb complex carbs. Fiber and unprocessed starch
After eating fiber, a person will feel full for longer.
Fiber may also reduce the risk of
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer. Complex carbs are a more healthful choice than sugars and refined
Learn more here about fiber.
Proteins consist of amino acids, which are organic compounds that occur naturally.
20 amino acids.
Some of these are
essentialTrusted Source, which means people need to obtain them from
food. The body can make the others.
Some foods provide complete protein, which means they contain all the essential amino acids the body needs. Other foods contain various combinations of amino acids.
Most plant-based foods do not contain complete protein, so a person who follows a vegan diet needs to eat a range of foods throughout the day that provides the essential amino acids.
Learn more here about protein.
Fats are essential for:
helping organs produce hormones
enabling the body to absorb certain vitamins
inflammation preserving brain health
Too much fat can lead to
obesity, high cholesterol, liver disease, and other health problems.
However, the type of fat a person eats makes a difference.
Unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are more healthful than saturated fats, which tend to come from animals.
In this article, learn more about the different types of fats and where to find them.
The adult human body is
up to 60% water, and it needs water for many processes.
Water contains no
calories, and it does not provide energy.
Many people recommend consuming 2 liters, or 8 glasses, of water a day, but it can also come from dietary sources, such as fruit and vegetables.
Adequate hydration will result in pale yellow urine.
Requirements will also depend on an individual’s body size and age, environmental factors, activity levels, health status, and so on.
here to find out how much water a person needs each day and here to learn about the benefits of drinking water.
For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our
Micronutrients are essential in small amounts.
They include vitamins and minerals.
Manufacturers sometimes add these to foods.
Examples include fortified cereals and rice.
The body needs carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
It also needs dietary minerals, such as iron,
potassium, and so on.
In most cases, a varied and balanced diet will provide the minerals a person needs. If a deficiency occurs, a doctor may recommend supplements.
Here are some of the minerals the body needs to function well.
Potassium is an electrolyte.
It enables the kidneys, the heart, the muscles, and the nerves to work properly.
2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 4,700 milligramsTrusted Source (mg) of potassium each day.
Too little can lead to
high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney stones.
Too much may be harmful to people with kidney disease.
Avocados, coconut water,
bananas, dried fruit, squash, beans, and lentils are good
Learn more here about potassium.
Sodium is an electrolyte
maintain nerve and muscle function
regulate fluid levels in the body
Too little can lead to hyponatremia. Symptoms include lethargy, confusion, and
fatigue. Learn more here.
Too much can lead to high blood pressure, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Table salt, which is made up of sodium and chloride, is a popular condiment.
However, most people consume too much sodium, as it already occurs naturally in most foods.
Experts urge people not to add table salt to their diet.
Current guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, or around one teaspoon.
This recommendation includes both naturally-occurring sources, as well as salt a person adds to their food. People with high blood pressure or kidney disease should eat less.
How much salt does a person need? Find out here.
needs calciumTrusted Source to form bones and teeth. It also supports
the nervous system, cardiovascular health, and other functions.
Too little can cause bones and teeth to weaken.
Symptoms of a severe deficiency include tingling in the fingers and changes in heart rhythm, which can be life-threatening.
Too much can lead to
constipation, kidney stones, and reduced absorption of other
Current guidelines for adults recommend consuming 1,000 mg a day, and 1,200 mg for women aged 51 and over.
Good sources include dairy products, tofu, legumes,and green, leafy vegetables.
Find out more about calcium.
Phosphorus is present in all body cells and
contributes toTrusted Source the health
of the bones and teeth.
Too little phosphorus can lead to bone diseases, affect appetite, muscle strength, and coordination.
It can also result in
anemia, a higher risk of infection, burning or prickling
sensations in the skin, and confusion.
Too much in the diet is unlikely to cause health problems though toxicity is possible from supplements, medications, and phosphorus metabolism problems.
Adults should aim to consume around
700 mgTrusted Source of phosphorus each
Good sources include dairy products, salmon, lentils, and cashews.
Why do people need phosphorus? Find out here.
Magnesium contributes toTrusted Source muscle and nerve function.
It helps regulate
blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and it enables the body to
produce proteins, bone, and DNA.
Too little magnesium can eventually lead to weakness, nausea, tiredness, restless legs, sleep conditions, and other symptoms.
Too much can result in digestive and, eventually, heart problems.
Nuts, spinach, and beans are good sources of magnesium.
Adult females need
320 mgTrusted Source of magnesium each day, and adult
males need 420 mg.
Why is magnesium essential? Click here to learn more.
Zinc plays a role in the health of body cells, the immune system, wound healing, and the creation of proteins.
Too little can lead to
hair loss, skin sores, changes in taste or smell,and diarrhea, but this is rare.
Too much can lead to digestive problems and
here to learn more.
Adult females need
8 mgTrusted Source of zinc a day, and adult males need
Dietary sources include oysters, beef, fortified breakfast cereals, and baked beans. For more on dietary sources of zinc,
How does zinc benefit a person’s health? Click here to find out.
crucial for the formationTrusted Source of red blood cells, which carry
oxygen to all parts of the body. It also plays a role in forming connective tissue and creating hormones.
can result in anemia, including digestive issues, weakness, and difficulty thinking. Learn more here about iron
Too much can lead to digestive problems, and very high levels can be fatal.
Good sources include fortified cereals, beef liver, lentils, spinach, and tofu.
8 mgTrusted Source of iron a day, but females need 18 mg during
their reproductive years.
Why is iron important? Find out here.
The body uses manganese to
produce energyTrusted Source, it plays a role in
blood clotting, and it supports the immune system.
Too little can result in weak bones in children, skin rashes in men, and mood changes in women.
Too much can lead to tremors, muscle spasms, and other symptoms, but only with very high amounts.
Mussels, hazelnuts, brown rice, chickpeas, and spinach all provide manganese.
Male adults need
2.3 mgTrusted Source of manganese each day, and females
need 1.8 mg.
Find out more here about manganese.
Copper helps the bodyTrusted Source make energy and produce connective tissues and blood vessels.
Too little copper can lead to tiredness, patches of light skin, high cholesterol, and connective tissue disorders. This is rare.
Too much copper can result in liver damage, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Too much copper also reduces the absorption of zinc.
Good sources include beef liver, oysters, potatoes, mushrooms, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Adults need
900 microgramsTrusted Source (mcg) of copper each day.
Why is copper important? Click here to find out.
Selenium is made up of over 24 selenoproteins, and it plays a crucial roleTrusted Source in reproductive and thyroid health.
antioxidant, it can also prevent cell damage.
Too much selenium can cause garlic breath, diarrhea, irritability, skin rashes, brittle hair or nails, and other symptoms.
Too little can result in
heart disease, infertility in men, and arthritis.
55 mcgTrusted Source of selenium a day.
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
Other plant sources include spinach, oatmeal, and baked beans.
Tuna, ham, and enriched macaroni are all excellent sources.
Learn more about selenium here.
People need small amounts of various vitamins.
Some of these, such as vitamin C, are also antioxidants.
This means they help protect cells from damage by removing toxic molecules, known as free radicals, from the body.
People need to consume water-soluble vitamins regularly because the body removes them more quickly, and it cannot store them easily.
The body absorbs fat-soluble vitamins through the intestines with the help of fats (lipids).
The body can store them and does not remove them quickly.
People who follow a low-fat diet may not be able to absorb enough of these vitamins.
If too many build up, problems can arise.
Multivitamins are available for purchase in stores or online, but people should speak to their doctor before taking any supplements, to check that they are suitable for them to use.
Some nutrients also act as antioxidants.
These may be vitamins, minerals, proteins, or other types of molecules.
They help the body remove toxic substances known as free radicals, or reactive oxygen species.
If too many of these substances remain in the body, cell damage and disease can result.