1. Nutrition Basics

The body needs food for fuel and the type of food consumed does make a difference not only in performance but also in avoiding diet-related diseases, such as heart disease and certain cancers. Water is also an important component as the human body is made up of 60% water and therefore individuals can only survive a few days without it. Water helps transport nutrients and waste throughout the body acts as a solvent and regulates body temperature. Both food and water are essential for the body to operate on a daily basis.

The fuel needed by the body can be categorized into five major nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

These essential nutrients are needed on a daily basis to support growth and maintain optimal health and can be categorized as macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients – are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that provide the body with energy.

Micronutrients – are vitamins and minerals which contribute to the regulation and overall wellbeing of bodily functions.

Macronutrients are the main suppliers of nutrients in your diet, needed in large amounts by the body for survival. The recommendation for macronutrients varies depending on age, lifestyle, gender, and objectives. Macronutrients can be further categorized into three: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An outline of each is provided below.

Nutrient Types

  • The preferred fuel for the body.
  • 45-65% of total daily calories.
1. Complex Carbohydrates 
Have the potential to be stored in the body to be used at a later time. Starch, glycogen, and fiber are examples.
2. Simple Carbohydrates
Lack fiber and contain mostly sugar.

  • The main structural material in the body. It is needed for the growth and repair of all cells.
  • 10-35% of total daily calories.
1. Complete Proteins
Contain all 9 essential amino acids (mostly animal products).
2. Incomplete Proteins
Lack at least one essential amino acid (mostly plant-based foods).

  • The most “energy-rich” nutrient.
  • Readily stored in adipose tissue.
  • 20-35% of total daily calories.
1. Saturated Fats
Mostly found in animal products. Try to limit to less than 10% of daily calories.
2. Unsaturated Fats
Found in plant-based products. They are liquid at room temperature.
3. Trans Fat
Chemically altered fat, which is often added to foods, fried, and processed.

Micronutrients are essential to maintain good health in an individual, however, they are only needed in small quantities. Micronutrients play an important role in the production of hormones and enzymes, as well as human development. Therefore, young children and older adults, in particular, should consume enough micronutrients. Micronutrients can be further categorized into two: vitamins and minerals.

Nutrient Types

  • Organic compounds that provide no direct energy.
  • They enable chemical reactions to occur in the body.
1. Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D & E
They require fat to be absorbed and are not easily excreted. Can be stored in the body.
2. Water Soluble Vitamins: B & C
They do not require fat to be absorbed and are easily secreted. Tend to be less toxic than the fat-soluble vitamins.

  • Inorganic compounds that provide no direct energy.
  • They play a critical role in the nervous system functioning other cellular processes and water balance.
1. Major Minerals
Are needed in large amounts: >100 milligrams per day. Include calcium, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium.
2. Trace Minerals
Daily requirements are less than 100 milligrams: copper, fluoride, iodide, iron, and zine.


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Ch. 6 - Nutrition by UGA PEDB Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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