• Written By Taufiya Tazeen
  • Last Modified 25-01-2023

Importance of Nutrients: Types, Sources and Uses


Importance of Nutrients: Nutrients are food-based chemicals that provide humans with energy. They are the building blocks for repair and growth, and the nutrient helps control chemical processes. There are various types of nutrients which are classified into two broad categories, micro and macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins fall under macronutrients while vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients. The article also focuses on the importance of the minerals, the importance of Vitamin D etc.

What is the importance of nutrients in our body that we consume in our diet? What is the importance of vitamin c and carbohydrates importance? Let’s get to know more about this in the article below.

Nutrients Definition

Nutrients are important chemical components of food required by an organism for its growth and maintenance. The human body cannot synthesise the majority of the nutrients on its own and is thus required to get different nutrients from different types of food.

Types of Nutrients

Nutrients based on the amounts required in an organism can be broadly classified into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.

  1. Macronutrients: (Macro \(=\) large) Those nutrients which are required by the body of an organism in subsequently large amounts, i.e. in grams and mainly functions to provide energy, are called macronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are examples of macronutrients.
  2. Micronutrients: (Micro \(=\) small) Those nutrients which are required by the body of an organism in trace or very small amounts, i.e. in micrograms or milligrams and mainly to maintain vital functions as well as metabolic state of a body, they are called macronutrients. Vitamins and minerals are examples of micronutrients.

Balanced Diet

Balanced Diet

A balanced diet can be defined as a diet that includes all the important nutrients along with water and roughage in the right amount that is needed by the body.  A balanced diet differs according to the age and medical condition of a person. For example, a child needs more protein than an adult.

Nutrition Requirements for Different Age Groups

7 Important Nutrients and their Functions

There are a total of seven important nutrients in food. The five main nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Water and roughage are also two essential nutrients needed by the body. Each of these nutrients has its own functions:

1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy-providing nutrients for the majority of organisms including humans. Carbohydrates are basically defined as the hydrates of carbon. They are commonly called sugars or saccharides. Carbohydrates are found in the form of sugars, starches and fibres found in fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy, etc.

Sources of Carbohydrate

As discussed earlier, carbohydrates are mainly found as sugars, starches and fibres in a variety of food products.

  1. Starch is the most important form of carbohydrate in our diet. We get these usually from cereals, grains, vegetables and fruits. Potatoes are rich in starch.
  2. Sucrose is a type of carbohydrate found in sugarcane and is also the commercial sugar that we consume. Sucrose is commonly referred to as commercial sugar or invert sugar.
  3. Fructose is one of the simplest forms and the sweetest form of carbohydrates found in fruits like mango, bananas, grapes, etc.
  4. Milk contains lactose which is also known as milk sugar.

How Do We Get Energy from Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates break down into smaller and simpler units called monosaccharides like glucose or fructose by the digestive system of humans. These monosaccharides are absorbed in our small intestine, i.e. ileum, mainly and enter the bloodstream. When these carbohydrates reach the liver during circulation, excess glucose is stored as glycogen (animal storage polysaccharide).

1. Glucose

Glucose is the ready source of energy for cells and the only source of energy for our brain. Glucose is further broken down during cellular respiration to yield ATP in our cells. One gram of carbohydrates provides 4.1 Kcal of energy. Since carbohydrates protect proteins from being utilised for energy, it is called the protein-sparing action of carbohydrates.

Fun Fact!

Ever Imagined Why Athletes Drink Glucose Before or During the Game?

Glucose is a simple carbohydrate that provides instant energy to our body—drinking this before the game helps our body to work faster and increases stamina by producing more ATP.

2. Fats

Fats are mainly simple lipids, which are made up of fatty acids and complex molecules called glycerol. Fats contain three fatty acids, attached to a compound called glycerol, and are chemically called triglycerides.

Sources of Fats

Some important sources of fats are as follows:

  1. Oils
  2. Meat
  3. Bakery products like cream and cheese
  4. Junk food
  5. Butter
  6. Ghee

Some Important Functions of Fats

  1. They provide more than double the amount of energy provided by carbohydrates, i.e. one gram of lipids provides \(9.3{\rm{Kcal}}/{\rm{g}}.\)
  2. Fats help to absorb certain vitamins required by our body, i.e. vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.
  3. Fats are the most common stored form of energy in our body. 
  4. Fats stored under the skin helps to retain the body heat keeping it warm.
  5. Layers of fats covered around the internal organs act as a protective layer during accidents or injuries.

Fun fact!

Have you ever thought about why digesting fats is a slow process?

Here is your answer: Water helps in the digestion and excretion of food in our bodies. Since fats do not dissolve in water, it makes it a little harder for our body to break them into simpler forms. Hence, fats spend the longest duration in our stomach.

Some Myth about Fats

  1. All fats are considered unhealthy, which is not correct. Fats are essential macronutrients required by our bodies.
  2. Cutting down on fats leads to weight loss. Again it’s a false belief, eating the right amount of unsaturated fats can make our body feel full, thus helping us to lose weight.
  3. Eating only fat-food keeps us healthy as we know now fats, help in regulating heat in our body, maintaining immunity, etc. It is important to add fats to your diet. 
  4. Some fat-products contain high amounts of other components such as sugar that may harm us more.

3. Proteins

The term Protein is derived from the word “proteios”, meaning “holding the first place” or “primary”. Proteins are made up of many smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another to form long chains. The amino acids are linked to each other by a peptide bond or amide linkage. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s structure and its specific function.

Sources of Proteins

Some important sources of proteins are as follows:

  1. Fish
  2. Meat
  3. Egg
  4. Mushroom
  5. Paneer
  6. Soyabean
  7. Spirulina
  8. Casein (milk protein) is the main source of protein for infants.

Some Important Functions of Proteins

  1. Proteins are the basic component of cell membranes. 
  2. They are called bodybuilding nutrients as they help in the growth and repair of body cells.
  3. Proteins are also part of important molecules like haemoglobin in blood, antibodies, enzymes and hormones that are very important in our body.
  4. They are the last macronutrients utilised by a starving body for energy. Its calorific value of food is \({\rm{4}}\,{\rm{Kcal}}/{\rm{g}}.\)

Why Should Children and Pregnant Women include More Protein in their Diet?

Proteins are important for the proper growth and development of the body. Growing children or pregnant women need a lot of protein to support the growth and maintenance of muscles, bones, organs, and other body cells.

Apart from these, people with serious injuries and aged people should also add a good amount of protein to their diet. This helps in healing the wounds faster and prevents muscle loss in old age.

4. Vitamins

Vitamins is the term derived from a Latin word called ‘Vitamine’, ‘Vita’ means life and ‘amine’ as vitamins were presumed as amino acids. Vitamins are required in small quantities in our body and are called protective nutrients.

Types of Vitamins

There are a total of \(13\) essential vitamins. These vitamins are classified into two types, water-soluble and fat-soluble, based on their solubility.

1. Water-soluble Vitamins: Vitamins that dissolve in water fall under this category. There are nine water-soluble vitamins in our food namely Vitamin \({B_1},\) Vitamin \({B_2},\) Vitamin \({B_3},\) Vitamin \({B_5},\) Vitamin \({B_6},\) Vitamin \({B_7},\) Vitamin \({B_9},\) Vitamin \({B_{12}}\) and Vitamin \(C\).


2. Fat-soluble Vitamins: Vitamins that dissolve in liquid fats are called fat-soluble vitamins. There are only four of these, Vitamin \(A,\) Vitamin \(D,\) Vitamin \(E\) and Vitamin \(K.\)


Following are some important functions and sources of different vitamins:

Name of VitaminSourcesPhysiological Role and Deficiency Disease
Vitamin A (Retinol)Cod liver oil, milk, butter, cheese, maize, carrot, papaya, tomato, mangoNeeded for retinal pigment synthesis, embryo development, hair growth, skin.
Deficiency Disease: Xerophthalmia (dry eyeball) and night-blindness
Vitamin D (Calciferol)Eggs, cod liver oil, sunlightNeeded for bone and teeth formation, calcium absorption.
Deficiency Disease: Rickets in children
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)Green vegetables, brown flour, liver, vegetable oil, germinating seeds, wheatNeeded to prevent haemolysis of RBC, maintain fertility, act as a natural antioxidant and keep skin healthy.
Deficiency Disease: Anaemia, muscular dystrophy (breakdown of muscles) and infertility
Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)Leafy vegetables like spinach, coriander and radish top. Also synthesised by bacteria in the colon.Needed for synthesis of prothrombin and blood clotting.
Deficiency Disease: Hypoprothrombinemia – delays blood clotting
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)Citrus fruits, tomato, guava, green vegetables.Needed for healthy gums and teeth, maintenance of collagen fibres and act as natural antioxidant required to develop immunity and defend our body against the covid-19 virus. Deficiency Disease: Scurvy
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)Yeast, eggs, milk, potatoes, liver and meat.Needed for nerve, heart, muscle functioning.
Deficiency Disease: Beriberi
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Yeast, eggs, milk, curd, pulses, green vegetables.Needed for the growth of the body and the production of red blood cells.
Deficiency Disease: Cheilosis of lips and mental retardation
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)Animal and plant tissuesNeeded for making coenzymes.
Deficiency Disease: Anaemia and diarrhoea
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine)Kidney, liver, egg, fish, meat. Synthesised in the human colon.Needed for blood cell (RBC) maturation, DNA synthesis.
Deficiency Disease: Pernicious anaemia

Fun fact!

Why We Expose Small Children to Early Morning Sunshine?

Exposing our skin to sunshine helps to produce vitamin D in the body. This helps to prevent a deficiency disease called rickets in children. Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium and mineralisation of bones with parathyroid hormone.


5. Minerals

Minerals are used in our body in the form of their salts and not as elements. Like vitamins, these are also called protective nutrients. Following are important functions and sources of some minerals:

Calcium: It is the most important mineral ion existing in Ca+2 form and is absorbed along with the
phosphate group in the digestive system.

Source: Milk, paneer, beans, fish, leafy
1. Needed for bone and teeth.
2. Needed for blood clotting.
3. Needed for muscle contraction.
Phosphorus: It mainly exists in the form of phosphate ions in our body and forms part of the buffer system and bones.

Source: Nuts, beans, seafood, peas, lentils.
1. Needed for bone and teeth.
2. Needed for nucleic acids.
Iodine: The deficiency of this mineral causes error in metabolism and also goitre.

Source: Salt, fish and dairy products.
1. Needed for the functioning of thyroid hormones
Iron: This mineral ion can never be removed from our body once absorbed by any of the excretory means.

Source: Liver, meat, fruits, dates, fig, sea-foods
1. Needed for formation of haemoglobin and myoglobin.
2. Needed for respiration and energy production.
3. It forms part of the cytochrome system.
Sodium: It is one of the most abundant mineral ions present in body fluids.

Source: Vegetables, fruits, Sea-food.
1. Needed for body fluid balancing.
2. Needed for nerve impulse transmission.
Potassium: This mineral ion maintains the osmolarity of body fluids along with sodium ions.

Source: Vegetables, fruits, Sea-food.
1. Needed for body fluid balancing.
2. Needed for nerve impulse transmission.
Zinc: This mineral ion exists in the form of Zn+2 in our body and plays a vital role in building immunity. Also, it has been associated with developing immunity against the covid-19 virus.

Source: Vegetables and fruits
1. Needed for building immunity.
2. Needed for the functioning of various enzymes.

What Makes Vitamins and Mineral Protective Nutrients?

Although needed in very small quantities, both vitamins and minerals are essential for normal physiological functioning and immunity. For example, sulphur (S) is needed for immunoglobulin formation and functioning. Thus, these trace elements of our diet provide us with the power to fight against disease-causing pathogens, viruses or bacteria.

6. Water

Water does not provide any nutrition to the body, so why is it so important?

Nutrition to the body

Two third (approximately \(70%\)) of the human body consists of water. Even though water doesn’t have any nutritional value, it is very important for the proper functioning of all internal organs as it serves to provide nutrients to cells as the main transporting system of our body. Our body cannot function in the absence of water as it is required for all the processes and metabolic activities.

For example, water plays an important role in the process of digestion, absorption, circulation, excretion, etc.

7. Roughage

Roughage is also known as dietary fibres. They are very important components of food that are needed by our body. Like water, roughage also does not have any nutritional value. Rather these are materials that cannot be digested by the body. Then you might think why these can be important to us? Here is your answer.

Since roughage is indigestible, it can hold more amount of water and help in the process of digestion. Also, they add bulk to the food and allows better excretion of waste materials from the body. Eating foods that are rich in roughage helps to prevent constipation too.

Sources of Roughage

Green leafy vegetables, peels of many fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pulses are some rich sources of roughage.

Importance of Nutrients in Our Body

Importance of Nutrients in Human Body

We all know that we cannot survive without eating food. Have you ever imagined why is that so? Why do our bodies need food? Why is it important for us to eat food regularly? Can’t we just eat once and get over it? If you have all these doubts in your mind, then you have reached the right place.

  1. Nutrients provide energy that is needed by our bodies throughout our lives. This is because not just our physical activity, even all metabolic activities in our body, require a continuous supply of energy. This is why we have to eat food at least three times a day to keep our body, super energetic all the time.
  2. Nutrients like vitamins and minerals also help in building a strong immune system to fight against diseases.

Nowadays, we hear everyone talk about boosting immunity to fight against covid-19. Nutrients provide us with the power to fight against any disease.

Importance of Nutrients in Plants

Nutrients for Plants

It is not just humans who need nutrients. Plants and all other living organisms require nutrients deriving nutrition from different sources or modes. We have already learnt that plants are called autotrophs or producers.

Plants are called autotrophs as they can synthesise their own food through photosynthesis. The process of photosynthesis requires minerals, carbon dioxide, water and sunlight. Plants need various nutrients for germination, growth, reproduction and all other processes.

Soil is the reservoir for most of the nutrients that a plant needs to grow, reproduce. Basically, we have divided the nutrients needed by plants into three categories:

  1. C, H and O are obtained from the air and water. 
  2. Macronutrients like \({\rm{N}},{\rm{P}},{\rm{K}},{\rm{Mg}},{\rm{Ca}},{\rm{S}}\) are obtained from the soil. They are needed in a larger quantity.
  3. Micronutrients like \({\rm{Fe}},{\rm{Mn}},{\rm{Cu}},{\rm{Cl}},{\rm{Zn}},{\rm{Mo}},{\rm{B}},{\rm{Ni}}\) are obtained from the soil. They are needed in a small amount.

The roots of the plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil. These nutrients are transported through the stem to all the cells of the plant.

You might have heard about NPK fertilisers! NPK stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. These three are the major nutrients required by plants. Below are the functions of these nutrients:

  1. Nitrogen: Nitrogen is important for amino acids, protein, DNA, RNA, chlorophyll etc. in plants. Plants cannot absorb gaseous nitrogen. Microbes convert N2 into ammonia and nitrate or nitrites. These are absorbed by the plants.
  2. Phosphorus: Phosphorus is important for the germination of seeds and growth of root and stem in young plants and is a component of ATP, DNA and RNA.
  3. Potassium: Potassium is essential for the production of flowers and fruits in plants. It also helps plants to build resistance against various diseases.

Trace elements or micronutrients such as iron, zinc, manganese, copper and boron are essential for better growth and development of the plants.

Deficiency Diseases

Lack of one or more nutrients for a long period leads to different types of diseases; these diseases are called deficiency diseases. These diseases can be prevented with the help of a balanced diet.

Deficiency Diseases
  1. Protein-energy Malnutrition (PEM): It is a common disease in children that occurs due to deficiency of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Marasmus (in infants) and Kwashiorkor (in children) are two diseases caused due to deficiency of protein in the body.
  2. Vitamin Deficiency Disease: As we have seen, vitamins are essential nutrients. They are needed in a small quantity. However, a deficiency of these chemicals can cause certain diseases in our body. Beriberi, scurvy, pernicious anaemia, and rickets are common vitamin deficiency diseases.
  3. Mineral Deficiency Disease: The absence of minerals causes diseases like Goitre (deficiency of Iodine), Anaemia (deficiency of Iron), tooth decay and tetany (deficiency of Calcium), etc.


In a nutshell, there is no single food that supplies all the nutrients that our body requires. Hence, it is important that we include different types of food to get different nutrients for our bodies. Consuming a balanced diet, which includes all the nutrients, helps us stay healthy and live longer.

FAQs regarding Important Nutrients

Q.1: What are the three most important nutrients?
Ans: Carbohydrates, fats and protein are considered three important nutrients in food. These are also called macronutrients as they are required in large amounts by the body.

Q.2: Which nutrients help in developing immunity and are essential to fight the covid-19 virus?
Ans: Nutrients like vitamins (particularly vitamin C) and minerals (like zinc) help in building a strong immune system to fight against diseases like covid-19.

Q.3: What are the different types of vitamins?
Ans: Vitamins are of two types based on their solubility. There are water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A, D, E and K are fat-soluble and vitamin C and B-complex are water-soluble vitamins.

Q.4: What are nutrients?
Ans: Nutrients are important chemical components of food needed by our body for its growth and maintenance, to perform various metabolic activities and to remain healthy.

Q.5: What are the different nutrients of the food and what are their functions?
Ans: Nutrients like carbohydrates and fats are required for the production of energy, proteins are needed for the growth and maintenance of the body and vitamins and minerals are the nutrients required for a strong immune system and many other metabolic activities. Water and roughage are the nutrients that help in the digestion and excretion of food in the body. Hence, all seven nutrients are important.

Q.6: What is PEM?
Ans: PEM stands for protein-energy malnutrition, a deficiency disease that arises due to a lack of proteins in the diet. Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are types of PEM.

Q.7. Why is water the most important nutrient?
Ans: Two-third of the human body consists of water; all organs need water to carry their functions. Slight dehydration can lead to serious harm to the body. Hence, water is the most important of all the other six nutrients. Water is essential for the digestion of food and the excretion of waste products in the body.

Now that you have a detailed article on the Importance of Nutrients in our Daily Life, we hope you take your exam well. In case of any issue connect with us at Embibe or do let us know about it in the comments section below and we will get back to you soon.

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