6 Essential Nutrients and Their Sources

In general, the nutrients that are necessary for proper body functions include 6 groups: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and water. The daily requirements for each group vary, depending on age, sex, and physical activity. By including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, dairy products and healthy fats in your diet, you can get a good amount of these nutrients naturally. If you are not sure whether you are having a balanced diet, consult a dietitian.

Nutrients and Their Sources

1. Proteins

Protein is a necessary nutrient to ensure the normal growth of skin, bone and muscle. It can be mostly found in animal sources such as poultry, meat and fish. Consuming enough protein is not a problem in industrialized countries such as the U.S. If you are a vegetarian, then you need to eat a good amount of beans, nuts, and whole grains to make sure you get the proper amount of protein that your body needs.

2. Carbohydrates

When it comes to nutrients and their sources, you should not forget carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are fuel for the body. The sources of carbohydrates include vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, flour, sugar and dairy products. They provide the energy for physical activity and other involuntary body functions such as the heartbeat, digestive process and breathing. They should account for about 40% to 60% of the daily total calorie intake.

3. Fats

While trans-fats and saturated fats must be avoided, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats should be included in your diet. Healthy fats can be found in sources like avocado, all kinds of nuts (cashews, macadamia nuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.), natural peanut or almond butter (made with just the oil coming from the nuts, without any additional fat added), sunflower, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, olives, tofu, soy milk, and fish that are rich in fat like salmon, trout, herring, tuna, sardines or mackerel.

4. Vitamins and Minerals

Now you know some nutrients and their sources. Here is a chart telling you the sources of some important vitamins and minerals.


Squash, pumpkin seeds, cheese, salmon, tuna, carp, mackerel, scallops, crabs, clams, nuts, lentils, tofu.


Bananas, mushrooms, avocado, spinach, potatoes, dried apricots, yogurt, salmon.


Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, brown rice, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, shiitake mushrooms.


Table salt, salad dressings, sauces, pickles, cured meat, cheese, canned vegetables, instant soups, fast foods.


Carrots, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), eggs, raspberries, strawberries, Swiss chard, milk, onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, halibut.


Spinach, almonds, milk, cheese, yogurt, oranges, black beans, figs, squid.


Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, celery, olives, peppers, seaweed.


Shrimp, eggs, peanuts, liver, scallops, chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey, pasta, rice, spinach.


Swiss chard, spinach, kale, asparagus, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, nuts.

Folic acid

Avocado, lentils, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, papaya, oranges, strawberries, raspberries, grapefruit.


Egg, brewer's yeast, molasses, cheese.


Clams, squash, liver, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, beef, lamb, beans, whole grains, spinach, tofu, dark chocolate.


Nuts, pumpkin seeds, spinach, fish, beans, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate.


Clams, mussels, nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, spinach, beans, tofu, black tea.

Niacin (B3)

Turkey, tuna, chicken breast, mushrooms, liver, peanuts, green peas, avocado.

Pantothenic acid (B5)

Shiitake mushrooms, sweet potato, sunflower seeds, salmon, avocados, broccoli, corn, lentils, chicken.


Chicken, pumpkin seed, lamb, cashews, yogurt, cocoa powder.

Pyridoxine (B6)

Cabbage, spinach, tuna, bok choy, garlic, cauliflower, bell peppers.

Riboflavin (B2)

Cheese, mushrooms, spinach, oily fish, pork, almonds.

Thiamin (B1)

Trout, tuna, mackerel, pork, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, green peas, asparagus.

Vitamin A

Sweet potatoes, spinach, dried apricots, carrots, lettuce, liver, cantaloupe, fish, bell peppers.

Vitamin B12

Low fat dairy, eggs, cheese, shellfish, crab, tofu, soy milk, red meat, liver, fish.

Vitamin D3

Oily fish, fish roe, mushrooms, pork, tofu, eggs.

Vitamin E

Spinach, almonds, wheat germ, sweet potato, avocado, sunflower seeds, olive oil, trout.

Vitamin K

Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, prunes, kale, asparagus, cucumber.

5. Water

It is important to know essential nutrients and their sources. Water is one of these essential nutrients and you need to ensure a good amount of daily water intake. This can be achieved by simply drinking plain water or eating vegetables and fruits that have high water content. A few examples include cucumber, zucchini, celery, lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, radish, pepper, red cabbage, watermelon, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, grapefruit, pineapple, cantaloupe and oranges.

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