The 6 Must-Have Nutrients For Full Body Wellness

The 6 Must-Have Nutrients For Full Body Wellness

8 minute read

Drink coffee––it's loaded with antioxidants! Oh though loaded with nutrients, it interferes with mineral absorption.

Eat eggs––they're packed with protein! Oh but they're high in cholesterol and terrible for eczema.

Add avocado to your breakfast smoothie! They're an incredibly nutritious source of minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. Oh, but they're also super high in histamines!

And the list goes on. Are you as confused as most people are about what constitutes good nutrition?

The reality is that food is a lot like people. It's neither all good nor all bad (let the record show that we don't consider pseudo-foods, such as cheese curls, food). Its goodness and evils are often combined into one, to co-exist in contradiction forevermore. Foods that are good for you may be terrible for someone else. Likewise, "healthy" foods can be over-consumed to the point of being damaging.

I met a guy last year who had been on a mango-only diet for three months (what we might call a mono-fruitarian diet). That's right, only mangoes and water for more than 90 days. While the US Department of Agriculture would recommend eating no more than 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day, this mango diet would seem wildly suspect as far as nutritional requirements go, especially because it's a fruit so high in sugar and low in fiber. I'm not sure how this guy fared in the end, though I imagine his skin assumed a slightly different shade.

Unless you're a breatharian, it's hard to know what to eat these days! Strictly gluten-free? Plant-based? Carnivore? Alkaline? No carbs please––carbs are evil! (Just as a side note, a breatharian is someone who lives off prana––our life force energy. And we don't really believe carbs are evil).

No sketchy stuff or confusion here! Good nutrition is actually pretty straightforward. We're back to basics with these 6 essential nutrients that every person needs for health and wellness.

The key is moderation. That doesn't mean adding a handful of those much-loved cheese curls to your side salad every night. Rather, it means get a little of everything, from the plant and the animal kingdom. If you're vegan, you may need to make some adjustments to ensure you're getting adequate protein and other nutrients. And keep in mind: the goodness of any diet is relative to the person consuming it, which is to say that what's effective for me may not be for you.

So, what are these 6 essential nutrients for overall health that everyone needs to survive (except the rare spiritually enlightened folk, of course)? 

Vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Wait––that's only five! As you continue reading, see if you can figure out what the sixth is (we'll tell you at the end).

Vitamins and minerals are categorized as micronutrients while protein, fat, and carbohydrates are considered macronutrients. We'll look at both separately.

What Are Micronutrients?

Macro Nutrients

Simply put, micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals our bodies require to fulfill a variety of functions. They're called "micro" because we only need small amounts of them compared to the macronutrients––protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are considered essential for functioning because our bodies don't produce any minerals or most vitamins. The exceptions are fat-soluble vitamins D and K. Our bodies make vitamin D from cholesterol when we're exposed to sunlight. Bacteria in the large intestines make a range of vitamin K forms called menaquinones (1).

Vitamins are groups of organic compounds that we need for normal growth, energy production, immune function, blood clotting, and more. Vitamins are either soluble or insoluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. They're stored in the body's fatty tissue and liver, in some cases for months. If you're taking supplements of these vitamins, you'll want to take them with high-fat foods to increase absorption.

Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins B and C, don't stick around long in the body as they exit through urine. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, we need a frequent and regular intake of them.

Minerals are chemical elements necessary for numerous body functions. Like vitamins, they play a critical role in growth, bone health, fluid balance, and other processes. Minerals are broken into two groups: microminerals, which we need in trace amounts, and macrominerals.

We need more major minerals than trace ones, but note that required amounts don't correspond to their importance. Iron and zinc, for example, are considered trace or microminerals, whereas calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are major macrominerals. (See this table from the University of Michigan for a complete breakdown of the most common minerals and their functions).

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are the nutrients our bodies need large amounts of to function properly (compared to micronutrients). The three types are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They provide energy as measured calories or kcals, with fats containing almost twice as many kcal (9 kcal/gram) than the other two (4 kcal/gram).

The USDA recommended "macro split" is 10-35% protein, 20-35% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrates (2). Keep in mind this is for the average person. Your body may have different requirements.

Macros give us far more than just energy. Our bodies need adequate amounts of fat, carbs, and proteins to fulfill certain functions. Fiber may also be considered a macronutrient, but it's actually a type of carbohydrate. While it doesn't supply your body with energy because it can't be broken down, it does help rid your body of waste, which keeps your colon healthy.

We'll give a quick summary of each macro here, and we'll discuss them in detail in upcoming articles.



Carbohydrates break down into glucose, the body's main energy source and a critical nutrient for brain and organ functioning. Some carbohydrates also help synthesize certain amino acids. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbs, usually the ones that taste sweet, are composed of one to two sugar molecules, so they break down easily and rapidly. Complex carbs, on the other hand, take more time to breakdown because they're composed of long strands of sugar molecules. They're less sweet tasting than simple carbs and are found in starchy foods and grains.


You'll find that most active and health-conscious people are obsessed with protein because it supports the body's ability to grow, build, and repair tissue. It also protects lean muscle mass. Protein contains both essential and non-essential amino acids. Although we need both nutrients, we are concerned with essential amino acids because our bodies don't naturally make them so we have to ensure we consume them in adequate quantities. Most animal foods are rich in essential amino acids. However, plant proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds are good sources for vegetarian and vegan diets. 


In the past it had a bad rap, but through more research, we're discovering how beneficial fat is for weight loss and brain functioning. Fat helps our bodies store energy, make hormones, absorb certain vitamins, and strengthen cell membrane integrity.

The three types of fats are unsaturated fat, saturated fat, and trans fat. Trans fat comes from hydrogenating unsaturated fat, making it very unhealthy and unnecessary in our diets. We need adequate amounts of both saturated and unsaturated fat, though excess saturated fat, such as that contained in many animal products, can increase cholesterol. It's best consumed in moderation. Unsaturated fats are considered the "healthy fats" found in many plant-based foods such as seeds, nuts, avocados, and various vegetable oils.

Two Liters A Day?

Have you figured out the sixth essential nutrient yet? H20! Most experts recommend drinking two liters of water a day, depending on your level of activity. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt (literally, in cases where water is over-processed for purity and low in sodium). While water is necessary for cleansing and hydrating, it is possible to have so much that it interferes with your body's ability to process it all.

The rule of thumb is that if you're thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. A good way to judge appropriate intake is through the color of your urine. Pale yellow is a sign that you're adequately hydrated. Darker colored urine may signal that you're not drinking enough water to stay hydrated. While fruits and vegetables contain water, as do juices and other beverages, many experts agree that it's not enough to fulfill our body's requirements. 

On the flip side, there are people who don't drink any water at all, claiming they get enough water and nutrients from the food they eat. Again, different strokes for different folks. If you're going to go waterless or only consume mangoes or simply feed off your breath, it's best checking in with a doctor as extremes like this can have long-term health consequences.

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From our kitchen to yours, we wish you an abundance of good, clean, tasty nutrients in all your favorite foods.


  1. Vitamin K | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health


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