Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Functions of Nutrients and Vitamins and How they Help the Body

What are Nutrients?

Nutrients are substances found in food that are used by the body to promote normal cell growth, to maintain proper organ functioning, to repair worn out parts of the body, and to provide energy.

There are 6 main categories of nutrients:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids (fats)
  • Proteins
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Carbohydrates, lipids and proteins are collectively known as “major nutrients”, as they make up the bulk of what we eat.

Water could also be considered a major nutrient as our bodies are made up of around 70% of water and it accounts for around 60% of the food we eat.

Vitamins and minerals are essentially required in small amounts.

It is thought that the body itself can in fact synthesize hundreds of additional molecules required for normal functioning and good health, from the ingestion of the essential nutrients.


Vitamins are organic compounds which mainly function in enzyme systems for the purpose of enhancing the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, thereby helping the breakdown and assimilation of foods.  That is, vitamins themselves are not used for energy nor do they serve as building blocks, but they are vital in helping the body to use those nutrients that do have those functions.  Some vitamins also participate in the formation of blood cells, hormones, nervous system chemicals and genetic materials.

The majority of vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body and must therefore be consumed through the intake of food.

Fat-soluble vitamins are usually absorbed with foods that contain fat, and are broken down by bile in the liver.  The emulsified molecules then pass through the lymphatics and veins where they are distributed through the arteries.

Fat-soluble vitamins do not have to be consumed every day, as they can be stored in the body’s fat, liver and kidneys.  These include Vitamins A, D, E & K.

Water-soluble vitamins either cannot be stored or can only be stored in minute amounts (with the exception of B12) and therefore need to be consumed daily.  They include Vitamins C & B complex.

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N.B.  It's always advisable to consult your doctor or health care professional if you have any concerns regarding your health or nutrient intake.

*Prices/discounts indicated are correct at time of writing/publishing and may be subject to change anytime.  E&OE.

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