Essential Nutrients

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Photo shows a variety of foods, including lobster, clams, nuts and liver.
A healthy diet should include a variety of foods to ensure that needs for essential nutrients are met. (credit: Keith Weller, USDA ARS)

OpenStax Biology 2e

While the animal body can synthesize many of the molecules required for function from the organic precursors, there are some nutrients that need to be consumed from food. These nutrients are termed essential nutrients, meaning they must be eaten, and the body cannot produce them.

The omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and the omega-6 linoleic acid are essential fatty acids needed to make some membrane phospholipids. Vitamins are another class of essential organic molecules that are required in small quantities for many enzymes to function and, for this reason, are considered to be coenzymes. Absence or low levels of vitamins can have a dramatic effect on health. Both fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins must be obtained from food. Minerals are inorganic essential nutrients that must be obtained from food. Among their many functions, minerals help in structure and regulation and are considered cofactors. Certain amino acids also must be procured from food and cannot be synthesized by the body. These amino acids are the “essential” amino acids. The human body can synthesize only 11 of the 20 required amino acids; the rest must be obtained from food.

Source: OpenStax Biology 2e
Source: OpenStax Biology 2e
Source: OpenStax Biology 2e
Source: OpenStax Biology 2e

Source:

Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e

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