Meet and Greet — The 6 “Must Have” Nutrients

Joseph R. Anticaglia MD
Medical Advisory Board

If you live to be 75 years or longer, you will have eaten more than 75,000 meals and disposed of more than 55 tons of food! These actions require energy from nutrients at regular intervals, in the right proportions, at the right times for the body to function well.

Nutrients are the components in food that provide the energy needed to build, maintain, support and replenish the body’s needs.

One of the numerous tasks the body has is using the nutrients in food to regenerate tissues. The cells that line the stomach need to undergo a makeover approximately every 48 hours and every 120 days there’s a new fleet of red blood cells sailing through your body. These vital functions depend on the energy of nutrients found in a well-balanced diet.


  • Water
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Fats (lipids)
  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates

WATER makes up about 60% of an adult’s body weight – that’s about 90 pounds of water in a 150 pound individual. Cell life depends on water for its survival. Since water is a significant component of blood, it transports nutrients to cells and works to remove waste products through the urine. Water is that “indispensible nutrient” involved in biochemical reactions essential to life.

VITAMINS are organic compounds needed in tiny amounts (micronutrients) by the body to operate smoothly. Cells cannot manufacture vitamins; therefore, the body depends on the food supply or supplements to obtain these fundamental compounds. Lack of vitamins in the diet can result in specific deficiency diseases.

Spinal bifida is a birth defect which happens during the first month of pregnancy when the spinal column does not close completely. A deficiency of the B vitamin, folic acid, has been associated with this condition

MINERALS are needed to prevent anemia and build strong bones. They maintain regular heart rhythms and aid in the transmission of nerve impulses. Iodine, zinc and iron are micronutrients (trace minerals) that the body uses in small amounts. Low levels of iron can cause iron deficiency anemia. Macrominerals (such as calcium, sodium, chloride and potassium) are minerals the body requires in larger amounts. Dangerously

low levels of potassium can cause the heart to stop beating. Calcium deficiency can put you at risk for osteoporosis

The next three nutrients, fats, proteins and carbohydrates, are energy-yielding nutrients. This energy is measured in calories. They provide the body with the power needed to do its work.

Fats (lipids) are fuel depots that provide much of the energy needed for sports activities and physical work. They furnish needed calories and energy when we’re ill or skip meals. Fats form cell membranes and transport fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K plus other substances.

Proteins, unlike fats, cannot be stored for future use. These crucial nutrients are needed every day us to survive and thrive. Proteins are made up of amino acids (building blocks of protein) in various combinations.

Genes assign amino acids specific job functions. Some will build red blood cells or hormones, such as estrogen. Others emerge as antibodies that fight infections and diseases. Some amino acids develop into muscles, skin or bones.

Carbohydrates: All cells in the body need the energy of carbohydrates to function well. The simple sugar glucose is the main source of energy for the brain and nervous system. These nerve cells cannot exist without glucose. The red blood cells are also particularly dependent on glucose to function and replenish itself

Glycogen is the way the body stores glucose for future use. When we eat too much sugar, the excess sugar is stored primarily in the liver as glycogen. When the blood glucose (sugar) levels fall, the glycogen returns to the bloodstream as glucose. In this way, the body works to maintain the glucose level within a normal range.

Unquestionably, we need nutrients to stay healthy. It’s preferably to get nutrients from a well-balanced diet rather than supplements. You’ve heard it before… Minimize eating processed foods, don’t smoke, exercise, don’t be overweight and if you do drink alcoholic beverages, do it in moderation — No breaking news.

Yet it has been shown that what you eat and your lifestyle will determine to a great degree how healthy you’ll be later on in life. When you make a habit of incorporating the 6 nutrients into your diet and minimizing empty calories, you will have taken a giant leap forward toward a healthy future.


Shenkin; Micronutrients in Health and Disease; Postgrad med J; Sept, 2006

Joseph R Anticaglia, MD; Protein The Crucial Nutrient; HC Smart 2018

Joseph R Anticaglia, MD; Spotlight on Good Fats, Bad Fats; HC Smart, 2018

Joseph R Anticaglia, MD; 7 Functions of Designer Proteins, The Linchpins of Life; HC Smart, 2018

Joseph R. Anticaglia, MD; Water Seven Reasons Why’s it’s Called the “Indispensible Nutrient.”

Philipp Mergenthaler, et al; Sugar for the Brain; Trends Neurosci; Oct, 2013


A calorie is a unit of heat which indicates the amount of energy in a food.

1 gram of fat yields 9 calories

1 gram of carbohydrate yields 4 calories

1 gram of protein yields 4 calories

This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.