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What are Nutrients?

Nutrients are substances required by the body to perform its basic functions. Most nutrients must be obtained from our diet, since the human body does not synthesize or produce them. Nutrients have one or more of three basic functions: they provide energy, contribute to body structure, and/or regulate chemical processes in the body. These basic functions allow us to detect and respond to environmental surroundings, move, excrete wastes, respire (breathe), grow, and reproduce.

There are six classes of nutrients required for the body to function and maintain overall health. These are: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, water, vitamins, and minerals. Nutritious foods provide nutrients for the body. Foods may also contain a variety of non-nutrients. Some non-nutrients such as as antioxidants (found in many plant foods) are beneficial to the body, whereas others such as natural toxins (common in some plant foods) or additives (like certain dyes and preservatives found in processed foods) are potentially harmful.

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