The 6 Essential Nutrient Groups

By on October 5, 2011

If you’ve been out of school longer than you were in, you probably remember nutrition as “the four basic food groups.” Look closely at the food pyramid, and you’ll see that those familiar favorites are still there, just reorganized a bit.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed the food pyramid in 1992 to reflect new information about nutrition and health. Your body needs nourishment from six groups of essential nutrients…


Sugars and starches provide energy for your body. About half of your daily diet should come from carbohydrates. Good sources of carbohydrates include cereals, grains, fruits, and products made from them (like bread and pasta).


These nutrients are made of amino acids, which your body needs for cell growth and repair. Good sources of protein include eggs, milk, cheese, poultry, and meat.


The problem isn’t that we eat fats which our bodies need for energy, but that we eat too many foods high in fat. Fats should be no more than 20 to 30 percent of your daily diet (the average American diet is about 38 percent fat). Meats, dairy products, vegetable oils, fish, and avocados have high fat contents.


Even though your body can’t digest fiber, it needs fiber to aid the digestive process by providing bulk. Good sources of fiber include raw fruits and vegetables, grains, and cereals.

Vitamins and Minerals

These nutrients are essential for metabolism. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and cereals are especially good sources for vitamins and some minerals. Meats and poultry provide other minerals.

Water and Oxygen

We don’t always think of these substances as nutrients, but without them, your body couldn’t survive. Every life function requires both water and oxygen. Your body is about 60 percent water. You should drink at least eight glasses of water daily.