These are the 7 essential nutrients you need to survive

I’m the first to admit that the world of nutrition is seriously complicated. But luckily for the average Joe just wanting to eat to better their health, it doesn’t have to be that hard. So, listen up for your quick lesson in nutrition 101.

The macronutrients

The three main macronutrients provide energy – they are carbohydrates, protein and fat. And no, you can’t eat anything you want just because it fits your macros.

Let’s start with carbs – or the demon of diets, as society wants you to think.

I like to break carbs into two broad categories: quality vs. refined. Quality carbs come from healthy grain foods like wholegrain bread, pasta and oats, but also fruit, dairy, legumes and some vegetables (think sweet potato, potato and corn). Refined carbs, on the other hand, are found in foods like cakes, biscuits and lollies. I’m sure you’re able to tell which is the ‘healthier’ type.

The reason those so-called quality carbs are just that – of high quality – is because most of them have a low glycaemic index. That means their energy is slowly released, which helps you to feel satisfied (as opposed to refined carbs which result in a quick spike in blood sugar). Plus, quality carbs are nutrient dense and contain a raft of vitamins and minerals.

Next up is protein

Protein is important to maintain, build and repair our muscles. Protein comes from animal foods like red meat, poultry, fish and eggs. What surprises most people, though, is that you can actually get plenty of protein from plant sources, like legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds.

What’s more, you probably don’t need as much protein as you think, and in fact, most of us eat far more than our bodies require – so ease up on the fancy bars and protein shakes.

Now for fat

And lastly – fat (all of which isn’t bad, by the way). There are a lot of healthy fats found in foods like extra virgin olive oil, avocado and salmon, which are hugely beneficial for us. Then there’s less-healthy fats (read: saturated fats) found in foods like butter, biscuits and pastries, which isn’t very good for our hearts.

All in all, you should incorporate small portions of healthy fats in your diet day to day (because our bodies actually need some to help absorb certain nutrients), but leave foods with a high proportion of saturated fat for special occasions.

The micronutrients

Micronutrients, on the other hand, are nutrients that don’t provide energy, but are necessary for our bodies to function optimally. There are loads of micronutrients, and each of them have unique roles that support our overall health and wellbeing. Nonetheless, there are two micronutrients which tend to get a lot of the limelight.

They are: calcium and iron.

You probably already know that calcium is important for strong bones and teeth. But it’s also important for muscle contraction, blood clotting and heart function as well. The richest source of calcium is dairy foods (think milk, yoghurt and cheese), so if you’re dairy-free, you’ve got a bit of planning to do to make up for it. Non-dairy sources of calcium include tahini, baked beans and tinned salmon or sardines with edible bones.

The other well-known micronutrient, iron, helps to carry oxygen around our bodies. There are two forms: haem iron (which comes from animals and is more easily absorbed) and non-haem iron (which comes from plants and isn’t as easily absorbed). It’s best to have a mixture of both kinds of iron in your diet, especially for women between the ages of 19-50, who require much more iron than men.


You’ve heard dietitians in the media bang on and on about fibre, but there are some really good reasons for it. You see, fibre supports a healthy gut – but it’s not all just about bowel health. For example, fibre can also help to reduce cholesterol and manage blood sugars. To get enough fibre, be sure to include plenty of wholegrains, fruit, veg, legumes, nuts and seeds every day.


And finally, water. Our bodies rely on water for a host of reasons – like upholding the integrity of our cells, regulating our body temperature (via sweat) and even assisting the digestion of our food. Without enough water, you may become dehydrated, which will leave you feeling worse for wear (think headaches, weakness and confusion). You should aim for eight cups of water a day (and for men, that quota is increased to 10).

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Zac Zacharia (Managing Director) has been assisting clients to create wealth and secure their futures for over 14 years.

He is also an accomplished presenter and educator

Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.