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The best perspective for your health

Nutrients explained

In "Nutrients comprehensively explained" we state the health benefits AND disadvantages for a conscious choice of food, because we're not selling anything.

Nutrients (vitamins and elements) are important for our health. Never as a harmful maximum.© Bought from Budi Sud, shutterstock
Nutrients such as Vitamins and Minerals are important for our Health, but the optimum should be observed, not the harmful Maximum!


We say: Only when you have lost your health do you know how valuable it is. You can't buy health, you have to care for and maintain it - or work for it anew. The most important parameters for this are diet and exercise - especially if you have unfavorable genetic or epigenetic predispositions. In order to achieve the best health, the quality and the right amount of nutrients are crucial. You can find out more, here, through videos on our topics, about the effects of epigenetic predispositions on your health.

EE: Unfortunately, you never know if you're really healthy as long as you feel good and don't know of a bad health diagnosis. In any case, you can do or refrain from doing much more for your health than you generally think. Knowing about it is (only) the first step.

Your goal should be to better understand the connections between health and nutrition. Without investing enough time in your nutritional knowledge, you're left at the mercy of the food industry, a book, or a guru with interests of their own. See the book review "Salt Sugar Fat". Even most nutritionists receive their training, at least indirectly, from the industry. Often it is also outdated knowledge. Dietetics is not compulsory in medical studies.1 For this reason, doctors themselves often classify their knowledge of nutrition as insufficient.2

After reading this article, you will be able to see the most important connections with regard to a healthy diet; and you will understand the difference between essential, semi-essential and non-essential nutrients.

The specific texts about individual foods give you more details; e.g. whether coconut oil is really healthy or unhealthy.3 You will also learn about the effects on the ecological footprint. Since we don't sell anything, don't show any advertising and don't offer any services, we can show well-researched and scientifically proven facts about the pros and cons of food.

For an overview of those foods that have the largest amount of a specific nutrient (measured by 100 g net weight),4 click on the following link:

Nutrient comparisons

The link below shows a list of all essential nutrients with descriptions (below we also link to individual ingredients with the same descriptions):

Nutrient descriptions

Below we discuss the importance of the individual essential nutrients for the body and refer to further information.

Which nutrients are we describing and why?

Most nutrients are not essential because our body can build them from the essential nutrients. Under certain circumstances (e.g. due to illness or as a child) this is not possible or not possible to a sufficient extent. We then speak of semi-essential nutrients.

For example with the proteins: arginine, asparagine, cysteine, glutamine and tyrosine are considered semi-essential. In old age, for example, the fatty acids EPA and DHA can be semi-essential if the body on a vegan diet cannot make enough of ALA. (EE).

Our 'nutrient descriptions' focus on just over thirty essential nutrients. In subsequent posts, however, you will also find comprehensive descriptions of semi-essential nutrients - and a few of probably hundreds of other nutrients (we want to describe the latter bit by bit if we can bring important aspects to it).

Human nutrition not only serves to procure calories, but also provides functional elements and elements for "cellgrowth" and renewal. A healthy diet also affects people's mental health and well-being.5 EE: These elements float in the bloodstream like components on an assembly line (conveyor belt) in the manufacture of cars etc. The optimum is not the maximum. If several parts swim by that a building process cannot use, it will take longer. If the element or component is too rare or missing, this delays production, prevents it or leads to incorrect construction. Optimal nutrition is the decisive factor for your health, your life.

Outline of nutrient information

Our nutrient descriptions contains a short statement as a CONCLUSION, followed by a CLICK FOR for nutrient comparisons between foods (ingredients). In addition, you sometimes find separate tables in the text (under the heading "occurrences").

Next, we list various explanations such as losses during storage or preparation, and importance to the human body. The daily requirement in the long term is mentioned, along with the body's reserves for it and much more. We explain the deficiency symptoms and the symptoms of oversupply. In addition, there is a description of the functions in the body and information regarding consumption, absorption and metabolism. We usually explain the chemical structures and a list of the sources (literature) follows.

You can read detailed explanations of the most important substances that we often lack here:

Not only Vegans and Vegetarians should read this:
A Vegan Diet Can Be Unhealthy. Nutrition Mistakes

Importance of essential nutrients

Essential nutrients are divided into three macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) and numerous essential micronutrients. When it comes to micronutrients, a distinction is made between vitamins and minerals. The latter is also further subdivided and described separately as bulk elements and trace elements. In addition, hormones, messenger substances, secondary plant substances etc. play a role.

The three macronutrients with calories

The three macronutrients fat, carbohydrates and protein are the only sources of energy. In contrast, the micronutrients are responsible for maintaining a wide variety of necessary bodily functions.

Fats and fatty acids (lipids):

When you write about fats (lipids) in nutrition, fatty acids are actually addressed, but this is a complicated subject. The three most important groups are saturated fatty acids (SFA), monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA, such as omega-3 & omega-6). In the case of SFA, a distinction must be made between short-chain, medium-length and long-chain fatty acids, as they have very different effects.

In the tables for foods with market prices (recipe ingredients) we show the values ​​of the two most important vegetable fatty acids in detail. These are the potentially anti-inflammatory alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, Omega-3)6 and, the pro-inflammatory linoleic acid (LA, omega-6) - and their relationship to each other. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should not exceed 5:1.8 Together, these have long-term protective effects on our health and reduce inflammation.

EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid (AA):

The omega-6 fatty acid that is effective in the body is primarily the arachidonic acid (AA) formed in the body from linoleic acid (LA) or ingested. The effective omega-3 fatty acid, namely EPA and DHA, is formed by the body from alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) or absorbed from animal foods. The LA:ALA ratio plays an important role in our health, albeit only at the level of EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid (AA).

In other words, the organism makes EPA and DHA from ALA (omega-3), whereas linoleic acid (LA) produces arachidonic acid (AA), both also called omega-6. LA is the starting point for the synthesis of pro-inflammatory messenger substances that can promote metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.7

In addition to supplying the body with energy, fats also serve as a support element (for internal organs) and as a component of body structures such as cell membranes. In order for the body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), it needs fat.11,23 But a small percentage of total fat intake is sufficient.

Our bodies require fats, but in our western diets, we tend to get far too much of them, and in unfavorable proportions.9 For example, saturated fat should account for less than 10% of total daily energy intake.10,11 These unhealthy fats are primarily contained in animal foods (e.g. butter, meat and sausages). They are only found in very small amounts in plant foods - with the exception of coconut oil, cocoa butter or palm oil.

That is why we also state the amount of saturated fatty acids, the total amount of "fat" and the percentage of the daily requirement for each ingredient. Also of interest is how highly processed the fat we put into our bodies is. Do we use frying oil in the kitchen - or do we obtain our fat directly from natural products, e.g. from nuts and seeds? Nuts and seeds contain important accompanying substances (e.g. fiber) and micronutrients. Edible oils, on the other hand, like sugar, consist only of energy and contain practically no fiber or micronutrients (with the exception of vitamin E, which is found in many vegetable oils). We provide background information on this in the article Vegans often eat unhealthily. Avoidable nutritional mistakes.

You will also find details on the individual saturated fatty acids, the monounsaturated and the polyunsaturated (including their effects, etc.) - as well as on trans fats.

Carbohydrate and sugar content:

Unfortunately, the term carbohydrate has taken on a completely wrong meaning among doctors and in everyday usage, because carbohydrates are mistakenly reduced to high-starch foods. Carbohydrates include simple sugars (monosaccharides) such as glucose (D-glucose) and fructose (fructose) - and multiple sugars (polysaccharides) such as starch (amylum, the glycogen of plants) and roughage, including cellulose.

Strictly speaking, carbohydrates are not essential, since our body can produce them during gluconeogenesis, using energy from food components such as proteins and glycerol. However, on a ketogenic diet, i.e. with too few carbohydrates, the brain has to work with ketone bodies formed (by the liver) from fat instead of glucose; this gives the breath an acetone smell. This means that we are not built for it. In addition, the brain must get at least 20-40% glucose.12

The amount and quality of carbohydrates ingested through food affects our blood sugar levels and blood lipids. In the western world we eat too many products made from cereals such as rice, wheat, corn, millet, rye, oats, etc., mainly made from simple and double sugars, such as white bread, pasta (e.g. noodles, spaghetti), pizza, and cakes. The same is true for highly processed products made from potatoes (French fries, chips, etc.).26 Eating a high-fiber diet, including whole grains, can help prevent cardiovascular disease.13

How quickly carbohydrates enter the bloodstream depends on their structure. Simple sugars cause blood sugar to rise faster than polysaccharides. The glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are popular ways to rate carbohydrate foods for their effect on blood sugar levels. These indices mainly help diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

Recommended carbohydrates in the form of polysaccharides and dietary fiber are mainly found in plant foods (whole grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes). Digestion breaks down fiber-rich foods into glucose more slowly, so blood sugar does not rise as much or as quickly, leaving you feeling full longer.14 You can find out more about this topic in our article Lose Weight Healthily and Permanently.

The award-winning book "Salt Sugar Fat" or our very in-depth book review talks about how the food industry adds "hidden sugars" to sell their products better. Important keywords are corn syrup, glucose, fructose, isoglucose (isoglucose), maltodextrin (maltose or malt sugar plus dextrose or glucose), dry glucose, lactose, galactose (galactose) etc. You should also avoid - where possible - agave syrup, date syrup or apple juice concentrate. Apples are particularly healthy, but the concentrated apple juice that is boiled down from them contains practically no valuable nutrients.

Above all, avoid (a lot of) sweet drinks. The body usually shows no feeling of satiety when drinking sweet drinks; however, obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome can be the consequences. Children and young people in particular are vulnerable to advertising from the food industry. This alters their sense of taste and stature as they develop highly unhealthy eating habits. It takes about three months for our taste buds to adjust to less sugar or salt.15,24


Protein is an important macronutrient, but the western diet usually contains too much of it (mixed-diet, i.e. including dairy products, eggs, and/or meat). Sometimes, the protein we consume are composed incorrectly. Therefore, in addition to the protein content of foods and recipes, we also list the eight classic essential amino acids in another table.4 We describe these separately under the nutrients (link in the first section of this article): phenylalanine (Phe, F); leucine (Leu, L); methionine (Met, M); lysine (Lys, K); isoleucine (Ile, I); valine (Val, V); threonine (Thr, T); Tryptophan (Trp, W). Vegans are also affected if they eat too much legumes, for example, in the form of soy products. For more information, see the "China Study" book review.

The essential micronutrients

Essential micronutrients do not provide energy, but are extremely important for the body's functions. As mentioned above, they are divided into vitamins and minerals. Minerals are divided into bulk elements (also known as macro-minerals) and trace elements (also known as micronutrients).

It is important to know that the body does not need a lot of micronutrients, but an optimum. Earlier in the text we provide the example of the body as a complex factory that needs its components "just in time". Of course, product advertising conveys a completely different picture!


13 vitamins (out of 20) are considered essential vitamins, even if strictly speaking not all of them are vitamins: vitamin A; thiamine (vitamin B1); riboflavin (vitamin B2); niacin (formerly vitamin B3); pantothenic acid (vitamin B5); vitamin B6 (pyridoxine); biotin (formerly vitamin B7, H); folate (formerly vitamin B9, B11); vitamin B12 (cobalamin); vitamin C (ascorbic acid); Vitamin D; Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol, TE, E307) and vitamin K. Under the keyword vitamin you can find the history of discovery and other interesting information on Wikipedia.

Although the vitamin requirement for some vitamins is given in mg per day and for others in µg, i.e. a thousandth of a mg, they are not further subdivided (as with minerals). But an important distinguishing criterion is the solubility in water (such as for the eight B vitamins and vitamin C) or in fat (vitamins A, D, E and K). Since the body can store fat-soluble vitamins, too much of these vitamins is much more dangerous than too much of water-soluble vitamins.25 With a healthy, balanced diet, however, an overdose is difficult to achieve, except with food supplements.

It is a misconception that vitamins are more important than minerals or essential proteins. There are simply different amounts that are healthy for the body in the long run. In addition, they all work differently and fulfill different functions.

As mentioned above, when choosing a vitamin, you can always find a full description; plus a list of ingredients and recipes that contain most of them. It should always be noted that the body needs very different amounts depending on the vitamin.

Bulk elements or macro minerals:

A distinction is made between the following seven: phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sodium (Na), sulphur (S) and chlorine (Cl). You need them per day in the "upper mg range". For all nutrients, the daily requirement is not a guide value for each individual day, because the body (often the liver) stores very different amounts "in stock". We describe this for each nutrient, taking into account an average duration of non-supply.

Trace elements or micronutrients:

We need these elements in small amounts from a few mg to less than 100 μg per day. There are nine trace elements that are considered essential, namely manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), selenium (Se), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), iodine (I), fluorine (F), cobalt (Co) and molybdenum (Mo).

Iodine and selenium (semimetal selenium) are needed in tiny amounts. In many places in Europe, the soil has been depleted of these substances by the glaciers, which is why iodine is added to salt.16 If you don’t add salt, you should eat suitable algae from time to time. It is important to know that the iodine content in algae can vary greatly. Depending on the region, there are also heavy metals, arsenic and other pollutants that can accumulate in algae.17,18 We have described this.

You can get selenium from Brazil nuts (Brasil nut)20, but it should be a maximum of two per day, because then you are more than "well served". However, the nut must not come from Brazil, since the selenium content there can be too high.23 Brazil nuts can also store barium (1% = 10,000 ppm), strontium (Sr) and radium (Ra).19 Too much barium can lead to an increase in blood pressure with a simultaneously low heart rate and a tendency towards muscle cramps. However, studies show that humans absorb only a small portion of this substance.21


There are too many publications that only cover the topic of health superficially and hardly go into depth. There is also a wide range from misleading to high-level information, which is why it takes time and certain knowledge to find your way through this information maze.22

We therefore endeavor to compile informative and scientifically proven information for you and to examine it critically with trained employees. We are therefore pleased if you forward items from us if you appreciate their value. You are also welcome to let us know (via the contact form in the footer navigation bar) if you discover errors or if you have a different opinion (please give reasons).

You can use the horizontal arrows to navigate forwards or backwards between the explanatory texts. The main page with all 6 explanatory texts and links to our topics can be found here.

Bibliography - 26 Sources


The Lancet. ScienceDaily. Despite growing burden of diet-related disease, medical education does not equip students to provide high quality nutritional care to patients: Researchers call for improved nutrition education to be integrated into the medical curriculum. 2019.


Ärzteblatt DÄG. Medizinstudium: Berufseinstieg bereitet vielen Absolventen Probleme [Internet]. Deutsches Ärzteblatt. 2010.


Eyres L, Eyres MF et al. Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans. Nutrition Reviews. April 2016;74(4):267-280.


USDA, United States Department of Agriculture.


Owen L, Corfe B. The role of diet and nutrition on mental health and wellbeing. Proc Nutr Soc. 2017 Nov;76(4):425–426.


Abdolmaleki F, Kovanen PT et al. Resolvins: emerging players in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol. 2020 Feb;58(1):82–91.


Hamilton JS, Klett EL. Linoleic acid and the regulation of glucose homeostasis: A review of the evidence. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids. Dec 2021;175:102366.


Marchetti M, Gualtieri P et al. Dietary ω-3 intake for the treatment of morning headache: A randomized controlled trial. Front Neurol. 2022 Sep 20;13:987958.


Beam A, Clinger E, Hao L. Effect of diet and dietary components on the composition of the gut microbiota. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 15;13(8):2795.


World Health Organisation. Report of a Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation: Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. WHO Technical report Series 916. Geneva 2003.


Jéquier E. Response to and range of acceptable fat intake in adults. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1999;53(S1):s84–s93.


Cacciatore M, Grasso EA, Tripodi R, Chiarelli F. Impact of glucose metabolism on the developing brain. Front Endocrinol. 2022 Dec 23;13:1047545.


Nestel PJ, Mori TA. Dietary patterns, dietary nutrients and cardiovascular disease. Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2022 Jan 14;23(1):1.


Reynolds AN, Akerman AP, Mann J. Dietary fibre and whole grains in diabetes management: Systematic review and meta-analyses. PLoS Med. 2020;17(3):e1003053.


Blais CA, Pangborn RM et al. Effect of dietary sodium restriction on taste responses to sodium chloride: a longitudinal study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1986;44(2):232–243.


Gärtner R. Recent data on iodine intake in Germany and Europe. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology. 2016 Sep;37:85–89.


Bouga M, Combet E. Emergence of seaweed and seaweed-containing foods in the uk: focus on labeling, iodine content, toxicity and nutrition. Foods. 2015;4(4):240–253.


Smyth PPA. Iodine, seaweed, and the thyroid. Eur Thyroid J. 2021;10(2):101–108.


Cardoso BR, Duarte GBS et al. Brazil nuts: Nutritional composition, health benefits and safety aspects. Food Research International. 2017 Oct;100:9–18.


Godos J, Giampieri F et al. Effect of brazil nuts on selenium status, blood lipids, and biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Antioxidants. 2022;11(2):403.


Mazokopakis EE, Liontiris MI. Commentary: Health Concerns of Brazil Nut Consumption. J Altern Complement Med. Jan 2018;24(1):3-6.


Higashi T, Nakamura F et al. Evaluation of newspaper articles for coverage of public reporting data: a case study of unadjusted cancer survival data. Japanese Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2013 Jan. 1;43(1):95–100.


Rittenau N. Vegan-Klischee ade! Wissenschaftliche Antworten auf kritische Fragen zu veganer Ernährung. Ventil Verlag, Mainz. 3. Auflage. 2019.


Greger M. How Not to Die. Macmillan. 2015.


Blake CJ. Status of methodology for the determination of fat-soluble vitamins in foods, dietary supplements, and vitamin premixes. J AOAC Int. 2007;90(4):897-910.


Veronese N, Stubbs B et al. Fried potato consumption is associated with elevated mortality: an 8-y longitudinal cohort study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017;106(1):162-167.


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