Understanding Nutrients: The Building Blocks of Life

Classified in Biology

Written at on English with a size of 3.61 KB.

Food and Nutrients

Food is our primary source of nutrients. But what are nutrients exactly?

Nutrients: The Essentials for Life

NUTRIENTS are biomolecules that our bodies need to sustain vital functions. They are the chemical components of food, acting as the building blocks and energy sources our cells need to survive.

Why We Need Nutrients

Cells require nutrients to fulfill three fundamental requirements:

  1. Energetic: Certain nutrients, like lipids and carbohydrates, are broken down in our mitochondria to release energy. This energy powers essential functions such as movement, temperature regulation, and more.
  2. Structural: Some nutrients, including proteins, lipids, and mineral salts, serve as the building blocks for various body structures. These structures include cell membranes, bones, cartilage, and more.
  3. Regulatory: Other nutrients, such as vitamins and mineral salts, are required in smaller quantities to regulate body metabolism. They play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of various bodily processes.

Carbohydrates or Glucids

Carbohydrates, found in foods like bread, cereals, potatoes, pulses, pasta, fruits, vegetables, sweets, and pastries, are a primary source of energy for our cells. Some carbohydrates need to be consumed daily for optimal health.

Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

Simple Carbohydrates ("Sugars")

Characterized by their sweet taste and small molecular size, simple carbohydrates include:

  1. Monosaccharides: Examples include glucose and fructose.
  2. Disaccharides: Examples include sucrose (found in fruits) and lactose (found in milk).

Simple carbohydrates serve as an immediate source of energy for the brain and muscles.

Complex Carbohydrates ("Polysaccharides")

These are large macromolecules composed of many monosaccharides. They are generally not sweet and include:

  1. Glycogen: Found in animals and stored in the liver.
  2. Starch: Found in plants and stored in leaves, roots, tubers, etc.
  3. Cellulose or "Dietary Fibers": Found in plants and provide structural support.
  4. Chitin: Forms the skeleton of invertebrates.

Glycogen and starch, when broken down during digestion, provide a steady and long-term supply of energy to cells in the form of simple sugars.

Simple Sugars vs. Complex Sugars

Simple sugars are quickly metabolized to release energy. However, excess consumption can lead to the conversion of these sugars into fat.

Complex sugars, made up of linked monosaccharides, are stored in the liver as glycogen. This glycogen is then broken down into simple sugars as needed, providing a slow and controlled release of energy to cells and preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.


Lipids are a diverse group of substances sharing key characteristics: water insolubility and an oily appearance. There are three main types of lipids:

  1. Fats: Rich in energy, fats can be either saturated or unsaturated. Triglycerides are a common type of fat.
  2. Membrane Lipids: These lipids, including phospholipids and cholesterol, are essential components of cell membranes.
  3. Regulatory Lipids: This category includes vitamins (A, D, K, and E) and hormones, which play crucial roles in controlling metabolic processes.

Entradas relacionadas: