What Are Nutrients? - Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is Cholesterol? - Definition & Overview

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What are Nutrients?
  • 0:30 Macronutrients
  • 2:35 Micronutrients
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

Expert Contributor
Christianlly Cena

Christianlly has taught college physics and facilitated laboratory courses. He has a master's degree in Physics and is pursuing his doctorate study.

This lesson is about nutrients, which are the building blocks of all living organisms. This lesson will explain what nutrients are, the different kinds of nutrients and offer examples of each.

What are Nutrients?

Nutrients are molecules in food that all organisms need to make energy, grow, develop, and reproduce. Nutrients are digested and then broken down into basic parts to be used by the organism. There are two main types of nutrients, macronutrients and micronutrients. The three main categories of macronutrients include carbohydrate, protein, and fat. The two types of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, and these are extra molecules that cells need to make energy. Let's take a look at the three groups of macronutrients we mentioned.


Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient used for quick energy in cells. The basic unit of carbohydrates is a monosaccharide. An example of a monosaccharide is glucose or sugar. Glucose can be by itself, or assembled into long chains to make things like starch, which can be found in potatoes.

Potatoes - a type of carbohydrate

Have you heard of the athletic term, carbo-loading? Athletes load up on carbohydrates before a big race to give themselves a store of quick energy. Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap lately, but everyone needs carbs! It is important to eat a balanced diet with all the major nutrient categories. Foods that contain carbohydrates include grains, cereal, bread, pasta, potatoes, fruits and sweets such as soda and candy.

Foods rich in carbohydrates
carbohydrate foods

Proteins are a macronutrient that the cells in your body use for structure. Protein is very important for building tissues, such as muscle. Muscle is mainly made up of proteins. Think how bodybuilders are always eating plain chicken and protein bars - they're trying to build their muscles by getting lots of protein in their diet!

Protein powder is used by bodybuilders to build muscle
protein shake

Proteins are made from smaller monomers called amino acids. There are twenty amino acids that make up all the kinds of protein your body needs. Imagine that amino acids are like Legos. To build a fancy Lego building, you need all shapes and colors of Legos. But there aren't infinite shapes of Legos; you only have so many to work with. The same thing with protein. Your body can make some of the amino acids you need, but there are nine that you must consume in your diet. These are called essential amino acids. Meat, fish, beans, and eggs are examples of foods rich in protein.

Foods rich in proteins
protein rich foods

Fats are called lipids and are a macronutrient in your body that stores energy. Fats have long chains of carbon and hydrogen, which store lots of energy in the chemical bonds. Fats are important in our body to cushion organs, protect our cells, and send signals in the form of hormones around our body. Foods that are rich in fats are butter and oil.

Cooking oil - a type of fat
canola oil


Now let's take a look at the two groups of micronutrients.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Nutrients Word Search Activity

This activity will help you assess your knowledge of the definition and examples of nutrients in living organisms.


For this activity, you'll need a printer to reproduce the following page. Search for and circle or highlight the words that will complete each of the given clues. Afterward, neatly write them in the appropriate blank spaces in the clues.


  1. _____ is a simple monosaccharide that acts as the principal source of energy for cellular metabolism.
  2. _____ are insoluble in water and account for most of the fat present in the human body.
  3. A person that has _____ deficiency lacks essential vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development.
  4. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form _____.
  5. _____ are the sugars and starches found in cereals, grains, milk products, and vegetables.
  6. Protein is the main component of contractile tissues known as _____.
  7. A mineral is a chemical _____ required by organisms to perform functions necessary for life.
  8. Vitamins are used as functional parts of _____ for cellular metabolism.
  9. _____ is the most abundant mineral in the body and is vital for bone growth.
  10. Fats that are present in the body provide long-term storage of _____.

Answer Key

  1. Glucose
  2. Lipids
  3. Micronutrient
  4. Proteins
  5. Carbohydrates
  6. Muscles
  7. Element
  8. Enzymes
  9. Calcium
  10. Energy

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account