Essential, health-promoting components of food

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Draft copy. Last update: October 12, 2022.

Over 50,000 nutritional (health promoting) components of foods have been identified. 41 nutrients (14 vitamins, 15 minerals, 9 amino acids, 2 fatty acids and water) are currently classified as being "essential" for human health. Definition of essential nutrients: "Nutritional substances required for optimal health. These must be provided in the diet, because they are not formed metabolically within the body."1 Each essential nutrient has hundreds to thousands of currently known essential functions in human health -- 1,000+ for magnesium, 2,000+ for zinc, and 2,700+ for vitamin D!

  1. Reasons to Buy Organic Foods
  2. 50,000+ Currently Known Health Promoting, Nutritional Components of Foods
  3. Incidence of Deficiency of Essential Nutrients for Health, Healing, Disease Prevention and Treatment
  4. Causes of Deficiency of Essential Nutrients for Health, Healing, Disease Prevention and Treatment
  5. Essential Nutrients
  6. Table of Nutrient Functions and Top Food Sources
  7. Conditionally Essential Nutrients
  8. Other Nutrients with Known Health Effects, Which May Be Classified as Essential Nutrients or Conditionally Essential Nutrients in the Near Future

1. Essential Nutrients

There are currently 41 nutrients classified as being "essential nutrients for health" that our bodies cannot make on their own. These nutrients need to be obtained from foods or nutritional supplements.


  1. Vitamin A
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Vitamin D
  4. Vitamin E
  5. Vitamin K
  6. Vitamin B1
  7. Vitamin B2
  8. Vitamin B3
  9. Vitamin B5
  10. Vitamin B6
  11. Biotin
  12. Folate
  13. Vitamin B12
  14. Choline


  1. Calcium
  2. Chloride
  3. Chromium
  4. Copper
  5. Fluoride
  6. Iodine
  7. Iron
  8. Magnesium
  9. Manganese
  10. Molybdenum
  11. Phosphorus
  12. Potassium
  13. Selenium
  14. Sodium
  15. Zinc

Amino Acids

  1. Histidine
  2. Isoleucine
  3. Leucine
  4. Lysine
  5. Methionine
  6. Phenylalanine
  7. Threonine
  8. Tryptophan
  9. Valine

Essential Fats

  1. Linoleic Acid
  2. Alpha-linolenic Acid


  1. Water

2. Nutrient Functions and Top Food Sources

Nutrients Functions of Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients Top Food Sources Per Calorie (foods with the highest levels of nutrients listed first)
Vitamins and vitamin-like nutrients: * = Currently classified as an essential nutrient for health.
*Vitamin A - Vitamin A is found in different forms in plant (carotenoids) and animal (retinoids) sources1. Carotenoids are precursors to vitamin A, and they are commonly considered to convert to vitamin at the below listed rates (see alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin), when needed by our bodies. Also, as carotenoids, they provide additional (non-vitamin A related) health effects. Since carotenoids and retinoids both contribute to vitamin A levels in the diet, vitamin A is commonly listed as RAE (retinol activity equivalents).
- Likely not included in the below conversion rates: "The capacity to convert beta-carotene to vitamin A is in part genetically determined, and may be reduced in as many as 27-45% of the population."2 "These individuals have a capacity to form only 9% vitamin A from beta carotene compared with those who are classified as normal converters."3.
- Vitamin A's many health effects, including immune system support related functions.
- Helps support vision; helps support immune and inflammatory systems; helps support cell growth.10
- Essential for normal vision and immune function; needed for cell growth and development.14
Liver (beef), red leaf lettuce, broccoli leaves, red hot chili peppers, carrots, mustard spinach, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, carrot juice, mustard greens, carrot-parsley-spinach juice, pumpkin, spinach, spinach juice, mustard spinach, dandelion greens, vine spinach (basella), mustard greens, lamb liver, turnip greens, veal liver, dock, Chinese cabbage, water convolvulus (Chinese spinach, Chinese watercress), mixed greens, Swiss chard, collards, grape leaves, duck liver, cilantro, watercress, beet greens, sourdock, butternut squash, lambsquarters, Boston/Bibb/Butterhead lettuce, chicory greens, sweet red peppers, parsley, laver, nori, goose liver, basil, dandelion greens, chives, garden cress, sweet potato, turkey liver, acerola, borage, celtuce (Chinese lettuce), broccoli raab, taro leaves, paprika, dill, purslane, pork liver.

LPI: Retinol: beef liver, fortified cereal, eggs, butter, fortified milk.
Beta carotene: sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, cantalopes, mangoes, spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, butternut squash.14
Alpha-carotene  24 mcg alpha-carotene = 1 mcg Vitamin A Pumpkin, carrots, carrot juice, carrot-parsley-spinach juice, carrot-celery juice, carrot-beet juice, butternut squash, red peppers (sweet), red hot chili peppers, winter squash (all varieties), hubbard squash, bitter gourd, pimento, grape leaves, fiddlehead ferns, dandelion greens, yellow beans, green beans, chili powder, peppers (hot), dandelion greens, mandarin orange, yellow bell pepper, seaweed salad, napa cabbage, pasilla peppers, tangerines, plantains, collard greens, green tomato, cactus pads (nopales), stinging nettles, coleslaw, Swiss chard, acerola, kumquat, clementine, paprika, yellow tomato, pickles, cilantro, plums, ancho peppers, banana peppers, raspberries, green cabbage, cowpeas (black-eyed peas).
Beta-carotene  12 mcg beta-carotene = 1 mcg Vitamin A. Carotenoids like beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A by the liver as needed.14 Red leaf lettuce, red hot chili peppers, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, spinach juice, dandelion greens, mustard greens, carrots, carrot juice, turnip greens, carrot-parsley-spinach juice, dock, Chinese cabbage, pumpkin, carrot-celery juice, mixed greens, Swiss chard, carrot-beet juice, collards, grape leaves, watercress, beet greens, cilantro, sourdock, beet greens, lambsquarters, Boston/Bibb/Butterhead lettuce, chicory greens, parsley, nori, basil, red sweet peppers, chives, garden cress, sweet potato, acerola, butternut squash, broccoli raab, taro leaves, dill, purslane, paprika, laver, nori, scallions, kale, chives, red curry paste, amaranth leaves, fireweed leaves, yellow tomato, chrysanthemum, endive, escarole, kim chi, buttercup squash, winter squash (all varieties), hubbard squash, drumstick leaves (moringa), pumpkin flowers, taro leaves, cayenne pepper, pimento, red peppers (sweet), sweet potato, red bell peppers, fiddlehead fern, Persian (crenshaw) melon, cantaloupe, pasilla peppers, arugula.

LPI: Beta carotene: sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, cantalopes, mangoes, spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, butternut squash.14
Beta-cryptoxanthin  24 mcg alpha-cryptoxanthin = 1 mcg Vitamin A Butternut squash, hot chili pepper, hubbard squash, ancho peppers, paprika, persimmon, mandarin orange, cayenne pepper, sweet red peppers, red bell peppers, papaya, papaya juice, tangerines, goji berries, chili powder, loquat, cilantro, clementine, carrots, tangerine juice, peaches, pasilla peppers, pickles, orange juice, acerola, jalapeno peppers, rose hips, kumquat, dandelion greens, orange peel, watermelon, watermelon juice, oranges, tangelo, taco spice mix, lemon juice, spearmint, relish, plum, nectarine, apricot, basil, peaches, cucumber, spirulina juice, corn, mustard greens, hot green chili peppers, sweet potato leaves, zucchini, serrano peppers, dijon mustard, yellow beans, green beans, Hungarian peppers, chrysanthemum, prunes, collard greens, red curry paste.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin These commonly grouped together carotenoids are non-vitamin A precursors. Health effects: antioxidants (helping keep cells healthy) and vision health. Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, spinach juice, chicory greens, dock, sourdock, turnip greens, mustard greens, garden cress, radicchio, sweet potato leaves, fireweed leaves, collards, dandelion greens, basil, mixed greens, kale, purslane, chrysanthemum, dill, parsley, arugula, summer squash (all varieties), zucchini, red leaf lettuce, amaranth leaves, lambsquarters, scallop squash, escarole, endive, green leaf lettuce, stinging nettles, pumpkin leavers, balsam pear (bitter gourd and leafy tips), beet greens, broccoli raab, paprika, chervil, spearmint, wild spinach, pumpkin, cholla buds, broccoli, bay leaf, taro leaves, watercress, Chinese broccoli, cayenne pepper, carrot-parsley-spinach juice, asparagus, buttercup squash, winter squash (all varieties), Brussels sprouts, mace (ground), scallions, leeks, peas.
Lycopene This carotenoid is a non-vitamin A precursor. Health effects: antioxidant, excellent anti-cancer supporting research. Tomato sauce, tomato puree, non-alcoholic blood Mary mix, V8, tomato juice, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, watermelon, watermelon juice, tomatoes, guava, papaya, papaya juice, rose hips, grapefruit (pink or red), orange tomato, yellow tomato, grapefruit juice (pink or red), chili with beans, tabbouleh salad, guacamole, spirulina, guava paste, sweet red peppers, roselle.
Retinol Animal source (preformed) vitamin A. Liver (beef, walrus, moose, lamb, veal, sea lion, ringed seal, duck, caribou, goose, turkey, whale, goat, pork), chicken giblets, cod liver oil, turkey giblets, liverwurst, braunschweiger, liver sausage, lingcod liver, salmon liver, eel, tuna, clam juice, clams, blackfish, whitefish liver, beef kidneys, bluefin tuna, cow's milk (with added Vitamin A; fat free, skim or low fat would be more nutrient-dense for vitamins, minerals and protein, although full fat, raw, non-homogenized, non-pasteurized milks, cheeses and yogurts are considered healthier foods by some sources; they may not have added vitamin A though, and therefore may not be top vitamin A sources per calorie -- often containing about 60% less vitamin A if none is added); soy, rice, almond, cashew, coconut, and oat milks (unsweetened, commonly have added vitamin A); bearded seal, sea lion, polar bear, devilfish, scrapple (pork).
Retinol Activity Equivalents (the unit of measure for vitamin A activity) Liver (beef, lamb, veal, duck, goose, turkey, pork, chicken, cod liver oil), turkey giblets, red leaf lettuce, hot red chili peppers, carrots, mustard spinach, romaine, liverwurst, green leaf lettuce, chicken giblets, carrot juice, mustard greens, carrot-spinach-parsley juice, pumpkin, spinach, dandelion greens, carrot-celery juice, carrot-beet juice, turnip greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dock, Chinese cabbage, mixed greens, Swiss chard, collards, grape leaves, cilantro, watercress, beet greens, butternut squash, lambs quarters, liverwurst, Boston/Bibb/Butterhead lettuce, chicory greens, red peppers, parsley, nori, basil, chives, garden cress, sweet potato, acerola.
*Vitamin C Vitamin C's many health effects, including immune system support related functions; additional research summary on vitamin C's health effects. Helps protect against excess free radical production; assists with collagen formation; assists with brain metabolism.10 Andioxidant in blood and cells; augments functional activity of immune cells; assists collagen, carnitine, serotonin, and adrenaline production.14 Camu camu (contains about 40-50x more vitamin C than oranges; sold in health food stores), acerola cherries (contains about 28x more vitamin C than oranges; sold in health food stores and is significantly less expensive than camu camu), yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, sweet red peppers, green hot chili peppers, sweet green peppers, mustard spinach, vine spinach (basella), red hot chili peppers, balsam pear (bitter gourd) pods, tomato juice, jalapenos, guava, green bell peppers, butterbur, peaches, watercress, drumstick bods, black currant juice, parsley, pimento, Chinese cabbage, broccoli (flower clusters, leaves and stalks), Hungarian peppers, parsley, cloudberry, kale, banana peppers, balsam pear (bitter gourd) leafy tips, water convolvulus, black currants, broccoflower, cauliflower, lemon peel, sesbania flower, drumstick pods, rose hips, mustard greens, kiwi, roseroot greens, stonecrop leaves, butterbur, kohlrabi, fireweed leaves, dock, taro, garden cress, V8, cabbage, chives, coconut water (with added Vitamin C), radishes (white icicle), cilantro, dill, Brussels sprouts, amaranth leaves, chives, kimchi, turnip greens, pumpkin flowers, lambsquarters, strawberries, lemon, sesbania flower, lemon juice, borage, zucchini, sourdock, pummelo, thyme, willow leaves, broccoli raab, taro leaves, gooseberries.

LPI: Chili peppers, sweet peppers, guavas, kiwifruits, strawberries, oranges, kale, spinach, broccoli, grapefruit, potatoes, tomatoes.14
Flavonoids Over 6,000 types identified, some of the best known including quercetin, kaempferol, catechins and anthocyanidins. Health benefits: support Vitamin C's transport and functions; antioxidant; anti-inflammatory; cardiovascular system health; nervous system support; detoxification support; promote healthy cells; play a wide variety of different roles and functions in health promotion.1 - Flavonols (which include quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin): onions, apples, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, almonds, turnip greens, sweet potatoes
- Flavan-3-ols (which include catechins, epicatechins, gallocatechins, and theaflavins): apples, bananas, blueberries, peaches, pears, strawberries
- Flavones (which include apigenin and luteolin): parsley, bell peppers, celery, apples, oranges, watermelon, chili peppers, cantaloupe, lettuce
- Flavonones (which include hesperetin, naringenin, and eriodictyol): oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes
- Anthocyanidins(which include cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and petunidin): blueberries, bananas, strawberries, cherries, pears, cabbage, cranberries, plums, raspberries, garbanzo beans.1
Quercetin Antimicrobial effects, anti-cancer effects, potential cardiovascular benefits, allergy and canker sore relief.13 Listed by mg./100 gm. (not by calorie; top sources first; raw, unless otherwise noted): capers, capers (canned), lovage leaves, elderberry juice concentrate, dock leaves, radish leaves, chokeberry juice concentrate, dill, cilantro, hot wax yellow peppers, fennel leaves, elderberries, red onions, ancho peppers, corn poppy leaves, okra, buckwheat, onions, cowberries (black-eyed peas), bee polin, sweet potato leaves, cocoa powder (unsweetened), onions (boiled), scallions, bog whortleberries, cranberry juice, seranno peppers, cranberries, sweet onions, hot green chili peppers, peas, spring onions, plums, Greek beans, asparagus, lingonberries, red leaf lettuce, tarragon, chokeberries, kale, asparagus (cooked, 39% less than raw), watercress, rowanberries (frozen), oregano (fresh), black crrants, white sweet onion, jalapeno, blueberries, cilantro, spinach, chives, kale, apple (red delicious, with skin), pears, kale (canned, 37% less than raw), romaine lettuce, tomato puree (canned), spinach, watercress, blueberries (frozen), red grapes, celery, broccoli, cherries (sweet, canned), bilberries, yellow snap beans, cherries (tart), tea (decaf brewed), cherry tomatoes, green tea (decaf brewed), breen beans,, buckwheat flour (whole groat), green tea, apricots, black grapes, iceberg lettuce, lemons, black tea, apple sauce (unsweetened), looseleaf lettuce, white currants, apple raw (without skin), green beans (canned), tomato juice (canned), cherries, plums, butterhead lettuce, queen anne's lace leaves, broccoli )cooked), lingonberrry juice, red curants, marinara sauce.1 Additional sources: pomegranite, gingko biloba.
*Vitamin D Vitamin D's many health effects, including immune system support related functions. Helps maintain bone health; helps maintain blood sugar control; helps promote immune system functions.10 Maintains calcium and phosphorus balance; promotes bone health and immune function; influences cell growth and development.14 LPI: Dietary: fish (especially salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel), eggs, fortified soy milk, fortified orange juice, fortified milk, fortified cereal.

Sunlight: influenced by season, latitude, skin pigmentation, area of skin exposed, sunscreen use, and age.14
*Vitamin E Helps protect against free radical damage and heart disease.10 Antioxidant in cell membranes; supports normal nerve function; augments functional activity of immune cells.14 LPI: Olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, carrots, avocados.14
*Vitamin K Helps promote healthy blood clotting; helps support bone health.10 Assists in blood clotting; modifies certain proteins to allow for calcium binding.14 LPI: Kale, chard, parsley, broccoli, spinach, watercress, leaf lettuce, cashews, peas, soybean oil, canola oil, olive oil, mayonnaise, naturally fermented food.14
*Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Helps promote energy production; helps support nervous system function.10 Assists in the release of energy from carbohydrates and protein.14 Yeast extract spread, torula yeast, tomato, baking yeast, coffee, sprouted kidney beans, cowpeas (black-eyed peas) leaves.

LPI: Fortified cereal, bread, pork, enriched white rice, brown rice, peas, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, beans, lentils, cantaloupes.14
*Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Helps promote energy production; helps provide antioxidant protection; helps support iron metabolism.10 Assists in the release of energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein; assists several antioxidant enzymes.14 LPI: Milk, fortified cereal, bread, eggs, almonds, clams, spinach, chicken, beef, asparagus, salmon, cheese, broccoli.14
*Vitamin B3 (Niacin) Assists with energy production; assists with antioxidant protection.10 Assists the release of energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein.14 LPI: Fortified cereal, bread, fish, light-meat chicken and turkey, beef, mushrooms, peanuts, avocados.14
*Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) Assists with energy production; helps support fat metabolism.10 Assists the release of energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein; assists in fat, cholesterol, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin synthesis.14 LPI: Avocados, yogurt, chicken, sweet potatoes, milk, lentils, eggs, peas, mushrooms, fish, broccoli.14
*Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) Assists with production of red blood cells; assists with metabolism of cholesterol; helps promote brain and nervous system health; helps support liver detoxification processes.10 Supports a wide variety of metabolic reactions; assists neurotransmitters, hemoglobin, and DNA production; influences steroid hormone action.14 LPI: Turkey, chicken, fortified cereal, bread, potatoes (with skin), fish, prunes, bananas, hazelnuts, walnuts, port, beans.14
(Vitamin B7)
Helps maintain blood sugar balance; helps promote skin health.10Assists the release of energy from fat, carbohydrates, and protein; assists in glucose production.14 Tomatoes, peanuts, carrots, romaine lettuce, almonds, eggs, onions, cucumber, cauliflower, oats, sweet potatoes.

LPI: Beef liver, eggs, salmon, avocados, yeast, whole wheat bread, pork, cheese.14
(Vitamin B9)
Helps sustain brain and nervous system activity; helps promote overall cardiovascular function and red blood cell production; helps support reproductive health, especially during pregnancy.10 Required for DNA synthesis; assists red blood cell production; prevents neural tube defects; folic acid, found in supplements and fortified food, is more readily absorbed than naturally occurring folate.14 LPI: Folate: beans, lentils, asparagus, spinach, peanuts, peas, corn, chicken, orange juice. Folic Acid: enriched rice or products made from enriched flours, such as cereal, pasta or bread.14
*Vitamin B12 Helps provide cardiovascular support, including support of red blood cell production. Helps promote synthesis of DNA, support brain and nervous system activities, and energy metabolism.10 Assists the release of energy from fat and protein; assists hemoglobin and red blood cell production; required for nerve function.14 LPI: Clams, mussels, crab, salmon, beef, rockfish, milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, turkey, fortified cereal.14
*Choline Helps support of methylation (a key process in our body's metabolism; helps support membrane structure; supports nervous sytem activity.10 Eggs, cauliflower, Swiss chard, asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, shrimp, bok choy, crimini mushrooms, scallops, cod, spinach, cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, tuna, turkey, chicken.
Minerals: * = Currently classified as an essential nutrient for health.
*Calcium Helps promote bone health; helps maintain acid/alkaline (pH) balance; helps support nerve function; helps support muscle function.10 Structural component of bones and teeth; required for proper nerve transmission and muscle contraction; influences blood vessel constriction and dilation, and may reduce blood pressure.14 Bok choy, turnip greens, spinach, tofu, collard greens, mustard greens, cinnamon, parsley, Swiss chard, kale, celery, sardines, cow's milk, cheese, sesame seeds, fennel, cabbage.

LPI: Milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu (calcium set), fortified beverages, fortified cereal, rhubarb, spinach, almonds, white beans, bok choy, kale, pinto beans, red beans, broccoli.14
*Chromium Helps regulate blood sugar levels.10 Assists insulin action.14 Broccoli, romaine lettuce, black pepper, green beans, tomatoes, barley, oats.

LPI: Broccoli, grape juice, sweet potatoes, orange juice, beef, turkey, chicken, apples (with peel), green beans, tomatoes, bananas.14
*Copper Helps provide antioxidant protection; helps support bone and tissue integrity; helps support energy metabolism; helps maintain proper cholesterol balance.10 Assists in energy production and iron utilization; assists in neurotransmitter synthesis; maintains integrity of connective tissue; assists antioxidant enzymes.14 Crimini mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, turnip greens, beet greens, Swiss chard, asparagus, spinach, sesame seeds, kale, mustard greens, summer squash, cashews, sunflower seeds, tempeh, tofu, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, olives, lentils, garbanzo beans.

LPI: Beef liver, oysters, crab, clams, sunflower seeds, kale, cashews, lentils, beans, mushrooms, cocoa powder, raisins, peanut butter.14
*Fluoride Structural component of bones and teeth.14 LPI: Fluoridated water, crab, beans, black tea, raisins, cereal, fish, fruit juice.14
*Iodine Helps promote thyroid hormone production.10 Component of thyroid hormones.14 LPI: Cod, iodized salt, potatoes (with skin), milk, shrimp, turkey, navy beans, tuna, eggs, seaweed.14
*Iron Helps support energy production; assists with oxygen transport.10 Component of hundreds of enzymes; needed for synthesis of hemoglobin; assists antioxidant enzymes; required for synthesis of DNA, amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and certain hormones; critical for normal immune function.14 LPI: Beef, fortified cereal, beans, oysters, molasses, lentils, firm tofu, kidney beans, cashews, spinach, potatoes (with skin), shrimp, light tuna, eggs, tomatoes, dark-meat chicken and turkey, raisins, prunes.14
*Magnesium Magnesium's many health effects, including immune system support related functions. Helps maintain bone integrity; assists with energy production; helps support nervous system metabolism; assists with control of inflammation; assists with control of blood sugar.10 Shown to assist in promoting healthy blood pressure levels.11, 12 Structural component of bones; assists in hundreds of enzyme reactions involved in the synthesis of DNA and proteins; required for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction.14 LPI: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, beans, spinach, milk, figs, brown rice, cocoa powder, molasses, peanuts, pineapple, okra, milk, bananas.14
*Manganese Helps support bone production; helps support skin integrity; helps maintain blood sugar control; helps protect against free radical damage.10 Component of antioxidant enzymes; facilitates bone development; helps make and break down glucose and proteins.14 LPI: Brown rice, oatmeal, spinach, pineapples, almonds, pecans, molasses, whole-wheat bread, sesame seeds, peanuts, beans, sweet potatoes, tea.14
*Molybdenum Helps promote optimal sulfur balance; assists with antioxidant protection.10 Assists in the metabolism of protein, DNA, drugs and toxins.14 LPI: Beans, lentils, peas, grain, nuts.14
*Phosphorus Assists with basic cell functions; helps provide bone support; helps maintain energy supplies; helps promote acid-base balance.10 Structural component of bones and teeth; structural component of DNA; structural component of cell membranes; assists in energy production and storage.14 LPI: Milk, yogurt, salmon, halibut, lentils, beef, peanuts, sunflower seeds, beans, chicken, turkey, almonds, cheese, eggs, whole-wheat bread.14
*Potassium Helps maintain proper blood pressure; helps support kidney health.10 Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance; required for proper nerve function and muscle contraction; lowers blood pressure.14 LPI: Beans, potaatoes (with skin), prunes, raisins, acorn squash, bananas, spinach, tomato juice, artichokes, molasses, tomatoes, oranges14
*Selenium Assists with antioxidant protection; helps support normal thyroid function.10 Component of antioxidant enzymes; influences thyroid hormone function.14 LPI: Brazil nuts (from selenium rich soil)**, crab, salmon, halibut, pasta, pork, shrimp, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, beef, light-meat chicken, milk, black walnuts. ** A single nut may exceed selenium recommendations.14
*Sodium Maintains fluid and electrolyte balance; required for proper nerve conduction and muscle contraction; increases blood pressure.14 LPI: Baked goods, processed meat, restaurant food, pizza, canned soups, table salt. Most Americans consume too much sodium. It is recommended to keep sodium intake under 21,300 mg/day to reduce your risk of chronic disease. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of sodium found in one teaspoon of table salt.14
*Zinc Zinc's many health effects, including immune system support related functions. Assists with immune function; helps support skin health; helps support sensory functions including taste and appetite; helps support male reproductive health.10 Assists in hundreds of enzyme reactions; assists in hemoglobin production; assists in antioxidant enzymes; supports immune function.14 LPI: Oysters, beef, crab meat, dark-meat chhicken and turkey, pork, yogurt, milk, cashews, chickpeas, almonds, peanuts, cheese.14
Other Nutrients: * = Currently classified as an essential nutrient for health.
*Water Health benefits of water.  
*Protein Helps maintain the integrity of our body structures; helps support proper body composition; helps support regulation of blood sugar.10  
Fiber Helps promote optimal passage of food through the digestive tract; helps improve cardiovascular function including cholesterol metabolism; helps stabilize blood sugar levels; helps maintain colon health.10  
*Omega-3 Fatty Acids Helps provide cardiovascular support; helps regulate inflammatory responses; helps support cell membrane integrity.10  
*Omega-6 Fatty Acids    

3. Conditionally Essential Nutrients

Most of the nutrients listed below can be produced in the body, but in certain circumstances, such as severe disease states or during infancy, additional amounts are required from foods or nutritional supplements.

Conditionally Essential Amino Acids (1)

  1. Arginine
  2. Cysteine
  3. Glutamine
  4. Glycine
  5. Proline
  6. Serine
  7. Taurine
  8. Tyrosine

Other Conditionally Essential Nutrients

  1. Flavonoids (over 6,000 have been identified)
  2. Specific Retinoids or Carotenoids (over 600 have been identified), such as Lutein, Zeathanthin and Lycopene
  3. Coenzyme Q-10: "CoQ10 deficiency has been shown to be present in 39% of patients with high blood pressure, and supplementation with CoQ10 can lower blood pressure"1
  4. Alpha Lipoic Acid
  5. Betaine
  6. PABA (Para-aminobenzoic acid)

4. Other nutrients which may be classified as essential nutrients, or conditionally essential nutrients, in the near future


  1. Cobalt
  2. Lithium
  3. Silicon
  4. Strontium
  5. Sulfur
  6. Many other minerals.


"Although fiber is derived from one of the macronutrients [carbohydrates], the absence of a deficiency state prevents it from being considered an essential nutrient. ... Although the classification of fiber may need to be further clarified in the future, it is currently known that foods that are naturally good sources of fiber contribute to the nutrient adequacy of a person’s diet and are vital to good health."1

  1. Lignans, which have demonstrated significant anti-cancer effects.
  2. Viscous soluble fiber, which has cholesterol lowering effects.
  3. Many other forms of fiber.