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Major Nutrients in Food

Topic Overview

The major nutrients—protein, carbohydrate, and fat—provide the body with energy. This energy keeps your heart beating, your brain active, and your muscles working. The energy is measured in calories.

Nutrients in foods

Nutrient

Function

Some sources

Protein has 4 calories per gram

Provides energy; builds and repairs body cells; part of various enzymes, hormones, and antibodies

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, milk and milk products, grains, seeds and nuts

Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram

Provides energy needed by the brain, nervous system, and red blood cells

Breads, cereal grains, pasta, rice, fruit, starchy vegetables, milk, sugar

Fat has 9 calories per gram

Provides energy; carries fat-soluble nutrients (vitamins); part of cell membranes, membranes around nerves, hormones, bile (for fat digestion)

Meat and poultry, some fish, milk and milk products that are not fat-free, nuts and seeds, oils, butter, margarine, salad dressing, some candy, some desserts

Credits

Current as ofNovember 7, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator

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