A nutrient is any ingested chemical that is used for growth, repair, or maintenance of the body. Nutrients fall into six major classes: water, carbohydrates, lipids, pro teins, minerals, and vitamins (table 26.1). Water, carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins are considered macronutrients because they must be consumed in relatively large quantities. Minerals and vitamins are called micronutrients because only small quantities are required.

Recommended daily allowances (RDAs) of nutrients were first developed in 1943 by the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences; they have been revised several times since. An RDA is a liberal but safe estimate of the daily intake that would meet the nutritional needs of most healthy people. Consuming less than the RDA of a nutrient does not necessarily mean you will be malnourished, but the probability of malnutrition increases in proportion to the amount of the deficit and how long it lasts.

Many nutrients can be synthesized by the body when they are unavailable from the diet. The body is incapable, however, of synthesizing minerals, most vitamins, eight of the amino acids, and one to three of the fatty acids. These are called essential nutrients because it is essential that they be included in the diet.

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