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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 other 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

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised October 21, 2011

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