What are the types of nutrients needed for a balanced diet?

Heather Campbell
 min read

What are the types of nutrients needed for a balanced diet?

What are the types of nutrients needed for a balanced diet?

It’s not too hard: the right balance between carbs, proteins, lipids and fiber is the right answer.

Nutritional balance should not be considered as a balance between inputs and outputs, intake and calories burned.

It should be seen as a global diet project that promotes health.

Related: How does eating healthy improve gut health?

Eating a balanced diet is not about filling out a balance sheet, but it is not about demonizing certain foods and banning them forever either.

Instead, it’s about valuing good products and encouraging variety.

What are the types of nutrients needed for a balanced diet?

A diversified diet must include at least one food from each category each day, respecting a few simple rules:


Carbohydrates are classified according to their effects on blood sugar.

A food has a high glycemic index (GI) when its absorption causes a significant increase in blood sugar (try to avoid this type of food as much as possible considering the relationship between sugar and disease).

Conversely, a food has a low glycemic index when it causes a moderate or low, regular rise in blood sugar.

Simple carbohydrates with a rapid glycemic index

  • dairy products
  • sweetened beverages, juices, fruits and compotes
  • pastries, syrups, pastries
  • sweets, sugar, honey, jam

Complex carbohydrates, with a slow glycemic index

  • Aromatic herbs: chives, parsley, etc.
  • Vegetables: carrots, potatoes, peas, celery, beans, onions, lettuce, zucchini, soybeans, tomatoes, green beans, lentils, radishes, garlic etc.
  • Cereals: rice, corn, barley, buckwheat, rye, wheat, etc.
  • The seeds, cooked or raw, are used to make bread, pasta, cakes, etc.

The fiber and fat in carbohydrates can slow the rate of glucose absorption and reduce the glycemic index.

Basic rule of thumb

Most adults do not consume enough complex carbohydrates.

The glycemic index should guide your nutritional choices for a healthy belly.

Simple and complex carbohydrates should make up 50-60% of your daily diet for good intestinal health.

The proteins

Proteins have an animal or vegetable origin:

Animal proteins

  • Dairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
  • Fish: hake, sole, cod, skate, sea bass, whiting, etc.
  • Crustaceans: lobster, crab, langoustine, shrimp, etc.
  • Poultry: farm chicken, guinea fowl, duck, turkey, etc.
  • Seafood: oysters, mussels, cockles, etc.
  • Beef and sheep meat provide the eight essential amino acids. Choose the least fatty cuts: beef and veal for example, as there is always hidden fat.
  • River fish: trout, carp, pike, etc.
  • Did you know that the fattiest fish contains as much fat as the leanest meat?

Vegetable proteins

  • Potatoes
  • Pulses such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • Whole grains such as whole grain pasta, rice, corn and whole grain bread.

Basic rule of thumb

At least 15% of your daily diet should consist of protein.


Lipids are of animal or vegetable origin.

There are saturated and unsaturated fatty fats.

Saturated fatty acids

These are all fats that should be limited to a maximum of 10% of the daily energy intake.

Examples are certain margarines, cold cuts such as pâté, rillettes, sausages and fatty meats (the fattest are those of animals deprived of movement).

Unsaturated fatty acids

Unsaturated fats (mono- or poly-unsaturated) should represent 20 to 25% of your diet.

Examples are fish oils, vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn and grape seed, margarine enriched with 8% phytosterols.

This reduces LDL cholesterol by 10%, etc.

Basic rules

Lipids should represent about 33% maximum of our daily diet.

Your choices should be unsaturated fats.

Dietary fiber

These plant substances escape digestion in the small intestine.

Soluble (present in fruits and vegetables) or insoluble (mainly in cereal products) by their viscosity, they slow down gastric emptying.

In the small intestine, they lengthen the transit time, improve it, and retain water (the stools are less hard).

Dietary fibers participate in the growth of the intestinal flora and are valuable in the fight against constipation.

They delay the feeling of hunger thanks to their metabolic bioavailability of glucose (thus a better control of diabetes).

A high-fiber diet can reduce food intake by 4 to 11%. And this is interesting for weight problems.

Eating enough fiber lowers cholesterol levels by eliminating cholesterol.

In the intestine, fiber stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria and fights the production of toxic products.

The fibers absorb or dilute carcinogenic free radicals, limiting their contact with the mucous membranes.

Fiber intake should be done by eating more fruits and vegetables and gradually to avoid bloating, gas, etc.

Also by drinking enough mineral water with meals to hydrate the food bowl and, outside of meals, at least one and a half liters per day.

Good reasons to eat more fiber

Eating more fiber is a safe way to lose weight. Discover some of the benefits of high-fiber foods!

Fiber can help you eat fewer calories

High-fiber foods often have fewer calories than foods that contain little or no fiber.

This makes high-fiber foods a great choice for anyone trying to lose weight (or keep it off).

Think about it when you eat out.

Choose whole grains for sandwiches on bread or rolls, pizza crusts and pasta, or order a high-fiber salad.

Fiber can keep you fuller longer

Complex carbohydrates, such as fiber, break down slowly.

Foods high in fiber take longer to digest, so they stay in your stomach longer.

This makes you feel full and does not encourage you to overeat.

To increase your fiber intake, choose whole grain and whole wheat products instead of those made with white flour.

Enjoy fresh fruit instead of juice and add barley, beans, peas or lentils to stews and soups.

Fiber may reduce your risk of obesity

High-fiber foods often take longer to chew.

This slows down your intake, allowing your brain to register a feeling of fullness.

Several studies show that women who consume more dietary fiber are half as likely to be obese as those who consume less.

Fiber can prevent colon cancer

Insoluble fiber promotes bowel regularity, moves waste out of your system faster and helps prevent colon cancer.

These can be found in whole grain bread, wheat bran, green beans and dark green leafy vegetables.

Also, the edible skins of fruits and root vegetables, and seeds and nuts.

What are the types of nutrients needed for a balanced diet? Conclusion

In this post we have explained that a balanced mix between carbs, lipids, proteins and fiber is exactly what is needed.

We have listed the main ones in each subsection together with the reasons why you should have all of them in your daily meals.

Don’t deprive yourself of anything, just eat sensibly!

RelatedHow do you choose nutritious food? Let taste govern what you eat

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More