Basic Nutrition

Nutrition is a science that studies nutrients—the nourishing substances in food that provide energy and promote the growth and maintenance of our bodies—and how they relate to health and disease.

Nutrients provide energy or calories to fuel our bodies. There are about fifty nutrients that fall into six areas: Carbohydrates, Fats (or lipids), Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, Water (see the charts in the next section.)

Nutrient density varies among food and relates to the amount of nutrients it contains. Milk, for instance, has more nutrients than a soft drink.

Diet, in general terms, comprises the food and beverages which we consume on a daily basis. It has also become a word associated with weight-reduction efforts. Some diets, due to health issues or by preference, limit the intake of certain types of foods.

Calorie is the unit of measurement for food energy as determined by the amount of heat (or calories) it produces. The energy needs of the body are also measured in calories. The range of calories needed per person per day depends on several factors including age, body mass and level of physical activity.

Cholesterol is needed by the body to digest fat and is found in foods of animal origin. High cholesterol is a health risk for some people, therefore, they need to limit intake of egg yolks, meat, and milk products.

Whole foods are unprocessed foods as we get them from nature, such as milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and protein. They can also be referred to as fresh foods since they are not processed, canned or frozen.

Organic foods are generally foods that have been grown without synthetic insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Meat and poultry from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, have been fed organic feed and live in a fairly open environment, are also classified as organic.

Vegetarian diet consists of consuming no meat, poultry or fish. Legumes (dried beans and peas), grains, and vegetables are the mainstay of this diet as well as eggs and dairy products.

Vegan diet follows the vegetarian diet limitations and also excludes eggs and dairy products.

Gluten-free diet usually is a result of health issues, such as celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, kamut, spelt, barley and rye.

Lactose intolerance is the inability to process the lactose found primarily in milk products.

Kosher foods are those that are produced within the regulations of the Jewish law. Typically, a manufacturing plant needs to be inspected and certified.

Core Nutrients

Carbohydrate Protein Fat (Lipid)

Carbohydrates are the major components of most plants, and are separated into two groups: simple and complex. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. Natural sugar (fructose) is found in fruits, and refined sugar (sucrose) is used to sweeten processed foods. Complex carbohydrates are long chains of many sugars that make up the starches and fibers found in plants. Sources of complex carbohydrates: legumes, beans, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.

Protein is found in both plants and animals and is used for building and maintaining body tissues. The building blocks of proteins are amino acids. Nonessential amino acids are made by the body. Essential amino acids are obtained from foods. Sources of essential amino acids: meat, milk, eggs, and beans.

Lipid is the chemical name for fat, and is found in both plant and animal products. Lipids play an important role in the diet and are an essential part of all cells. Fat provides insulation to the body, cushions vital organs, and maintains body temperature. Sources of fat: oils, meats, and dairy products.


Core Nutrients-Vitamins

Vitamin A Vitamin D Vitamin E Vitamin K

Functions: Cell growth, healthy skin, and hair. Bone/tooth development and proper functioning of immune system.
Sources: Some dark green vegetables, liver, and eggs.

Functions: Build bones; maintenance of blood calcium levels.
Sources: Fortified milk, fatty fish, and sunshine.

Functions: An antioxidant; development of nervous tissue. Helps protect red and white blood cells.
Sources: Vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, whole grains, wheat germ, and soybeans.

Function: Promotes blood clotting.
Sources: Dark leafy vegetables, cabbage, and intestinal bacteria.

Vitamin C Thiamin Riboflavin Niacin

Functions: An antioxidant. Helps formulation of collagen. Assists with wound healing and iron absorption.
Sources: Citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli.

Functions: A coenzyme in energy metabolism. Aids in the functioning of the nervous system and normal growth.
Sources: Pork, sunflower seeds, peanuts, dry beans, and wheat germ.

Functions: A coenzyme in energy metabolism. Promotes healthy skin and normal vision.
Sources: Milk, milk products, eggs, and fortified breads/cereals.

Functions: A coenzyme in energy metabolism. Helps maintain healthy skin. Aids in normal functioning of the nervous system and digestive tract.
Sources: Meat, poultry, and fish.

Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Pantothenic Acid

Functions: A coenzyme in carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism. Synthesizes red and white blood cells. Aids in the formation of DNA and new cells.
Sources: Meat, poultry, fish, potatoes, bananas.

Functions: Aids in the formation of DNA and new cells.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, legumes, orange juice, and fortified bread/cereals.

Functions: Activation of folate. Helps normal functioning of the nervous system.
Sources: Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products.

Functions: Energy metabolism.
Sources: Found in small amounts of most foods.


Functions: Energy, protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism.
Sources: Found in small amounts of most foods.


Core Nutrients-Minerals

Calcium Phosphorus Magnesium Sodium

Functions: Mineralization of bones and teeth; aids muscle contraction.
Sources: Milk, milk products, legumes and dark leafy vegetables.

Functions: Mineralization of bones and teeth; aids in enzyme formulation.
Sources: Found in milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes.

Functions: Energy metabolism; bone formulation and teeth maintenance.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, potatoes, nuts, legumes, and wholegrain cereals.

Functions: Maintains water and acid base balance, and transmission of nerve impulses.
Sources: Salt, processed foods, and MSG.

Potassium Chloride Sulfur  

Functions: Maintains water and acid base balance.
Source: Potatoes, oranges, grapefruit, milk, meat, and yogurt.

Functions: Maintains water and acid base balance. Part of hydrochloric acid in stomach.
Source: Salt.

Functions: Part of thiamin and some amino acids.
Source: Protein.