Food and nutrients

The nutritional value of food

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Nutrients

What does food comprise?
Most foodstuffs are composed of various nutrients that play specific roles in your body.
Proteins, carbohydrates and lipids are macronutrients. Your body needs large amounts of these. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, required in smaller amounts.

What are proteins?
Proteins are large molecules, or macromolecules, made up of a sequence of amino acids. Among the 20 amino acids in proteins, 8 are essential for the human body but, as it cannot produce them, we have to absorb them from the food we eat.

What are lipids?
Lipids mainly consist of fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are indispensable for brain development, but the body cannot make them, so we need to absorb them from food.
Unsaturated fatty acids are found in vegetable oils and have a runny consistency at room temperature.
Saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature. They can be found in solid animal and vegetable fats, such as butter and coconut oil.

What are carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates can either be simple, such as fructose and glucose, or complex, such as starch and dietary fibre. Complex carbohydrates consist of chains of simple carbohydrates. During digestion, starch is broken down into simple carbohydrates. However, the body cannot digest dietary fibre.

What are vitamins?
Vitamins are essential for your body, but are only required in small amounts.
Fruit and vegetables provide us with vitamin C, whereas food of animal origin provides vitamin B12. We are more likely to cover our vitamin requirements if we eat food from all the food groups.

What are minerals?
Minerals are inorganic elements (which means they do not contain any carbon atoms). Your body contains large amounts of macroelements but only tiny amounts of trace elements.
Calcium and potassium are macroelements, whereas iron and fluoride are trace elements.

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