Food and Nutrients Confusion Clarified

Not all substances a human eats become food!

Food is a product that after its ingestion would provide at least one nutrient. Most of the foods we eat contain one or more nutrients. Foods also contain non-nutrient substances also which may be harmful (such as, dyes, and preservatives) or beneficial

Food Source includes parts of both animals and plants:

We eat so many different foods and our eating habits are so widely varied. People consume insects, sea animals, parts of different birds, wild and domestic animals, animal milk, eggs, and parts of plants – roots, shoots, seeds, leaves, and flowers. The type of different foods and the combination of foods people consume is culturally defined.

 The term eating habits (or food habits ) refers to

  • why and how people eat
  • which foods they eat
  • with whom they eat
  • as well as the ways people obtain, store, use, and discard food.

Factors that influence people’s eating habits include:

  • Individual
  • Social-cultural
  • Religious
  • Economic
  • Environmental
  • Political

Nutrients are the nourishing power from food that becomes our nutrition:

Nutrients are the chemical substances present in food.  They are required by our body to perform basic physiological functions. Nutrients are provided by the food we consume. As the human body does not synthesize nutrients, they must be obtained from the diet. The nutrients are called essential because if the nutrients’ needs are not met, it would cause deficiency disease.  There are six classes of nutrients required for the body to function and maintain overall health they include carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and water. According to current nutrition science evidence, we need around 51 nutrients from these six main classes!

It is often not possible to separate the effects of individual nutrients and foods, and that the totality of diet—the combinations and quantities in which foods and nutrients are consumed—may have synergistic and cumulative effects on health and disease. Nutrients do not work in isolation.

All foods we generally consume do contain most of the nutrients but vary in the amount present in them, mainly influenced by the water content.

Foods are not nutrients by themselves but the source of nutrients:

The word “foods” is commonly found to be interchanged with the term “nutrients”. You would notice the following sentence often in many articles-  “there are important food groups such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals”. Foods are the source of nutrients and they are themselves are not nutrients.

 Food Groups

 A food group is a collection of foods that share similar nutritional properties or biological classifications.

Basic nutritional classification include “five food groups”

 Spices are the items we use to add taste to our dishes. Spices quantity we consume would be far less compared to foods in the five food groups. So spices are not included in the five food groups.

Now you know nutrients are not foods but chemicals present in the foods and foods are the source of nutrients.

A motivational speaker once said, “A smart person believes half of what they read. An intelligent person knows which half to believe”.