Food provides a range of different nutrients. Some nutrients provide energy, while others are essential for growth and maintenance of the body.

Carbohydrate, protein and fat are macronutrients that we need to eat in relatively large amounts in the diet as they provide our bodies with energy and also the building blocks for growth and maintenance of a healthy body. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients which are only needed in small amounts, but are essential to keep us healthy. There are also some food components that are not strictly ‘nutrients’ but are important for health, such as water and fibre.

Most people should be able to get all the nutrients they need by eating a healthy, varied diet, although there are a few exceptions. For example, women thinking about having a baby are recommended to take a folic acid supplement to prevent deformities such as spina bifida developing in their baby. Carry on reading to find out the main functions and food sources of the nutrients in our diet.

In the UK, we have a set of Dietary Reference Values (DRVs), which are an estimate of the nutritional requirements of a healthy population. More information on the DRVs for the UK population can be found in the PDF below.


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