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Food – Nutrients

All living things need a source of nutrients.  The food that organisms take in provides them with nutrients and energy. It also provides them with the resources and raw materials they need to build up the body, grow, and repair the body. 
We all need food to survive.
 
What did the Teddy bear say when the waiter asked if he would like dessert?
 
“No thanks, I’m stuffed!”
 
The foods that living things consume are very different depending on the life form. A cow eats a very different diet than a tiger. Even among humans, there is a great difference in what people eat around the world. And a stuffed teddy bear wouldn’t eat dessert.

A Balanced Diet

An example of the Food Pyramid.

The Food Pyramid. This is the amounts of each different food group that should you need to eat each day

 

Food that is high in vitamins and minerals are the most nutritious. Human bodies work best when they have a balanced diet of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Having good food means having good energy and a healthy body. We call the energy that food provides calories. Living things need a certain amount of calories to live each day, this amount depends on how big the organism is. A lion needs more calories than a butterfly because it’s bigger.
 
Carbohydrates give the body energy. You can find these in foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Proteins such as beans, fish, meat, and eggs help build red blood cells and strong muscles. Protein is the building block of the body, it makes bones, skin and other organs.
 
All bodies need at least some fat. Healthy fats like avocados, vegetable oil, cheese, and butter provide fat for the body. The body uses the fat for coating the nerves. Fat also insulates the body and padding on the soles of the feet, palms of your hands and the rest of the body. Even the brain has fat! 
 
The minerals in food come from the Earth’s crust. Plants that are eaten soak up water and minerals from the soil they grow in. Some of the minerals that come from food include calcium, iron, and zinc. For example, broccoli has the mineral calcium and potatoes have magnesium.

What’s in Our Food? Check the Facts!

Nutrition Fact Design

This is an example of a set of Nutrition Facts.

All packaged foods have a label on them called the Nutrition Facts. This label shows a list of the nutrients in the food and how much of each nutrient the food contains. Under the section labeled ‘Daily Value,’ it shows how much of that nutrient a person might need in their body in a day. 
 
For example in this image of the Nutrient facts, it says that this food contains 150 milligrams of Sodium. Under the ‘Daily Value’ section, it says that this is 15% of the recommended intake of sodium daily.
 
Near the Nutrition Facts, there is often a list of ingredients, these are the substances that are in this food. These ingredients are listed in the order of how much they were used. For instance, the first ingredient listed is the substance that was used the most. 

Other Great Resources 

For more information about Nutrition Facts check out this YouTube video with Dr. Smarty:

Bill Nye’s nutrient episode is a great resource for more information about the human body and the food it needs:
 

 
For more on calories and energy in the body, check out the video “What is a calorie?” on TedEd:
 

 
Written by: Monica Siegenthaler.