In a similar way to protein being made up of amino acids, carbohydrates consist building blocks called ‘saccharides’or ‘sugars’. Glucose, a common example of the simplest type of sugar, is a monosaccharide, together with fructose, found in fruit. Two monosaccharides joined together are called disaccharides, the most common being sucrose or ‘white cane sugar’ as we know it. Another example is lactose, found in milk. When large numbers of saccharides are joined together, they form polysaccharides, and are found the foods we commonly think of as ‘carbohydrates’, e.g.
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People eat foods and not single nutrients so thats why it is important to know which foods provide which nutrients.Our food choices determine the combination of nutrients we eat.
Our bodies need energy to grow and repair themselves, keep warm and do physical activity. Energy comes from food and drink, in particular from carbohydrate, protein, fat and alcohol. This energy is measured in kilojoules (kJ) or calories (kcal), with 1 kilocalorie equalling 4.2 kilojoules. In nutrition calorie and kilocalorie are sometimes used to mean the same thing.
Contrary to popular belief, fat is an essential nutrient with a host of important functions within the body.
Fibre has always been synonymous with ‘being regular’ but it is also protective against bowel disorders and heart disease. Foods rich in fibre also contain powerful protective agents, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals. High fibre diets can also help in weight control and the management of diseases such as diabetes.
Protein is a source of energy but its main role in the body is growth and repair. It helps in the formation of muscles, hair, nails, skin and organs, such as the heart, kidneys and liver. We all contain a significant amount of protein. For example, a 76kg man is made up of 12kg of protein (16%).