Benefits of a healthy diet

What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: June 5, 2018
What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients

Many people think the terms food and nutrients are synonymous, using them interchangeably. While food is the major source of how we get our nutrients, food and nutrition are not the same thing. The difference between food and nutrients is that nutrients are a composite part of different types of food. At oneHOWTOwe'll answer the question what is the difference between food and nutrients to show you how nutrition affects us through food. Eating well and exercise are the two tenets of a healthy life style, so working out the types of nutrients you need to stay active is vital. Keep reading to discover more about eating healthy food to get the right nutrition.

You may also be interested in: How to Absorb Nutrients Better

Steps to follow:


Although closely linked, food and nutrients art not the same. Food is the product we consume which is made up of different plant or animal matter. We need it to stay alive and because of this it was included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations in 1948. There are 5 main food groups, although there are many subdivisions from them. They are:

  • Vegetables: this is plant matter which grows and can be consumed either whole or in part. Vegetables come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors.
  • Fruit: like vegetables, fruit comes from plant matter. However, they are more specifically the seed bearing part which stems from the ovary of a flowering plant. While the distinction between the two is clearer in botanical terms, in culinary terms there is a lot of crossover.
  • Proteins: this is a group of food which contains protein. While this includes a lot of animal product such as fish, meat and poultry, it also contains plant material such as seeds and nuts. Tofu and soy products are not naturally occurring, but are made from natural products. They contain a lot of protein which is great for people following a vegetarian or vegan diet as it is not always easy to get protein from plant matter alone.
  • Grains: these are the products which contain both whole grains and refined grains. They include bread, rice, oats, wheat and many more. They are often the base of a meal and can be very filling.
  • Dairy: this is the calcium rich products obtained from animal milk. It can include milk, yogurt and most cheeses.

We need to eat food to sustain us, i.e. stay alive. However, eating different types of food in different ways is necessary to keep us this way. Equally, eating too much of the wrong type of food can be hazardous to our health. This is why we need a balanced diet and understanding the difference between food and nutrients will help us learn how to strike this balance.

What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients - Step 1

The reason why we need to eat from these different food groups is because each one provides their own essential nutrients. Nutrients are the component parts of food which allow them to grow and develop in the way they do. This is why plants tend to have different types of nutrients compared to animals. All vegetables have some sort of fiber in them, many particularly high in fiber, because they use it to grow and develop their structure. Animals are known for often containing more protein because protein helps make up the flesh and muscle of animals. Take a look at how to absorb nutrients better in order to make the most of the food you eat!

Despite certain dietary requirements and lifestyle choices, humans are omnivorous. This means we can eat plants and animals to get our nutrition. Other animals might be carnivorous or herbivorous alone, but we have a digestive system which is able to break down lots of different foodstuffs. Just as plants and animals build themselves up from nutrients found in the earth or water, we are able to take these nutrients from them for our own development.

Although you might not look at a fruit like an avocado and think that it is fatty, it actually is. The fats contained are mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats which are relatively good for us. Animal meat contains high level of protein which we need, but also contains saturated fats which are bad in large doses. This doesn't mean they are bad in total, but it does mean we need to balance our diet by eating the right nutrients.

What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients - Step 2

Nutrients are present in food, but they are not limited to it. They can also be created through biosynthesis to form vitamin complexes, for example. The chemical components of the essential nutrients we need to survive are processed and formed into vitamin pills which we take as a dietary supplement. Body builders and fitness fanatics often take dietary supplements in the form of protein. While this may be good for muscle mass, taking dietary supplements as a form of preventative healthcare has not been proven. The only exception to this is taking vitamin nutrients in the form of a supplement.

What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients - Step 3

For all living things from plants to humans, nutrients are the molecules that are necessary for their survival. They include, but are not limited to water, oxygen, glucose, vitamins A, B complex and vitamin C. Minerals such as calcium or iron are also found in different foods and are particularly important in building strength and physical longevity.

Thus, food is made up of nutrients, some containing more than others. When we say that oats, for example, are very nutritious, it is because they contain many nutrients that other foods don't have, such as protein and vitamins.

Although people would say that soda isn't nutritious, the truth is that it contains a lot of nutrients, like glucose (sugar). However this nutrient is not normally missing in our diets. Sugar, despite an important nutrient, can be very harmful when overconsumed. Over- or underconsumption of nutrients can be life threatening, so knowing which nutrients you might need at a given time can be tricky.

The scientific research into nutrition is vast, yet understanding of exactly how these nutrients work on our body is not fully understood. This can lead to controversy as many nutritionists make claims which cause our understanding of nutrient effects on our bodies to be more confused rather than illuminated. This is partly because many resources, particularly online, make claims without finding the most relevant information.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients, we recommend you visit our Healthy living category.

Write a comment
What did you think of this article?
1 comment
What is the different between nutrient and food
OneHowTo Editor
Hi Al-Ameen
To find the difference between foods and nutrients please refer to the article which you’ve commented on.
1 of 4
What is the Difference Between Food and Nutrients