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  Know Your Nutrients

Know Your Nutrients

Good nutrition means knowing your nutrients. Your body needs a variety of nutrients to remain healthy. In fact, there are six categories of nutrients which our bodies need each day:
* carbohydrate,

* protein,
* fat,
* vitamins,
* minerals, and
* water.

In addition, most nutrition professionals agree that fiber is also essential. What do each of these nutrients do and why are they considered essential? Carbohydrates play a major role in supplying energy to the body and maintaining normal blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates are found in highest concentration in grains and cereals and are also present in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Carbohydrates occur naturally in the form of sugars, starches and cellulose. Cellulose is the fiber important to regular bowel movements. It may reduce our risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and colon cancer.

Protein is an essential nutrient primarily found in foods of animal origin, including meats, poultry, fish and dairy products. The word protein is derived form a Greek word meaning "of prime importance". Proteins are essential to the making of muscle, normal immune response, and enzyme actions in the body. Every cell in the body requires protein for normal function.

Fats, or lipids, are a third important nutrient for life. Every cell in the body is surrounded by a cell wall made to a large extent of lipid. Lipid also maintains the structure and support of our organs. Some fat, each day, is essential to health. Fat is found in many foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products but is also abundant in nuts, seeds and certain plants such as coconut and avocado.

Diets deficient in vitamins and minerals can lead to clinical disease and even death. The U.S. RDA is our best guide to knowing the minimum amounts needed to avoid deficiency states. The intake levels needed for vitamin and minerals to optimize health and prevent disease are still being researched.

Finally, our bodies need water. It is the major constituent of cells. Without water the human body cannot survive for more than a few days. Water can be consumed in the form of drinking water, beverages, soups, or eating fruits and vegetables. 

Know your nutrients

Know your nutrients

 The nutrition rules have changed again! Rosemary Stanton interprets them so you don't have to.
   If you already struggle to get enough calcium then you're not going to like what comes next. It's just one of many nutrients that we've been setting the bar too low for, so you need to eat even more!
   Following a recent review of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of nutrients in the Australian diet, the RDI for calcium has risen 20 per cent from 800mg to 1000mg. That's an extra half tub of yoghurt or 165ml milk a day. The review also recommended we consume twice as much folate as before (up 200mcg to 400mcg), plus more thiamin B1, riboflavin B2 (over 70 years of age only), niacin B3 (women only), vitamin B6 (women only), vitamin B12, vitamin C, iron, magnesium and iodine (women only), vitamin A (men only) and zinc (men only).
   On the flip side, the old targets for some nutrients were too high. Women's zinc RDI has been cut more than 30 per cent from 12mg to 8mg, while sodium levels have been drastically reduced for both sexes. Others to be reduced include: riboflavin B2 (for those under 70 years), niacin (men only), vitamin B6 (men only), vitamin A (women only) and selenium.

Why did they change?

RDIs are set by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) based on the latest research. They represent the average daily intakes we should aim for. The last review was in 1991 and since then many studies have been done, and new ways of analysing nutrients needs have been developed.
   Armed with this extra information, the NHMRC have finetuned existing RDIs and also developed RDIs for many other nutrients that didn't have them (see Know your RDIs, below). Two new categories, adequate intake (AI) and upper limit (UL) have also been introduced. AI is used when there isn't enough evidence to set an RDI but indicates a level that appears sufficient for healthy people. UL is the maximum intake you can have without possible adverse health effects.

Why do we need RDIs?

All packaged foods sold in Australia must list the energy, protein, fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrate, sugars and sodium content. If the label or advertising material makes a claim about any other nutrient - such as fibre or calcium - it must also be listed.
   But if a product claims to have two grams of fibre or 50 micrograms of folate, it doesn't tell you if you're getting enough of the nutrient. So, we need a point of reference, which is where the RDIs and AIs come in.
   Many people also take supplements, often without much idea if the nutrients on the label represent a lot or a little of what they need. Some multivitamins, for example, may have more than 50 times the RDI for some of the B-group vitamins that few people lack, but only insignificant quantities of others, such as folate, that are more likely to be needed. The new UL values will be useful for those who take supplements.
   ULs are also important if food authorities decide a nutrient is so universally low that they need to add it to foods (known as fortification). By looking at the likely consumption of different foods and the RDI, they can work out which ones to fortify without exceeding those safe upper limits.

Know your RDIs

The essential guide to the nutrients you need every day to stay fit and healthy:

Nutrient RDI (men) RDI (women) Upper limit Example Other sources
Dietary fibre* 30g (AI) 25g (AI) Not set 1 slice wholegrain bread = 2-4g Wholegrain cereals, legumes, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
Protein 64g (81g for 70+ years) 46g (57g for 70+ years) Not set 125g baked chicken = 42g Meat, fish, dairy products, legumes, nuts, seeds and cereals.
Thiamin (B1) 1.2mg 1.1mg Not set 100g cooked pork = 0.6mg Nuts, wholegrains, salmon, bread, legumes and seeds.
Riboflavin (B2) 1.3mg (1.6mg for 70+ yrs) 1.1mg (1.3mg for 70+ yrs) Not set 200g natural yoghurt = 0.8mg Dairy products, liver, kidney, cereals and nuts.
Niacin (B3) 16mg 14mg 35mg 150g grilled fish = 12mg Meat, legumes, cereals and nuts.
Vitamin B6 1.3mg (1.7mg for 50+ yrs) 1.3mg (1.5mg for 50+ yrs) 50mg 1 tablespoon wheatgerm = 0.35mg Pork, fish, peanuts, avocado, potatoes and legumes.
Vitamin B12 2.4mcg 2.4mcg Not set 150g cooked meat = 3mcg In animal products, liver, kidney, fish and poultry but added to some soy beverages.
Folate 400mcg 400mcg 1000mcg 1/2 cup cooked spinach = 90mcg Leafy green vegetables, beetroot, liver, kidney, wholegrains, nuts, salmon, avocado and yeast.
Pantothenic acid* 6mg (AI) 4mg (AI) Not set 150g grilled salmon = 2.4mg Seafood, eggs, peanuts, dairy products and meat.
Biotin* 30mcg (AI) 30mcg (AI) Not set 25mg peanuts = 25mcg Liver, nuts, soy beans, mushrooms. It’s also made by bacteria in the intestine.
Vitamin A 900mcg 700mcg 3000mcg** 1 carrot = 2000mcg (from conversion of its beta carotene); 50g cheese = 160mcg (as preformed vitamin A) Preformed vitamin A (retinol): liver and salmon. Beta carotene: brightly coloured vegetables and fruits.
Vitamin C 45mg 45mg Not set 1 orange = 75mg Fruits and vegetables
Vitamin D* 5mcg (AI) (10mcg (AI) for 51-70 yrs) (15mcg (AI) for 70+ yrs) 5mcg (AI) (10mcg (AI) for 51-70 yrs) (15mcg (AI) for 70+ yrs) 80mcg 100g canned salmon = 6mcg Herrings and other fatty fish, margarine. It’s also made in the body when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin E 10mg (AI) 7mg (AI) 300mg 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds = 7.6mg Wheatgerm, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin K* 70mcg (AI) 60mcg (AI) Not set 1 cup broccoli = 70mcg Liver and leafy green vegetables.
Calcium 1000mg (1300mg for 70+ yrs) 1000mg (1300mg for 50+ yrs) 2500mg 1 cup skim milk = 300mg Cheese, yoghurt, soy beverages and almonds.
Zinc 14mg 8mg 40mg 6 oysters = 27mg Shellfish, red meat, oats, peanuts, wholegrains and dairy products.
Iron 8mg 18mg (8mg for 50+ years) 45mg 6 oysters = 3.6mg Lean meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu, green vegetables and wholegrains.
Magnesium 400mg for 19-30yrs ( 420mg for 30+ yrs) 310mg for 19-30yrs (320mg for 30+ yrs) 350mg (supplements only) 100g prawns = 110mg Brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, legumes and wholegrains.
Iodine 150mcg 150mcg 1100mcg 100g canned salmon = 80mcg Seafood and iodised salt.
Selenium 70mcg 60mcg 400mcg 30g mixed nuts = 125mcg Brazil nuts, chicken, fish, dairy products and wholegrains.
Molybdenum* 45mcg 45mcg 2000mcg 100g potatoes = 600mcg Vegetables, especially carrots, parsnips, fruits and wholegrains.
Copper 1.7mg (AI) 1.2mg (AI) 10mg 100g cooked beef = 4.5mg Oysters, crab, legumes, wholegrains, Brazil nuts, peanuts and cocoa.
Chromium* 35mcg (AI) 25mcg (AI) Not set 1 egg yolk = 45mcg Seafood, beef, wholegrains, apples (with skin) and potatoes
Manganese* 5.5mg (AI) 5mg (AI) Not set 1 cup pineapple = 2.5mg Nuts, wholegrains, vegetables and blackberries.
Fluoride* 4mg (AI) 3mg (AI) 10mg 1 cup tea = 0.9mg Tap water (applies to some areas only) and seafood.
Sodium 460-920mg 460-920mg 2300mg 1 glass milk = 120mg Seafood, vegetables, meat and processed foods (mostly in excess).
Potassium 3800mg 2800mg Not set 1 large potato = 900 mg Fruits, vegetables, meat and nuts.
Choline* 550mg (AI) 425mg (AI) 3500mg 2 eggs = 250mg Liver, pork, red meat and wholegrains.
RDI = recommended daily intake mg = milligrams mcg = micrograms (1000mcg = 1mg) AI = adequate intake * New listing ** Applies only to preformed vitamin A intake from animal products and supplements. NOTE: Upper limits have not been set where a hazardous limit cannot yet be determined.




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Know Your Nutrients






  • builds and repairs body tissues
  • builds antibodies, the blood components that fight infection
  • meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, milk and milk products, seeds, legumes, nuts
  • supplies energy
  • helps in use of fats
  • bread, cereals, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, table sugars, syrup
  • supplies energy
  • helps in absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • margarine, butter, oils, salad dressings, nuts, cheese, meats
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
  • releases energy from carbohydrates
  • promotes normal growth and appetite
  • pork, organ meats, enriched and whole grain bread and cereals, nuts, seeds, legumes
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • maintains healthy skin and eyes
  • maintains a normal nervous system releases energy to body cells during metabolism
  • organ meats, white flour, whole grain flour, breads, milk
  • helps growth and development
  • maintains nervous system and gastrointestinal tract
  • organ meats, poultry, peanut butter, milk, eggs, poultry, fish, beef, legumes
Folacin (folic acid)
  • builds red blood cells
  • organ meats, nuts, legumes, eggs, green leafy vegetables, oranges, bananas, mushrooms
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
  • helps form red blood cells
  • maintains nerve and gastrointestinal tissues
  • organ meats, beef, pork, fish, shell fish, milk and milk products, eggs
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
  • builds healthy teeth and gums
  • maintains strong blood vessel walls
  • citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, green pepper, strawberries, potatoes, fortified juices
Vitamin B6
  • promotes production of antibodies and red blood cells
  • organ meats, bananas, beef, ham, egg yolk, fish, cabbage, spinach
Vitamin A
  • helps bone and tooth development
  • promotes good night vision
  • maintains healthy skin and membranes
  • organ meats, egg yolk, dark green leafy or yellow vegetables, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, milk
Vitamin D
  • enhances calcium and phosphorous use to maintain healthy bones and teeth
  • milk and margarine fortified with vitamin D, organ meats, salmon, tuna, eggs
Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
  • protects fat in body tissues from oxidation
  • vegetable oil, margarine, salad dressing, egg yolk
  • maintains strong bones and teeth
  • promotes healthy nerve function and normal blood clotting
  • milk and milk products, sardines, salmon with bones, mackerel, oysters, soybeans, tofu, nuts, seeds
  • combines with protein to form hemoglobin, the red blood cell constituent that transports oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • organ meats, red meats, enriched breads and cereals, legumes, dried fruits
  • helps energy metabolism and tissue formation
  • shellfish, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, eggs, legumes, soy products, whole grains, seeds and sprouts
  • prevents breakdown of fats and other body chemicals
  • seafood, whole-grain cereals, meat, egg yolk, chicken, milk, garlic
  • helps build red blood cells
  • oysters, nuts, liver, kidneys, legumes, corn oil, margarine
  • builds and maintains strong bones and teeth
  • helps energy metabolism and tissue formation
  • nuts, soy beans, whole grains, molasses, shellfish, spinach, liver, beef
  • helps in function of thyroid gland
  • iodized salt, shrimp, oysters, lobster
  • Insoluble Fibre - promotes regularity and helps reduce the risk of colon irregularities or diverticulusus (colon disease)
  • Soluble Fibre - helps decrease cholesterol level, reduces the risk of heart disease, and helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes
  • Insoluble - wheat bran, whole grains, rye bread, whole wheat bread
  • Soluble - oats, beans, some fruits and vegetables, white bread, rolls, pasta, bagels



The 4 food groups provide you with the nutrients you need to be healthy.

You need foods from each group because each group gives you different nutrients.

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  • protein
  • carbohydrate
  • fibre
  • thiamin
  • riboflavin
  • niacin
  • folacin
  • iron
  • zinc
  • magnesium

Whole grain products such as whole wheat, oats, barley or rye are suggested because they are high in starch and fibre. Enriched foods are recommended because they have some vitamins and minerals added back to them.

Try: multi-grain breads, pumper-nickel bagels, enriched pasta, brown rice, bran cereals or oatmeal.


  • carbohydrate
  • fibre
  • thiamin
  • folacin
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin A
  • iron
  • magnesium

Dark green and orange vegetables and orange fruit are higher than other vegetables and fruit in certain key nutrients like vitamin A and folacin.

Try: salads, broccoli, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupes or orange juice.


  • protein
  • fat
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • calcium
  • zinc
  • magnesium

Lower-fat milk products have less fat and Calories, yet still provide the high quality protein and calcium that is essential to healthy eating. Whether it's milk, yogurt, cheese or milk powder, choose the lower-fat option. Look at labels and choose products with a lower %M.F. (Milk Fat) or %B.F. (Butter Fat). Then you can have the refreshing taste of milk products with less fat.


  • protein
  • fat
  • thiamin
  • riboflavin
  • niacin
  • folacin
  • vitamin B12
  • iron
  • zinc
  • magnesium

Many leaner meats, poultry, fish and seafood choices are available to help you reduce your fat intake without losing important nutrients. Be sure to trim visible fat. Try baking, broiling, roasting or microwaving instead of frying, and drain off extra fat after cooking.

Try: baked beans, split pea soup or lentil casserole.


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