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Non-energy yielding nutrients

What roles do the non-energy yielding nutrients play in food and health? Explore the vital roles of vitamins, minerals and water.

Now let’s explore the role of non-energy yielding nutrients in food.

The following are non-energy yielding nutrients:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Water

Non-energy yielding nutrients facilitate a variety of activities in the body, including assisting in the release of energy from the macronutrients. Note that they do not provide energy to the body.

Role of vitamins

Vitamins are organic and they do not break down in the body to yield energy.

There are 13 different vitamins and these are divided into two different groups based on their solubility.

  • Water-soluble vitamins: Vitamin C and the eight B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, biotin and pantothenic acid
  • Fat-soluble vitamins: Vitamin A, D, E, K

Vitamins facilitate the release of energy from the macronutrients and play many vital roles in the body. For example, some vitamins:

  • Assist with vision – e.g. Vitamin A
  • Blood clotting – e.g. Vitamin K
  • Mineralisation of the bones – e.g. Vitamin D
  • Act as an antioxidant etc. – e.g. Vitamins C and E

Role of minerals

Minerals are inorganic and similar to vitamins, and do not break down in the body to yield energy.

Sixteen minerals have been identified as essential to human nutrition. Researchers are still investigating the role other minerals play in human nutrition. Some are considered to be environmental contaminants that can contaminate the food supply.

Minerals important in human nutrition are divided into two different groups:

  • Major minerals: calcium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium and sulphate
  • Trace minerals: iron, iodine, zinc, chromium, selenium, fluoride, molybdenum, copper and manganese

Much like vitamins, minerals also play many vital roles in the body:

  • Influence the body’s fluid balance – e.g. sodium, potassium and chloride
  • Assist with regulating blood pressure – e.g. sodium
  • Assist in nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction – e.g. calcium
  • Are involved in the structure of bones and teeth – e.g. calcium, phosphorous, fluoride
  • Are co-factors for many enzyme reactions
  • Are a vital component in a molecule – e.g. iron is a vital component in haemoglobin

Did you know?

Although they do not provide energy to the body, both vitamins and minerals are an essential part of a healthy diet, and ongoing deficiencies can cause a variety of health issues. Each of the five food groups is famous for containing a variety of vitamins and minerals.
In order to ensure an adequate intake of all the essential vitamins and minerals to meet nutritional needs, our diets should include a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups.

Role of water

Water is an indispensable nutrient, inorganic and considered to be one of the macronutrients. It does not break down in the body to yield energy.
  • Often the ‘forgotten’ nutrient, water is essential to life.
  • Obtained from food and drinks that are consumed, as well as from the metabolism of protein, fat and carbohydrate in the body.
  • Makes up nearly two-thirds of our body weight.
  • Provides the environment in which nearly all of the body’s activities are conducted.
  • Involved in many metabolic reactions.
  • Supplies the medium for transporting materials to and from cells.

Non-nutrient compounds in food

Aside from nutrients, there are also other compounds found in food:
  • Fibres
  • Phytochemicals
  • Pigments
  • Alcohols
  • Additives
Some are beneficial, some are neutral and some may be harmful. Next week we’ll explore these compounds in more detail.
As we have explored in this topic, the non-energy yielding nutrients play many roles in keeping us healthy. Reflect on your knowledge – are there any other roles that vitamins, minerals or water play that you can share?
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