Not only does food taste good - you need it to live. Food contains substances that enable your body to function, some foods are used by your body to create other substances your body needs and some foods provide substances directly that your body cannot create for itself.

Below is a list of important substances that your body needs and details of why we need them and where they can be found...

  • Gives energy and vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Found in oils, solid fats, fatty meat, cream, cheese and nuts
  • Animal fats and some vegetables oils contain saturated fat, which may raise blood cholesterol levels
  • Vegetable fats such as sunflower and soya and those in oily fish are polyunsaturated and better for the heart
  • Gives a rich source of energy that can be converted into fat in the body, which protects organs and gives heat
  • Provides energy and fibre
  • Found in cereals, vegetables, sugar, rice, pasta, bread and pastries
  • If the body receives more energy than it needs, it stores it as fat
  • Wholemeal/wholegrain cereals are a richer source of fibre than white/refined ones
  • Vitamins B and E, calcium and iron are also provided by bread
  • Enables the body to grow and repair
  • Found in milk, meat, fish, eggs and cheese
  • Also in soya, beans, cereals, pulses and nuts
  • If more protein is eaten than is needed for growth and repair, the excess is converted into glycogen in the liver and used as energy
  • Animal foods and soya beans are used most efficiently by the body
  • Many protein foods also provide iron and B vitamins (especially B12)
  • Tofu (soya bean curd), Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) made from soya flour, and Quorn (fungus) can all be used to replace animal proteins
A Fat-soluble
Helps with night vision. Keeps the linings of the nose, throat and digestive system moist. Found as carotene in orange and red fruits and vegetables. Found as retinol in oily fish, liver, butter, margarine, cheese and eggs. Other sources include, mango, spinach, carrot, sweet potato. Excess may lead to liver damage.
B Water-soluble
Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B) and Niacin are involved in the release of energy from foods, healthy nervous system and skin. B12 helps prevent birth defects, such as Spina Bifida and is needed for red cell production. Found in marmite, meat, nuts, green leafy vegetables, yeast and dairy products.
C Water-soluble
Needed for the formation and maintenance of connective tissue. Helps wounds to heal, helps prevent infections and aids iron absorption. Found in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, blackcurrants and kiwi fruit.
D Fat-soluble
Produced by the action of sunlight on the skin. Needed for the absorption of calcium in the bones and teeth. Found in butter, margarine, cereal, milk and fish. Excessive intakes can be dangerous.
E Fat-soluble
May be necessary for reproduction. Helps keep skin healthy. Found in eggs, wholegrain cereals, almonds, sunflower seeds, vegetable margarines and oils.
K Fat-soluble
Involved in the clotting of blood. Found in green vegetables, meat, beans, fruit and cereals.
Needed for: Found in:
Calcium Clotting of blood

Strong bones and teeth

Healthy muscles and nerves

Cheese, milk, bread, canned fish, green vegetables
Iron Healthy red blood cells

Transporting oxygen around the body

Vitamin C helps iron to be absorbed by the body

Red meat (especially liver), green vegetables, egg yolk, bread, fortified breakfast cereals
Phosphorus Strong bones and teeth Milk, cheese, eggs, fish, nuts
Iodine Healthy thyroid gland

Hormone production

Seafoods, vegetables, iodised salt
Sodium Correct concentration of bodily fluids

Healthy nerves and muscles

Salt, most ready-prepared foods, soya sauce, cheese, bacon