Nutrition and Nutrients: What's the Difference?

Nutrition is the science of understanding how the body uses the nutrients found in food. It involves studying the molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics of how these nutrients affect the human body. Nutrients are the individual substances in food that are essential for humans and animals to live and grow. Vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates are all examples of nutrients. Nutrition is about eating a healthy and balanced diet.

Food and drink provide the energy and nutrients needed to stay healthy. Knowing these nutritional terms can help you make better food choices. Nutrition is the process of getting the right types of nutrients over time to support growth and maintain health. These examples demonstrate the importance and interaction of intrinsic and extrinsic factors in modulating and integrating nutrient metabolism, as well as determining an organism's nutritional status. If you read a lot about healthy living, you'll likely come across the words “nutrient” and “nutrition” often.

Nutrition is how living organisms obtain and use acquired nutrients to sustain life. The nutritional transition, which includes a shift from traditional diets to modern diets with high energy density and low nutrient diversity, is associated with acquired metabolic syndromes. Nutrition is also the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them, and the relationship between diet, health, and disease. An example of a low-nutritious food is hard candy, which contains no more nutrients than some simple carbohydrates from sugar. Nutritious foods are foods that are especially dense in one or more needed nutrients, such as eggs, fish, liver, avocado, green vegetables, beans, and legumes. With a better understanding of cellular and whole-body metabolism, it has become clear that optimal nutrition is not just about energy adequacy but also nutrient diversity (Figure 1A).