If the size of the text in this page is too small, please either turn javascript on or adjust the default text size of your browser.
MV Home Scientists & Discovery home
Home Chemicals Reactions dna Lightning Rainbows Light Gravity Radioactivity Scientists


Nutrients are the chemicals in our food that we need for energy to build, maintain, and repair our bodies. They include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Carbohydrates are our major source of energy. They are all combinations of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Carbohydrates include the complex starches found in bread and the simple sugars found in fruit. We convert most of the different carbohydrates we eat into the sugar glucose because it is the body's preferred fuel.

The proteins that make up our muscles and other body parts are made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. Our bodies need 20 different amino acids. We get some of these from foods such as meat and beans, others we make ourselves. Most of us eat more protein than we need and the excess is converted to fat and stored or burned to give us energy.

Fats and oils are large molecules which don't dissolve in water. The difference between them is that fats are solid at room temperature while oils are liquids. Our bodies store energy as fats and oils because they are more energy rich than proteins and carbohydrates. They also use them to make hormones and chemicals that are important to cell structure.

Eating a hamburger
Eating a hamburger

Sucrose model
magnifySucrose molecular model
© Museum Victoria Australia