Nutrient Reference Guide

2 Comments | Last Update: January 24, 2013

Nutrient Why we need it? Where do I find it?


Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are the most important source of food energy in the world. They provide the body with its main source of fuel. Breast milk; infant formula; cereals and grains including – rice, wheat, maize, barley, rye, oats, millet, sorghum, and the products made from them – bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, flour, semolina; legumes; starchy & root vegetables; fruit; milk products; sugar; honey.
Protein Proteins provide structure and functional elements to the body’s cells and act as “building blocks” during growth and development. Protein from food is required for growth and repair of these cells. For normal growth, function and health children require adequate protein. Breast milk; infant formula; lean meat; chicken; fish; eggs; dairy products; legumes; grain; nuts; seeds.
Fat Fats are major source of energy particularly for babies and toddlers as they have high energy needs and small stomachs . They provide a long term store of energy for the body, provide insulation, control body temperature and are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Breast milk; infant formula; oils; margarine spreads; meat; chicken; fish; eggs; dairy foods; olives; avocados; nuts & seeds;
Essential fatty acids Omega 3 fatty acids are unable to be made by the body so must come from food. They are essential for many functions of the body including brain and visual development, production of hormones and cell structure. Breast milk;some infant formula; fish (particularly oily fish); seafood; lean meats; eggs; linseeds; canola; walnuts; soy.


Vitamin A Necessary for healthy vision and reproduction. Required for growth and immunity. Breast milk; infant formula; liver; milk; butter; cheese; egg yolk; some fatty fish.
Beta-Carotene Provides a supply of vitamin A. Dark green leafy vegetables including broccoli, spinach, beetroot; some orange and red coloured fruits and vegetables including carrots, mangoes, papaya.
Thiamin (B1) Helps the body convert carbohydrates into energy. Has a role in nerve function. Wheatgerm; wholemeal foods such as breads and cereals; yeast and yeast extracts; legumes; nuts; pork; duck; oatmeal; fortified breakfast cereals.
Riboflavin (B2) Helps the body release energy from food. Important for growth and red cell production. Helps keep vision and skin healthy. Breast milk; infant formula; milk and milk products; eggs; liver; kidney; yeast extracts; and fortified breakfast cereals.
Niacin (B3) Helps the body release energy from food. Needed for healthy functioning digestive system, skin and nerves. Breast milk; infant formula; liver; kidney; lean meats; poultry; fish; yeast extracts; peanuts; bran; legumes; wholemeal wheat.
Vitamin B6 Helps metabolise carbohydrate and protein. Needed for red blood cell formation and is involved in immune function. Breast milk; infant formula; lean meats; wholegrain products; vegetables; bananas; nuts.
Vitamin B12 Necessary for the formation of healthy red blood cells, nerve cells and DNA. Required for healthy nerve function. Helps convert some fatty acids and amino acids into energy. Breast milk; infant formula; liver; shellfish; fish; lean meats; poultry; eggs; milk; cheeses and yoghurt.
Folate Required for healthy growth and development and the production of healthy new red blood cells. Helps the development of the foetal nervous system. Breast milk; infant formula; green leafy vegetables; wholemeal and wholegrains; legumes; nuts; fortified breakfast cereals; eggs; yeast extract; avocadoes; bananas; liver; kidney.
Vitamin C Important for healthy skin, bones and gums. Increases the absorption of iron from non-animal sources of foods. Breast milk; infant formula; potatoes; parsley; broccoli; cauliflower; brussel sprouts; cabbage; capsicum; guavas; kiwi fruit; citrus fruit; strawberries; apricots; pears; apples; plums; grapes; bananas; cherries.
Vitamin D Important for strong bones, teeth and muscle health. Needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. An important source of vitamin D is the sun – the body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Breast milk (contains only a small amount of vitamin D); infant formula; fish liver oils; oily fish; margarines (fortified with vitamin D); eggs; red meat; liver.
Vitamin E Has antioxidant properties helping to protect the body’s cells from damage and disease. Helps the body make red blood cells and use vitamin K. Breast milk; infant formula; vegetable oils (particularly wheatgerm oil); nuts and seeds and their oils; sweet potatoes.
Vitamin K Needed for blood clotting. Most vitamin K comes from bacteria in the body’s digestive system. Breast milk (contains only small amounts); infant formula; dark green leafy vegetables; kales; spinach; brussel sprouts; broccoli; parsley; coriander; endive; mint; mustard greens; cabbage; lettuce; soybean and canola oils.


Iron Important for healthy blood and brain development. Required for the transport of oxygen around the body. Breast milk; infant formula; lean meats; poultry; fish; eggs; legumes; fortified baby cereals; fortified breakfast cereals; dark green leafy vegetables; dried fruits.
Calcium Essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Important for healthy nerve and muscle function, blood clotting and hormone release. Breast milk; infant formula; dairy products; fortified soy products; canned salmon and sardines with edible bones; leafy green vegetables; bread; nuts and seeds; dried fruits.
Flouride Acts to protect teeth from decay. Breast milk (small amounts only); infant formula; flouridated drinking water, tea leaves, fish.
Iodine Required for thyroid function, mental and physical development. Breast milk; infant formula; seafood; seaweed; iodised salt.
Magnesium Helps maintain normal muscles and nerve function, keeps bones healthy and strong and supports a healthy immune system. Breast milk; infant formula; green leafy vegetables; wholegrain breads and cereals; legumes, nuts and seeds.
Selenium Functions as an antioxidant protecting the body’s cells from damage. Involved in thyroid metabolism, immune and reproductive function. Breast milk; infant formula; fish; organ meats; lean meat; poultry; cereals and grains; dairy products; brazil nuts.
Zinc Important for growth, wound healing, immune function and taste. Breast milk; infant formula; lean meat; chicken; seafood; milk and cheese.

Reference: Mann J, Truswell A.S. 2012, Essentials of Human Nutrition 4th Edition, Oxford University Press, United States.

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