Have you ever thought mindfully about what you are eating? Enjoying every last piece as you slowly chew your food and notice every changing taste as you break the food down into smaller and smaller pieces. These taste changes as you chew a food are actually the first stages of your body breaking foods down into the nutrients that we absorb for healthy living. But how much do we actually know about nutrients?

Nutrients are the complex packages of interrelated components that make up our food. They sit within a matrix, helping us to work out how they work within our food and within our bodies.

Nutrients do not work in isolation but rather work synergistically. In fact they are far more beneficial in combination than they are when isolated outside of the food matrix. While we have known about many of the nutrients like fats and proteins for centuries, the nutrients in our food are still mysterious and many are only just being discovered.

Recent advances in food chemistry science have meant that we can now detect components in foods that in the future could be considered in the same way as vitamins are. These new components include phytochemicals which largely contribute to the variety of colours that we see in our fruits and vegetables. Thousands of these components have been detected and it is likely that many more will be identified as time moves on.

Through our work on the food matrix, we are creating a new database that allows us to work out how much we eat of these new components and eventually any interactions they might have with other components in the food matrix.

We can’t get all the nutrition we need from one magical source, so we need to make sure that we eat a range of different foods every day as foods, like nutrients, also work in synergy. Different coloured fruits and vegetables, different types of dairy products, meats and cereal products are all important. Combining all of these different foods is like creating a complex jig-saw puzzle inside us. We each have unique needs and the pieces of our food puzzle will only fit in right the combination if our diet accounts for our taste preferences, life stage and even our gender.

About the Author: Dr Yasmine Probst BSc, MSc, MHlthInfo, GradCertBus, PhD, AdvAPD

Dr Yasmine Probst is an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian with a passion for exploring the unknown areas of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is currently exploring the food matrix; which uses data mining techniques and develops advanced methodologies to map the way the naturally occurring chemical substances in food interact with each other. Yasmine is featured in Vitamania discussing vitamins and nutrients in our food.

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