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Nutrients and Nutrition

Nutrients and Nutrition
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This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Minnie in China. She says:


Hello dear VOA, I'm a fan from China. I'm confused about "nutrition" and "nutrient." [Is there] any difference between them? What do they each refer to?

-Minnie, China


Hello Minnie,

If you read a lot about healthy living, you probably come across the words “nutrient” and “nutrition” often.

The short answer to your question is that “nutrients” are specific while “nutrition” is much more general.

Think about it this way: Several nutrients together in your food make up your nutrition. However, one nutrient by itself is not nutrition.


Nutrients are the individual substances in food that humans and animals need to live and grow. Vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates are examples of nutrients.

Nutrients are measurable. For instance, if you read the packaging on a food product, you can see exactly which nutrients it contains, and in what amounts.

Plants, too, need nutrients to live and grow. Plant nutrients are found in (or added to) soil. The soil contains substances like phosphorus and nitrogen.


Nutrition is the process of eating the right kinds of nutrients over time in order to support growth and stay healthy. So it is a more general term for a person’s overall food intake.

Nutrition is also the word for the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them, and the relationship between diet and health.

Because people have different dietary needs, some might need more of some kind of nutrients, while others need less. So, nutrition is measured differently than nutrients are. Finding out whether someone is getting the right nutrition for their body involves examining a person’s individual needs and diet over time.

That’s Ask a Teacher for this week.

I’m Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section below or email us at


Words in This Story

confuse – v. to make someone uncertain or unable to understand something

refer to – v. to have a direct connection or relationship to something

specific – adj. special or particular

packaging – n. materials used to wrap or protect products

diet – n. the food that a person or animal eats