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Nutrients information & investigations

Nutrients: Protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, water ...

Questioning is the basis of all learning.


This page includes a discussion of the body as a machine, list of top nutrients, general information for each, and many related investigations for nutrients and the foods that contain them.

Atom image

Not a single atom in your body was there when you were a child.

Think! of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you are really there.

After all you really were there at the time, weren't you?
How else could you remember it?

But here is the bombshell: you weren't there.

Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every bit of you has been replaced many times over (which is why you eat, of course). You are not even the same shape as you were then. The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, while simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you.

Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.

Steve Grand, Creation: Life and How to Make It


The human body is often thought of as a machine:

  • A fine tuned machine.
  • A well developed machine.
  • A machine with many interconnected machines.
  • Fuel for the engine.
  • Composed of many simple machines
  • Body is an amazing machine.

However, that comparison is more wrong than right, because unlike machines and engines the human body is continually building parts to replace current parts and adding to itself by growing. Also, humans are warm blooded so besides building their bodies they need to eat enough food to make energy to keep their body at a constant temperature (about 98.6 degrees farenheit) as well as provide it with energy to go about its every day tasks.

Cells in the body get their energy and materials needed to function, grow, and repair with chemical actions of digesting food to obtain nutrients for the body to use through other chemical actions to provide energy and reassemble materials for cells, tissues, organs, systems and anything else the body needs to function and make healthy decisions to survive and enjoy life.

The body requires at least 17 vitamins and 24 minerals. It contains about

  • 17% protein,
  • 14% - 25% fat,
  • 1% carbohydrates,
  • 5% - 6% minerals and
  • 54% - 62% water.

Water and dietary fiber are very important for healty bodies. While water is only one substance, the others are groups of substances with each group having hundreds of different kinds. Like mammals is only one group of animals or dogs is only one group of mammals.

When people think of water and vitamins they often think of them in isolation. A cup of water or vitamin C in a tablet or cold remedy. This is okay, but we need to know water and other nutrients, are found in combination with different foods. Water is in juices, fruits, and vegetables. Like wise, other nutrients are in many different foods and eating a variety of foods usually provides the body with the nutrients it needs and most likely in a way that provides more benefits for the body than taking vitamin tablets or supplements. However, there are times when supplements are beneficial or even necessary. It is always best to consult a Doctor or qualified nutritionist for advice.

There are many nutrients a body needs, but many people like to identify a top ten of nutrients with the idea that if a person eats a balanced diet and includes enought of the top ten, they usually end up with enough of the rest. However, a minor problem is, not everyone agrees on the same top ten. Here are the candidates that most people include in a top 10.

You can use the list to decide on your top ten or ...

Top nutrients:

  1. Protein,
  2. Fiber, carbohydrates, sugar, starch
  3. Fat Omega 3
  4. Vitamin A
  5. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid),
  6. Vitamin E
  7. Folic acid - B9
  8. Thiamin - B1
  9. Riboflavin - B2
  10. Niacin
  11. Calcium
  12. Iron
  13. Magnesium
  14. Selenium
  15. Alpha Lipoic acid

Information on these nutrients follows:

Nutrients that provide energy

Energy for cells comes from three sources:

  1. Proteins,
  2. Carbohydrates (sugars & starches) and
  3. Fats.

The easiest way to measure the amount of energy in different foods is to measure the amount of heat a food produces. There are two units of measurement for food energy, the Joule and the calorie . Each provides a measure of the amount of heat energy a specific amount of food gives off.

This is determined by taking a specific mass of food and burning it in a device called a calorimeter . The calorimeter is a closed device where the substance is placed along side a measured amount of water. The water's mass and starting temperature are measured. The substance is burnt so its heat energy is transfered to the water. Then the final temperature is measured with a thermometer and the temperature change is calculated. The standard of one calorie is set as the amount of heat energy it takes to increase the temperature of one gram of water one degree.

image image

The calories produced by one gram of these three nutrients are:

  1. Protein = 4 calories
  2. Fat = 9 calories
  3. Carbohydrates (sugars & starches) = 4 calories


  1. Alchohol = 7 calories
  2. 1 pound of body fat or 454 grams = 2,843 - 3,752 calories depending on the 5 of lipids.

Not all of this energy, however, is available to the body, but it demonstates that fat has the most energy, then protein, and not far behind are carbohydrates.

Another source of energy is alcohol, which has about 7 calories per gram.

Alcohol does not directly supply cells with energy. It has to be converted into acetate. In fact the body will metabolize acetate, then proteins, carbohydrates, and fats that have been eaten, which normally shuts down the use of fats stored in the body for energy. Information on the body and alcohol including calories.. .


Besides providing energy for the body, protein is the building block of the body. Every cell in your body has protein in it. There are different tests for protein that can be done to identify foods with protein.

All proteins, in the body, are made from compounds called amino acids, which are made by taking the proteins that are eaten apart, during digestions, and then built back together into proteins the body needs. There are many amino acids, however, most sources say twenty are important and eight are essential for healthy bodies.

Here is the chemical make-up of 21 amino acids:


Nitrogen , which a body uses also comes from amino acids.

Since the body needs protein to digest into amino acids to build proteins the body needs to maintain and grow cells, it is very important people get enough protein to stay alive (See nutritional information below). This is particularly important for young children. Around the world many children die before they are five because of the lack of protein and other nutrients in their diets. In the United States the children who don't get enough food is between 20% and 25% .

Carbohydrates and fats can not take the place of protein for cell building. They only provide energy, but if a person eats foods with fat and carbohydrates, the body will use energy from them and save the protein for cell building and repair.


  • Building block of life.
  • Builds, repairs, and maintainces all cells and tissues: skin, hair, nails, blood, ,
  • Aassists the body in producing enzymes
  • Helps the immune system form antibodies to fight infection
  • Supplies energy
  • Meat: turkey, tuna, shrimp, cod, salmon, halibut, scallops, turkey, chicken, lamb, eggs , beef
  • Milk and all kinds of cheese
  • Soybeans, tofu, dried beans, garbanzo beans, peas
  • Peanut butter, nuts
  • Breads and cereals
  • Greens, spinach, mustard greens, asparagus


Carbohydrates : are sweet or starchy foods. Chemically the different sugars, starches, and cellulose are very similar being made with different combinations of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon most made by plants with photosynthesis (combines water [hydrogen and oxygen] and carbon dioxide [carbon and oxygen] with light to make sugar [carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen] and oxygen. Dairy products and honey are two exceptions. See diagrams of sugar, starch, and cellulose .

However, for the body to be able to use them, they are very different and require different enzymes so they can be broken down and their energy released.

The carbohydrates commonly referred to as simple sugars include glucose , fructose , sucrose , and lactose . There are others, but these are the most common.

Glucose is the simplest sugar and is know as the sugar in the blood. It is the preferred energy source for a body and can be metabolised with two enzymes: glucokinase and hexokinase. Glucose enters the blood stream throught the intestine and as the sugar levels in the blood increase, the pancreas releases insulin used to metabolize it.

Fructose or fruit sugar is another chemically similar sugar. However, the pancreas does not respond to increased levels of fructose and insulin is not released as with glucose. The result is that fructose is metabolized in the liver with a different enzyme: fructokinase. Since it is metabolized in the liver it is more fat-producing, than glucose, and raises health concerns as the amount of fructose is increased in a person's diet.

Sucrose is found in fruits and vegetables and made into the common table and cooking sugar by processing sugar cane and sugar beets. Sucrose is metabolized with the enzyme beta-fructosidase, which separates sucrose into both glucose and fructose. Then each of these are metabolized as descibed above. Glucose used as the main energy source and any excess energy from fructose stored as fat by the insulin released in response to glucose.

Lactose is found in dairy products and is composed of glucose and galactose. Glucose, metabolized as described above, and galactose is metabolized with the enzyme lactase. People who lack sufficient lactase, to matabilize lactose, are lactose intolerant. When the dairy product is digested into glucose and galactose, the glucose is metabolized as usual and the galactose passes into the intestines. Without the enzyme lactase, galactose is not metabolized causing: bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea depending on the amount eaten.

Artificial sweeteners provide no energy, but they can trigger insulin, which sends your body into fat storage mode and leads to weight gain.

Starch is a chain of sugars linked into a long molecule that is digested with enzymes into the various sugars depending on the food source of the starch. Digestion begins when food is being chewed. Chew a small piece of raw potato for several minutes and you will notice a change of taste. The saliva (an enzyme) will cause a chemical change, that changes some of the starch to sugar.

Many foods have starch in them and there are starch tests to determine the pressence of starch.


  • Supplies energy with sugars and starches
  • Carries other nutrients present in Starches
  • Breads and cereals
  • Potatoes, lima beans, corn
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Dried fruits, sweetened fruits
  • Sugar, syrup, jelly, jam, honey

Fiber or Cellouse

Fiber or cellulose is a long chain of sugars in foods for which humans do not have enzymes to digest, or break apart, or absorb so they pass mostly intact through the digestive system (stomach, small intestine, colon and rectum). However, fibers are essential for digestion and good health.


  • Helps maintain digestive health
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Helps control blood sugar, and maintain healthy weight
  • Helps lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes
  • Whole grain crackers, quinoa, millet, barley, cracked wheat, wild rice, oats, flaxseed
  • Black beans, navy beans, chickpeas
  • Turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens
  • Eggplant
  • Raspberries, and
  • Cinnamon


Fats there are good fats and not so good fats. Good fats are unsaturated , they include monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fats; usually from liquid and plant sources, such as canola oil, seeds, and nuts. Moderate amounts can help lower blood cholesterol and protect the heart see cholesterol below.

Cholesterol is a waxy saturated fat in blood that is good in small amounts. It is used to make cell walls, clotting, hormones, and vitamin D. Excessive cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats can build up in your arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.

Fats that are not so good, are saturated and trans fats, usually from animal or vegetable sources. Trans fats include hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats. They are created when liquid oils are turned into solid fats. Shortening and stick margarine are examples. Hydrogenation helps preserve the product and maintains the flavor of these fats. Partially hydrogenated fats are currently considered the worst fats for our health and have been removed from many products. See fat investigation to determine the amount of fat in different foods.


  • Supplies large amounts of energy in a small amount of food
  • Helps keep infant's skin healthy by supplying essential fatty acids
  • Carries fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K
  • Butter and cream
  • Salad oils and dressings
  • Cooking fats
  • Fat in meat
Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, DHA and EPA) Functions
  • are essential to help build cells, regulate the nervous system, strengthen the cardiovascular system, build immunity, and help the body absorb nutrients.
  • Reduce the risk of becoming obese and improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin.
  • Help prevent cancer cell growth.
  • Flaxseeds, canola oil, linseed, soybeans, tofu, olive oil
  • Walnuts,
  • Salmon, sardines, beef, halibut, scallops, shrimp, .


Vitamins and the idea that your body needs them were first discovered around 1935, with the multitude of vitamins and their benefits discovered after that. There were several discoveries before and during these times that lead to the discovery that something in foods was essential for good health. Eventually experiments that changed the diets of animals and humans lead to the idea that certain kinds of foods were essential for good health and later to the idea there was a substance in food essential for healthy bodies and it was given the name of vitamins. The race was on to discover more and more vitamins until we are where we are today. Read five stories about the first vitamin discoveries in The Great Vitamin Mystery and see how important these discoveries were.

  1. Vitamin A - an essential vitamin for general growth and development
  2. Vitamin B1, Thiamin
  3. Vitamin B2, Riboflavin
  4. Vitamin B3, Niacin
  5. Vitamin B6
  6. Vitamin B9, Folic Acid, folacin, folate)
  7. Vitamin B12
  8. Vitamin C or ascorbic acid
  9. Vitamin D
  10. Vitamin E
  11. Vitamin K
  12. Pantothenic acid
  13. Biotin
  14. Choline

Vitamins: functions and sources

Vitamin A, Retinol

  • Is fat soluble
  • Essential for general cell growth and development, white blood cells,
  • Helps keep skin clear, smooth, and glowing
  • Helps keep mucous membranes firm and resistant to infection in the nasal pasage and intestine
  • Helps keep healthy eyes, vision and prevents night blindness
  • Helps teeth and bone growth
Sources - retinoids and carotenoids
  • Liver, yolk of egg
  • Dark green: spinach, kale
  • Deep yellow fruits: watermelon, papaya, peaches, apricots, guava, tomatoes
  • Deep yellow vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli
  • Butter, whole milk, cream, cheddar-type cheese, ice cream
  • Dried beans, lentils, fortified cereals

Vitamin B1, Thiamin

  • Water-soluble
  • Helps prevent beriberi
  • Helps promote normal appetite and digestion
  • Helps keep nervous system healthy and prevent irritability
  • Helps body release energy from food particularly carbohydrates
  • Meat, fish, poultry & pork supplies about 3 times as much as other meats
  • Eggs
  • Enriched or whole grain foods - bread, cereal
  • Potatoes
  • Dried beans and peas
  • Potatoes, broccoli, collards
  • Milk

Vitamin B2, Riboflavin

  • Water-soluble
  • Works with other B vitamins
  • Helps body growth
  • Helps process carbohydrates, protein, and fats
  • Helps production of red blood cells and the use of oxygen
  • Helps keep skin, gums, tongue and lips normal
  • Helps prevent scaly, greasy skin around mouth and nose
  • Helps muscles
  • Increases resistance to infection
  • Milk
  • All kinds of cheese
  • Ice cream
  • Meat,fish, poultry, especially liver
  • Eggs
  • Peas, beans, nuts

Vitamin B3, Niacin

  • Water-soluble
  • Prevents the disease pellagra
  • Helps body use protein and fats
  • Helps keep nervous system healthy
  • Helps make energy
  • Helps keep skin, mouth, tongue, digestive tract in healthy condition
  • Helps cells use other nutrients
  • Peanut butter
  • Meat, fish, poultry, liver
  • Milk (high in tryptophan)
  • Enriched or whole grain bread and cereals
  • Potatoes

Vitamin B6, Pyridoxine

  • Water-soluble
  • Helps nervous tissues function normally
  • Plays a role in red cell regeneration, prevent anemia, and use of iron
  • Involved in the metabolism of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates
  • Support immune system
  • Help use of copper
  • Beef liver, pork, ham, poultry, fish, egg
  • Soybeans and lima beans
  • Bananas
  • Yeast
  • Whole grain cereals, nuts

Vitamin B9, Folic Acid, folacin, folate)

  • Water-soluble
  • Helps cure (and prevent) anemia by supporting red blood cell production
  • Helps prevents homocysteine (an amino acid) buildup in your blood
  • Helps enzyme and other biochemical systems function normally
  • Helps nerves function better, prevent dementias including Alzheimer's
  • Helps with bone health, prevent osteoporosis, fractures
  • Helps reduce birth defects (neural tube defects. In the first four weeks of pregnancy folate is essential for proper closure of the neural tube, which gives rise to the brain & spinal cord. Without this proper closure babies can be born without brains or spinal cords protruding from their backs)
  • Green leafy vegetables, lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards
  • Cauliflower, beets lentils cabbage
  • Liver and egg yolks
  • Yeast
  • Whole grain cereals, dry beans, peas

Vitamin B12

  • Water-soluble
  • Helps metabolism and energy use
  • Helps form red blood cells
  • Helps maintain the central nervous system
  • Protects against the development of pernicious anemia
  • Helps make genetic material in cells
  • Eggs, fish, liver, poultry, beef, and other meat
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Whole grains


  • Water-soluble B vitamin
  • Helps make and release the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps nerve and brain activities.
  • Has a role in metabolizing and transporting fats
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Liver,
  • Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, peanuts

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid

  • A water-soluble, antioxidant that helps protect cells from free-radical damage, lowers the risk of different types of cancer, regenerates your vitamin E supply
  • Improves iron absorption
  • Helps make cementing materials, collagen, that hold body cells together
  • Cementing feature also helps in healing wounds and broken bones
  • Helps make walls of blood vessels (veins & arteries) firm
  • Helps keep gums, skin, muscles
  • Boosts the immune system, and protects against infection
  • Prevents the disease scurvy.
  • Citrus fruits oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime, kiwi, guava
  • Strawberries and cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes
  • Red and green peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower
  • Raw greens, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, parsley
  • Potatoes

Vitamin D, Calciferol

  • Is fat soluble
  • Helps the use of calcium and phosphorus for building strong bones and teeth
  • Prevents rickets
  • Helps absorb calcium from the digestive tract
  • Aids immune system and regulates cell growth
  • Promotes intestinal microbiota regulate expression of antimicrobial peptides, maintaining the barrier functions of the gut mucosa and enhances antitumor microbes.
  • Sunshine on skin (not a food for humans)
  • Vitamin D milk and dairy products
  • Salmon, tuna, and fish liver oils

Vitamin E, Tocopherol

  • Is fat soluble
  • Is a categorical name for eight fat-soluble substances
  • They are antioxidants that protect other vitamins from being destroyed by oxidation
  • Help protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet light
  • Help prevent cell damage from free radicals
  • Improve communication between cells
  • Protect against prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease
  • In lower animals, maintains normal functioning of skeletal muscle, brain and blood cells and has a role in reproduction
  • Protects vitamin A and carotene from destruction by oxidation
  • Liver and other meat, egg yolks
  • Milk
  • Green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, broccoli, spinach, chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, asparagus
  • Cayenne pepper, bell peppers
  • Whole grain cereals, wheat germ
  • Almonds, sunflower seeds, safflower oil, vegetable oils

Vitamin K

  • Is fat soluble
  • Causes blood to coagulate (stick together) so when it is necessary for normal clotting
  • Maybe other functions of the blood and maybe bone health
  • Pork liver, fish, beef, egg yolks
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, asparagus, spinach, kale, collards, turnip greens
  • Lettuce
  • Cauliflower, cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Vegetable oils

Pantothenic acid

  • Water-soluble
  • Necessary for metabolism of food and energy use
  • Helps in the production of hormones
  • Helps in the production of cholesterol
  • Avocado broccoli, kale, and other vegetables in the cabbage family
  • Eggs
  • Legumes and lentils
  • Milk
  • Mushroom
  • Poultry
  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Whole-grain cereals


  • Water-soluble
  • Necessary for metabolism of protein and carbohydrates.
  • Helps in the production of hormones
  • Helps in the production of cholesterol
  • Chocolate
  • Cereal
  • Egg yolk
  • Legumes
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • liver, kidney, pork
  • Yeast


Water is considered a nutrient as it is essential for life and can not be produced by the body. You could only live a few days without it. It is needed by every cell for chemical reactions, storing and releasing heat, cooling the body through perspiration, lubricating joints, cushioning the brain, eyes, nerves, and to carry nutrients to the cells and wastes away from the cells.

The body is about 60% water. Blood is about 90% water, the brain and muscles are at or above 70% water, bones are about 30% water, and fat about 10%.

Water is necessary for the digestive process. Other nutrients are dissolved in water and water is needed to transport them through the digestive sytem and throughout the body by the blood stream. Water and other nutrients pass through cell membranes and into each cell of the body. Wastes produced by cell processes are carried off in a watery solution.

How much water a person needs each day depends on variables such as: temperature, humidity, physical activity, and water content of foods they eat. Recommnedations for daily water consumption range from 11-15 cups (cup = 8 ounces) or about 2-3.5 liters.

When you’re being nourished properly, you can grow to your fullest potential.
Lizzo’s “ Water Me ” Video Is All About Nourishing The Self.


Minerals is a group of elements are found in your body in small amounts. A few of the top ten are in this group: iron and calcium. Other minerals important for your body are phosphorus, copper, iodine, and zinc. For an investigation of minerals in food see mineral find .

Calcium and phosphorus are needed for your teeth and bones. It also is used to stop cuts from bleeding, keep your heart beating regular, and help your nerves and muscles work right. To see how important calcium is for your bones you can do this experiment at home.

Minerals: functions and sources


  • Help maintain and build bones and teeth
  • Help prevent osteoporosis
  • Helps blood clot and pH balance of blood
  • Helps muscles and nerves to work
  • Helps convert food to energy
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Helps regulate the use of other minerals in the body
  • Helps control weight
  • Milk, cheese, dairy prooducts, but less in cottage cheese, yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Black molasses
  • Sesame seeds
  • Turnip, mustard greens, collards, kale, broccoli
  • Sardines, scallops


  • Combines with protein to make hemoglobin, the red substance in the blood that carries oxygen to the cells.
  • Helps metabolism for muscles and other active organs.
  • Helps with production of energy, strength, and calmness. A lack of iron in the body can lead to iron-deficiency anemia that results in fatigue, weakness, and irritability. Vitamin C can help with the absorption of iron to help prevent this.


  • Red meat, liver, oysters, chicken liver, and eggs
  • Dried beans, pumplin seeds, lentils, peas
  • Soybeans, tofu,
  • Asperagus, green, leafy vegetables, spinach, chard, collard greens, leeks, watercress, oregano, black pepper, thyme, cumin, tumeric, basil, turnips, black molasses,
  • Prunes, raisins, dried apricots
  • Brown rice, enriched or whole grain breads, fortified cereals
  • Nuts


  • Contributes to bone strength
  • Enables energy production
  • Helps the immune system
  • Helps muscle, nerve, and highly essential for a normal heart beat and function


  • Legumes, black beans, kidney beans, whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Broccoli, squash, spinach, avocado, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds.
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Soymilk
  • Banana


  • Helps build bones and teeth
  • Helps produce energy
  • Helps regulate many internal activities of the body


  • Liver, fish, poultry and eggs
  • Cheese and milk
  • Whole grain cereals, peas
  • Nuts



Helps control the rate at which the body uses energy


Sea food, plants grown on soil near seas, iodized salt


I imagine you can see that in order for you to keep your body healthy you have to supply your body with the top ten nutrients. The best way to do this is to eat something from the four food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins) at most meals. It is also important to eat a good breakfast everyday because when you wake up you haven't eaten for a long time. If you don't eat, then your body will have to use stored food or body fat. If you only eat carbohydrates your digestive system will use this energy a lot quicker than if you had eaten something with fat. Then of course the water soluble vitamins need to be replaced each day.

Stay healthy and fit with a healthy diet.


Molecular structure diagrams

Diagrams of molecular structure of sugars: glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose; and starch; and cellulose to show similarity and differences.

image iamge




Investigations related to nutrition, food, & nutrients

Always work in an area appropriate for handling chemicals that may stain furniture or the floor if spilled. Wear proper safety equipment including goggles, rubber gloves and a lab apron.

Calcium and bones

Investigation question : What happens to a bone when some calcium and phosphorus is removed?

Material : chicken bone, vinegar, container with a sealable lid.

Procedure :

  1. Take & chicken bone, place it in a container, cover it with vinegar, close it, and set it aside.
  2. After a few days check on the bone and see what is happening.

If the vinegar disolved some of the calcium and phosphorus from the bone, describe the results and explain how not eating foods with calcium and phosphorus might effect bone structure. For more information on function of calcium and food sources see Nutrients funtions and sources



Nutritional information on a label:

Food labels should have the following categories list on the label. Look at a label and record the information that is on it for each of the categories below. If there is more than three subcategories for a category, select at least three to include.

Serving size










Percent daily value

Bottom facts

Write any conclusion you can make about what is on a label and how they can are helpful.

Write a question you have about the information on a lable.


Daily diet

If you don't have access to a program that summarizes your daily intake, you can use the table below to plot the daily percentages for the categories. The last column is not labeled so you may select another you prefer.

chart image


Starch test

Investigation question : How much starch is in the food I eat? How do you know starch is in a food? Is there an indicator to test foods and see how much starch is in a particular food?

Material : Ten different foods you usually eat, iodine, dropper bottle, plate or paper towel.

Procedure :

  1. Take small pieces of food (less than one square cm) and spread them out on the plate or paper towel.
  2. drop one drop of iodine on each piece of food.
  3. Arrange the color of
  4. Observe the color of the drop of iodine - It will turns a deep purple or black if the food contains starch. The darker the color, the more starch.
  5. Arrange the pieces of food from lightest to darkest and write the name of the food beside each piece.
  6. Record the results in the table or take a picture, print it and put it in a notebook and write a summary.
Type of food Observation
of color
Little or no starch Some starch A lot of starch


Arrange the foods from least to most starch.


More starch? How to get a concentrated starch.

  1. First find a food with starch... a potato.
  2. Finely grate a potato or blend it in a blender.
  3. Put the potato pulp in a double layer of cheesecloth bag.
  4. Dip the bag in a bowl of water and squeeze it until the starch stops turning the water cloudy.
  5. Let the starch settles to the bottom and then slowly pour off the water.
  6. May want to repeate this until a thick mixture of starchy liquid remains.
  7. Put the thick liquid on a plate and let the rest of the water evaporate.
  8. The dry powder is .... starch.
  9. I bet you know how to test it. How starchy is it?

Testing seeds and other plant parts. Different parts of a plant can be sliced so different parts of the plant can be tested with small drops placed on the different parts. For example is there certain parts of a seed where starch is concentrated?


Milk seperation

Investigation question : How can milk be separated into two proteins: casein and whey?

Materials : Hot plate, 250 ml of milk, cheese cloth, spoon, 45 ml of white vinegar, bowl, a jar, and fresh water.

Procedure :

  1. Pour 250 ml of skim milk into a pan.
  2. Add 45 ml of white vinegar.
  3. Heat the milk SLOWLY , STIRRING ALL the time.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat when the milk starts to separate and form lumps.
  5. Stir it, until the separation is complete.
  6. Hold a piece of cheese cloth over a jar and strain it.
  7. Hold the cloth and dip rinse it in clean water.
  8. Casein is in the cloth and whey in the jar.
  9. Don't be afraid to taste i t if your hands and the materials you were using were clean and approved by an adult.
  10. To remove the vinegar tangewrop the cloth around the casein and dip the bag like container into fresh water and gently squeeze it. Can repeat this procedure a couple of times to wash out the vinegar taste. The casein can be spread out to dry.
  11. You have removed protein from milk.



At home look at some products and find at least three that contain casein and whey and identify them below.

Products and what they contain:




Expansion : Experiment to find what percentage of vinegar and milk make the most casein. What temperature creates the best results or most casein. Suggested procedure.

  1. Start with 10 ml of vinegar and 100 ml of milk. (10:1 ratio)
  2. Mix at 120 degrees F. Stir for a set amount of time.
  3. Strain and set aside to dry and weigh later. (24 hours)
  4. Keep all variables the same changing one. Like the amount of vinegar. (6 ml, 8 ml, 12 ml & 14 ml)
  5. When determine which proportion works best can repeat the experiment and change the temperature. ( 100, 110, 130, 140)
  6. Graph results and determine what amounts and temperature are best.
  7. Consider chemical changes happen consistently when elements or molecules combine in consistent ways. For example two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom combine to make one water molecule. How does this idea relate to the information gained from these experiments.
  8. Another question. Does adding food coloring to the mild provide anyinformation for a better explanation?

Protein search

Investigation question : How can you determine if a substance has protein?

Material : Burner, foil, forcepts, Biuret solution, some foods, and some hair.

Two procedures to test for protein.

Procedure one : Burn test

  1. Use the forcepts to hold a piece of hair in the flame of the burner
  2. Observe the smell as it burns.
  3. Hair is 90% or more protein, therefore it is likely that the smell is caused by the protein. If you burn pieces of food and you smell this odor it probably means there is protein in the food.
  4. Break the foods into small and equal pieces, about the size of a b-b.
  5. When you have broken all the food into equal sized pieces call your teacher to approve lighting of a candle or burner.
  6. Hold each piece of food in the flame.
  7. Observe the smell, remove it from the flame, and record the results.
  8. Continue to the next food.

Procedure two : Test with Biuret solution

  1. Biuret solution identifies the presence of protein by changing from blue to pink purple when it reacts with protein.
  2. Solids can be test by making an extract.

Extract preparation from solids . Grind crush or chop a small amount of the substance to be tested and put about 2 cubic centimeters into a small container. Add about 5 ml of distilled water and stir with a coffee stir, small straw, or glassrod. Set it aside for a few minutes, then use a dropper or pipette and transfer some of the clear liquid to where it will be tested (a small container, test tube, plastic lid, tile, or tray).

  1. Put 2 ml (40 drops) of liquid to be tested in a small container and label each container.
  2. Add 3 drops of Biuret solution to each and shake gently to mix.
  3. Record the results.
Type of food Description of the smell Little or no protein Some protein A lot of protein

Arrange the foods from the least to the most protein.


Mineral find (investigation)

Investigation question : How can the amount of minerals in various foods be determined?

Materials :

Burner, forcepts, aluminum foil, and a variety of foods.

Procedure ;

  1. Take the foods you have and cut them into very small pieces no larger than 1/8 cubic centimeter.
  2. When all the pieces are the same size, put each on a piece of foil and call the teacher to start the burner.
  3. Hold the foil over the burner.
  4. Burn the food until it won''t burn anymore. The left over ashes are minerals.
  5. Place the foods into the table below.
  6. Record the results in the table. You may also want to take a picture, print it and put it in a notebook and write a summary.
Type of food Observation
of ash
Little or no minerals Some minerals A lot of minerals


Arrange the foods from the least to the most minerals.

Fat find (investigation)

Investigation question : How can the amount of fat in various foods be determined?

Materials : Two sheets of brown paper, foods, and 2-3 large books.

Procedure :

  1. Take the foods and divide them into equal pieces about the size of a bb or 1/8 cubic centimeter.
  2. Take the food pieces and place them on one of the brown paper sheets, with about 5 cm between each piece.
  3. Write the name of the food below each piece.
  4. Take the second sheet of brown paper and place it on top.
  5. Press them by putting the books on top the second sheet of paper and let them set over night.
  6. You can measure the amount of fat in each piece by the size of the grease spot made on the paper.

Results :

Type of food Observation
of spot
Size of the spot in mm

Order the foods from the least to the most fat.


Fat can also be tested using the indicator Sudan III stain. It will identify the presence of lipids in liquids by staining fat cells red.

Procedure :

  1. Put equal parts of test liquid and water in a small container and label them.

Extract preparation from solids . Grind crush or chop a small amount of the substance to be tested and put about 2 cubic centimeters into a small container. Add about 5 ml of distilled water and stir with a coffee stir, small straw, or glassrod. Set it aside for a few minutes, then use a dropper or pipette and transfer some of the clear liquid to where it will be tested (a small container, test tube, plastic lid, tile, or tray).

  1. Add 3 drops of Sudan III stain to container.
  2. Shake gently to mix.
  3. A red-stained oil layer will separate and float on the water surface to indicate fat.


Eggs and protein

Investigation question : If eggs have protein, how can it be removed?

Material : Burner, test tube or small heat resistant container, egg, utensil to beat an egg.

Procedure :

  1. Crack an uncooked egg and separate the white from the yolk.
  2. Beat the white with a fork or an egg beater until frothy or stiff.
  3. Put a small amount of the beaten egg white into a test tube or small container.
  4. Add an equal amount of water.
  5. Heat the contents of the test tube over a burner. {Caution: Be sure to hold the mouth of the container away from people.)
  6. The heat will cause the protein, albumin, to coagulate into white flecks.

If the white flecks are tested for protein how do does the amount of protein compare with just the egg white?


Measuring acidity

Investigation question : How can you tell if a food has acid in it?

Material : food to test, pH meter, pH paper, or red cabbage leaves to boil and get a liquid indicator.

Notes :

Solids can be tested by either dropping the indicator onto the solid or by making an extract and dropping it onto the test strip, touching a pH meter to it, or adding it to the cabbage pHindicator.

Make 2 cups of finely chopped cabbage. The cabbage can be put into a large glass container and boiling distilled water poured over it and to covered for at least ten minutes until the color is leach out of the cabbage. Or the 2 cups of cabbage can be put into a blender, covered with boiling water, and blended. Either way when the liquid is a deep red-purple-bluish colored, strain and filter out the vegatative matter. It will have a pH about 7 if distilled water was used. Otherwise the exact color and pH will vary depending on the water. The will be blue and it will turn bright red with an acid.

Solids can be test by making an extract.


Extract preparation from solids . Grind crush or chop a small amount of the substance to be tested and put about 2 cubic centimeters into a small container. Add about 5 ml of distilled water and stir with a coffee stir, small straw, or glassrod. Set it aside for a few minutes, then use a dropper or pipette and transfer some of the clear liquid to where it will be tested (a small container, test tube, plastic lid, tile, or tray).

Many foods contain acids. Many fruit juices are made with fruits that have a high acid content. Others have acids added. Citrus fruits contain citric acid. Vinegar has acetic acid. tea and coffee have tannic acid. When milk sours, lactic acid is produced.

Procedure : Decide what and how to test and write your own procedure, then share it with ...

Type of food Observation
of indicator
Little or no acid Some acid A lot of acid
1. distilled water        


Order the foods from the least to the most acid.


Measuring sugar

Investigation question : How can you tell if a food has sugar in it? What kind of sugar?

Note : Benedict's solution is a clear blue solution used to test for the presence of some simple sugars. Glucose is in Karo syrup, maple syrup, and molasses and will react with it. However, cane sugar is sucrose, a type of sugar that doesn't normally react with it. Remember the information about sugars as a carbohydrate, above. Digestion splits sucrose into glucose and fructose. Therefore, Benedict's reagent will indicate the presence of glucose and some other simple sugars .

Simple sugar that react with the solution will change from blue: to green, yellow, or dull-red, depending on the amount of sugar.

Material : food to test, Benedict's liquid indicator, distilled water, test containers (test-tubes, or other small containers), large container that can hold hot water (40-50 degrees celsius) and the test containers.

Procedure :

  1. Mix a small amount of each food sample with distilled water. Enough to have about 40 drops of liquid to test.
  2. Label the test containers with the name of food.
  3. Add 40 drops of the liquid to be tested to the test containers.
  4. Add 10 drops of Benedict's solution to each container.
  5. Slowly heat the test tubes in a hot water bath between 40-50 degrees celsius for five minutes.
  6. Record the color change.

If sugar is present, solution will turn green, yellow, or dull-red, depending on sugar concentration.

Type of food Observation
of indicator
Little or no sugar Some sugar A lot of sugar
1. Distilled water        

Order the foods from the least to the most sugar.



How much sugar is in my soda?

Using an hydrometer to measure sugar concentration in liquids .

Measuring energy in food

Investigation question :

  • How is the amount of energy in foods determined?
  • How does the amount of energy change for different kinds of foods?

Materials : Home made calorimeter, thermometer, water, dehydrated foods, and supervision.

Set-up :

image This investigation might best be done outside or in a well ventilated area so any smoke will vent outside. The size of food, containers, and amount of water will directly effect the temperature change as well as the amount of smoke that is created. Some directions online: suggest a large paint or coffee can be used for the large container . However, a smaller can (like a tomato paste or sauce can) might work better so smaller pieces of food would need to be burned to get a sufficient range of temperatures for a set of data that will reliably represent the energy present in different foods.

Procedure :

  1. Select the foods ahead of time and either put them in a food dehydrator or let them in a warm place for a day or so to remove water. Possible foods: croutons, rice cake, coconut, Cheetos, Doritos, corn chips, peanuts are good, but not of students have food allergies.
  2. Take the foods and divide them into equal pieces by mass with a volume of a cubic centimeter.
  3. Start with a container of water at room temperature that is large enough to have all the water that will be needed for all of the trials.
  4. Record the temperature of the water.
  5. Decide what volume to put in the small metal container and fill the small can before each trial.
  6. Put the food in the calorimeter and use an automatic candle lighter to start it burning.
  7. When the food finishes buring take the temperature of the water. May want to experiment to see if the temperature of the water is different at the top or bottom.
  8. Record the difference on the chart.
  9. Continue with other foods.


Type of food Beginning temperature Final temperature Temperature change

Arrange the foods in order of temperature difference.



What relationships between temperature, types of food, and energy does the data suggest?


Measuring Vitamin C

Investigation question :

  • How is the amount of vitamin C in foods determined?
  • How does the amount of vitamin C change for different kinds of foods?

Materials : Vitamin C Reagent (dichlorophenolindophenol) indicator, water, juices

Procedure :

Vitamin C Reagent (dichlorophenolindophenol) indicator is blue. When a liquid containing vitamin C (orange juice) is slowly added to this indicator it will become less blue. The amount of vitamin C reagent added will be used to determine the concentration of vitamin C.

  1. If the vitamin C reagentis in a solid form it should be ground into a powder with a mortar and pestle or back of a spoon.
  2. Put the powder into a dropper bottle and add 30ml of distilled water.
  3. Fill containers, one for each item to be tested, with 50 drops of blue vitamin C indicator solution.
  4. Add juice one drop at a time to the indicator solution and count each drop.
  5. Continue counting and adding drops until the dark blue color turns clear.
  6. Compare different juices.
  7. The more drops to reach a clear end point means a LOWER concentration of vitamin C.


Type of food Observation
of indicator
Little or no vitamin C Some vitamin C A lot of vitamin C
1. Distilled water        

Arrange the juices in order.