The 6 Main Classes Of Food: Their Classifications, Functions, Examples And Sources 

A meal that contains all the classes of food is called a balanced diet. As a human being, you must know the classes of food and how they affect our diets. Understanding these food groups is key to maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle. 

In this article, we’re going to look into the six classes of food, their classifications, functions, and sources. 

Whether you are a nutritionist, a dietitian, or you’re looking for a way to build your diet, this article is going to help you make informed decisions on dietary choices.

The Classes Of Food With Their Functions, Classifications Sources And Examples 

1. Carbohydrates:

classes-of-food
Food sources of carbohydrates. Cereals, beans, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and bread.

Carbohydrates is one of the classes of food and are energy-giving foods that are usually found in sugar, starches and glucose.  It consists of bi-molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

Carbohydrates play a crucial role in our everyday lives as it is responsible for providing energy to the body. However ever it is also important to note that excessive consumption of carbohydrates can lead to diabetes and high sugar levels.

Classification Of Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates can be classified into 4 classes which are based on their chemical structure and complexity:

1. Monosaccharides:

 Monosaccharides are the simplest form of carbohydrates, consisting of a single sugar molecule. It can be found in Glucose, fructose, and galactose.

2. Disaccharides:

Disaccharides are composed of two monosaccharide units linked together by a glycosidic bond. Examples of disaccharides are  Sucrose (glucose + fructose), lactose (glucose + galactose), and maltose (glucose + glucose).

3. Oligosaccharides:

Oligosaccharides consist of a short chain of monosaccharide units (usually 3 to 10 sugar molecules); examples of  Oligosaccharides are Raffinose and stachyose, commonly found in certain vegetables.

4. Polysaccharides:

Polysaccharides are large, complex carbohydrates composed of multiple monosaccharide units, often forming intricate structures. Examples of polysaccharides are Starch (energy storage in plants), glycogen (energy storage in animals), and cellulose (structural component in plant cell walls).

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  Functions Of Carbohydrates In The Body

Below are some of the functions of carbohydrates in the body.

1. It serves as a source of energy:

Carbohydrates serve as a primary and efficient source of energy for the body. When consumed, they are broken down into glucose, which is readily used by cells for various metabolic processes, especially in the brain and muscles.

2. It acts as an energy Storage in the body:

Carbohydrates store energy in the form of glycogen in animals and starch in plants. These storage forms allow organisms to access a readily available energy reserve when needed, such as during periods of fasting or high energy demand.

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  Sources of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be obtained from the following foods.

S/NSources Examples 
1Grainsrice, wheat, oats, barley, and quinoa
2Fruitsapples, bananas, oranges, berries, and mangoes
3Vegetablespotatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and peas.
4Legumeslentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans

2. Proteins:

classes-of-food
Overhead view of a large group of food with high content of healthy proteins. The composition includes salmon beef fillet, chicken breast, eggs, yogurt, mussels, chick peas, pistachios, cheese, brown lentild, beans, shrimps, canned tuna, pumpkin seeds, soybeans among others. High resolution 42Mp studio digital capture taken with SONY A7rII and Zeiss Batis 40mm F2.0 CF lens

Proteins are also known as body-building foods. They are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called Amino acids which are attached in a long chain.  Proteins are found in our diets and are also a primary source of energy for the body.

Classifications Of Protein 

Proteins are furthermore classified into two which are

  • Essential proteins 
  •  Non-essential proteins.

1. Essential proteins are the proteins that are not produced by the body and must come from a food source

2. Non-essential proteins are proteins made by the body. 

Functions Of Proteins to the body

1. Proteins are essential for building and repairing muscle tissues. They contribute to the structural integrity of muscles and enable their contraction, supporting movement and physical strength.

2. Many proteins act as enzymes, facilitating chemical reactions in the body. Enzymes are vital for processes like digestion, metabolism, and cellular energy production.

3. Certain proteins function as hormones, regulating various physiological processes. Examples include insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and growth hormones that influence development.

4. Antibodies, a type of protein, play a crucial role in the immune system. They recognize and neutralise harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses, contributing to overall immune defence.

5. Proteins serve as carriers, transporting essential molecules like oxygen (haemoglobin in red blood cells) and nutrients across cell membranes, ensuring proper functioning of cells.

   Sources of Protein 

S/NSources Examples 
1.Lean MeatChicken, Turkey, Fish
2. Plant-Based ProteinsBeans, Lentils, Quinoa, Tofu, Edamame
3.Dairy ProductsMilk, Yogurt, Cheese
4Poultry Chicken, Turkey , egg 
5.Protein SupplementsWhey Protein, Pea Protein, Soy Protein

3. Fats and Oils:

Selection of healthy food for heart, life concept, selective focus.

Fats and oils are also one of the classes of food but as a human being, you need only a small amount of it in your diet for healthy functioning as one molecule of fat is made up of several fatty acids.  Excessive intake of fats and oils can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, hardening of your arteries etc.

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Classifications Of Fats And Oils

Fats and oils are classified into two categories which are:

  • Saturated fats
  • Non-saturated fats
1. Saturated Fats:

 Saturated fats are types of fats that are solid at room temperature and are commonly found in animal products.

2. Unsaturated Fats:

Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature and are considered heart-healthy when consumed in moderation. 

Unsaturated fats are further divided into two main types: 

  • monounsaturated 
  •  polyunsaturated fats.

Functions Of Fats And Oils 

Some of the functions of fats and oils are as follows:

1.  Fats and oils serve as a concentrated source of energy, released when the body needs fuel.

2. Fats contribute to the structure of cell membranes, maintaining cell integrity and supporting various cellular processes.

3. Adipose tissue, composed of fat cells, acts as insulation under the skin, aiding in temperature regulation and protecting internal organs.

4. Fats play a crucial role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), facilitating their uptake for essential bodily functions.

Sources Of Fats and oil 

S/NSources Examples 
1. Plant-Based OilsOlive oil, Canola oil, Sunflower oil, Soybean oil
2. Nuts and SeedsAlmonds, Walnuts, Flaxseeds, Chia seeds
3. Fatty FishSalmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Trout
4Dairy ProductsButter, Cheese, Whole milk
5. Animal Fats:Beef fat, Pork fat (lard)
6.Processed Foods   Fast food, Snack foods, Packaged baked foods

4. Vitamins:

Different fruits in medical capsules, Vitamin dietary supplements and health nutrition concepts. 3d illustration

Vitamins are also one of the classes of food which are usually found in fruits. Personally, I haven’t heard of any side effects of consuming too much vitamins but it is advised that they should be taken in smaller quantities. They are important in our body as they help us regulate and maintain a healthy body system. 

Remember the popular saying “An apple a day keeps the doctors away”

Classifications Of Vitamins

Vitamins are classified into two categories:

  • Fat Soluble
  • Water soluble 
1. Fat Soluble vitamins: 

Remember that one of the functions of fats and oils is the absorption of vitamins. These vitamins that can be absorbed by fats and oils are called fat Soluble vitamins. 

They include the vitamins A, D, E, and K. The body stores these vitamins in fatty tissues and the liver. 

2. Water soluble vitamins:

As the name implies, they are vitamins that can be dissolved in water. They do not stay long in the body like the fat-soluble vitamins and are removed through urine and sweat.

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They are the B complex vitamins ( B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B7 (Biotin), B9 (Folate), and B12 (Cobalamin). and Vitamin C. 

   Functions Of Vitamins  And Their Sources 

S/NVitamin Functions Sources 
Vitamin AImportant for vision, immune function, and skin healthcarrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and liver
2. Vitamin B ComplexSupports energy metabolism, red blood cell production, and neurological functionswhole grains, meat, dairy, and leafy greens
3. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)It acts as an antioxidant, supports immune function, and aids in collagen synthesisCitrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli
4. Vitamin DEssential for calcium absorption, bone health, and immune system functionSun exposure, fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and egg yolks
5. Vitamin E (Tocopherol):Functions as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damageNuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and green leafy vegetables
6. Vitamin KNecessary for blood clotting and bone metabolismleafy greens, broccoli, and vegetable oils.

5. Minerals:

Different Types of Salt

Minerals are also one of the classes of food and they are the chemical elements present in all our food. 

Some examples of minerals are sodium, magnesium, potassium etc with each of them having their own unique functions in the body. Lack of minerals in the body is very dangerous to health and they should be considered when choosing a meal.

Functions Of Minerals In The Body And Their Sources 

Here are some key functions of minerals:

S/NMineral Functions Sources 
1. CalciumEssential for bone and teeth formation, blood clotting, and muscle functionDairy products, leafy green vegetables, fortified foods
2. IronCrucial for the formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells, which carries oxygen throughout the bodyRed meat, poultry, fish, beans, fortified cereals
3. MagnesiumSupports muscle and nerve function, maintains a steady heartbeat, and contributes to bone healthNuts, seeds, whole grains, leafy green vegetables
4. ZincImportant for immune system function, wound healing, and DNA synthesisMeat, dairy products, nuts, legumes.
5. PhosphorusWorks with calcium for bone and teeth health, and is involved in energy metabolism.Dairy products, meat, fish, nuts.
6.PotassiumHelps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals. It also supports heart functionBananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, beans

6. Water:

close-up view of water flowing from tap into glass

The list of the classes of food cannot be complete without mentioning water. Water is an essential part of our daily lives as we cannot do without it. The human body contains 80% of water. That’s an incredible amount. 

Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen H2O. It is advisable that we take water every day to stay hydrated.

Functions Of Water 

Below are some functions of water in the body.

1. It aids in hydration of the body:

  Water is the primary component of bodily fluids, including blood, lymph, and digestive juices. It is crucial for maintaining adequate hydration levels in the body.

2. It aids in temperature regulation:

 Water helps regulate body temperature through processes like sweating and respiration. It absorbs and releases heat, helping to maintain a stable internal temperature.

3.  It assists in nutrient transportation around the body:

  Water serves as a medium for transporting nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, throughout the body. It facilitates the absorption and distribution of essential nutrients to cells.

4. Intake of water in the body helps metabolic reactions:

  Water is involved in various metabolic reactions, including those that break down food for energy. It acts as a solvent, enabling chemical reactions necessary for metabolism. It is advisable to drink enough water after eating to speed up the metabolism process and avoid indigestion.

5. It aids in joint lubrication:

 The  Synovial fluid, which lubricates joints and reduces friction, is primarily composed of water. This helps facilitate smooth and pain-free movement of joints.

6.  It helps in digestion and nutrient absorption:

 Water is essential for the breakdown of food during digestion. It aids in the absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract and ensures the smooth passage of food through the digestive system.

FAQ On The Classes Of Food

How many classes of food do we have?

There are six classes of food which are carbohydrates, protein, mineral salt, fats and oils, vitamins and water.

Conclusion On The Classes Of Food

As a human being, you must understand the different classes of food, as it is important for maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet and also plays a crucial role in promoting overall health and well-being. 

From the energy-providing carbohydrates to the muscle-building proteins and the vital functions of fats, each class contributes uniquely to our body’s intricate systems. 

By mixing a variety of foods from different classes, you can ensure a comprehensive intake of essential nutrients and a healthy well-being.

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