Food History: “… eat the way your great-great-great- grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life” …

Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales (1)
Convicts in New Holland. Source: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales1

This is an updated version of a post originally published 08 January 2019.

Scattered throughout the food and diet literature is the suggestion that to ensure optimal health we should return to the eating patterns before the 1960s. This concept was popularised by Michael Pollan. In his book In Defence of Food2 one of his food rules is ‘don’t eat anything your great-grandmother would not recognise as food‘. His implied take-away message is we should ‘eat real, proper, simple food’ – not the kind from a packet. I have seen others even suggest 3 going back two generations further ‘eat the way your great-great-great-grandparents ate, and you’ll live a long life’. 17

This triggered a thought process. To begin with, my great-great-great-grandparents number 32. To find if that statement is true, I would have to trace my family history to those 32 ancestors, understand their backgrounds, deduce what they probably ate, then contemplate if foods they were eating in the manner they were eating them could improve my longevity.

This was an intriguing concept and I decided to investigate.

Luckily for me, I come from a line of family-history lovers. My sister, mother and other relatives traced my family tree to before the 18th century and have written books on it4,5,6. Understanding from where I originated wasn’t difficult. My fifth generation ancestors from 200 to 250 years ago were mainly British from diverse backgrounds of convicts, working class, tenant-farmers, middle-merchants, professionals, and one line possibly landed gentry. With that variance, pin-pointing any single traditional food pattern would be challenging.

Gastronomic, other historians, and nutritionists have researched food history in Australia and that of Britain7,8,9,10,11,12,13. As I explored this literature genre – from a time that was supposedly before processed and definitely before fast food – I was to discover that this was not the case. Two hundred or more years ago people were not always eating “real” food. In fact in the days before refrigeration, the probable dietary patterns of my own ancestors would have included substantial quantities of preserved food (by salting, smoking, drying, pickling, candying), biscuits, bread, cheese, tea, sugar, spices, flour, and later canned foods – all of which are processed foods and arguably many could also be deemed ‘fast-food’.

Depending on which ancestor and time period I looked at, there were periods my ancestors would have experienced borderline or even critical undernourishment. For other ancestors, who were or became financially secure, patterns of plentiful food and perhaps eating to excess were apparent. However, regardless of the background, there did appear to be a greater focus on either obtaining or producing food, and a deeper connection with where food came from than many of us have today.

Furthermore, as I delved further into its history, I gained a greater understanding that food was behind many social and political reforms10, and a contributing factor if not the whole drive and power behind the makings of the British Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries.14

Our current food environments and its nutritional consequences is a growing concern.15 The shaping of those food environments through history is a subject I feel deserves closer attention and a series of blog-posts. I shall begin by going back to the land of my ‘mother country’.16


This post was originally published in January 2019 and was updated on 23 October 2020.


This is an introductory post for my theme: Food History in Australia.
Tracing the diets of my ancestors, prequels to the food history I have lived through.

Food History Introduction: “eat what your great-great-great-grandparents ate …”

Living through Food History: 1950s to 1970s
Living through Food History: 1980s to 2000s


Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.



I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I have lived and worked. I pay respect to their Elders, past and present.

I thank my sister Margaret Francis, family historian; and my brother-in-law Dr Rodney Francis PhD (agriculture) for reviewing my initial draft and discussions.

I thank Melanie Voevodin @wedietitians for much thoughtful twitter discussions on how our food environments have become what they are and for references 8 & 9 below.


References and Notes:

1. Ravenet, Juan. Convicts in New Holland. Lithograph 01 January 1793.
Felipe Bauza, cartographer – drawings made on the Spanish Scientific Expedition to Australia and the Pacific in the ships Descubierta and Atrevida under the command of Alessandro Malaspina, 1789-94. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. Public Domain. Out of copyright: Artist died before 1955.

2. Pollan, Michael. In Defence of Food. 2008. Penguin Press. London.

3. Williams, Zoe. Why it’s never too late to start lifting weight? The Guardian. Australian Edition. 05 December, 2018.

4. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 1 – ‘The Old Hands’. 2003. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

5. Francis, Margaret; Vernon, Stella; Wilkinson, Colin; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 2 – ‘Genuine People’. 1993. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

6. Wilkinson, Colin; Francis, Margaret; editors. The Buddong Flows On: Volume 3 – ‘Those Precious Ones’. 2017. The Buddong Society. Wagga Wagga.

7. Santich, Barbara, What the Doctors Ordered: 150 Years of Dietary Advice in Australia. 1995. Hyland House Publishing. South Melbourne.

8. Clements, Frederick W. A History of Human Nutrition in Australia. 1986. Longman Cheshire. Melbourne.

9. Wood, Beverley, Editor. Tucker in Australia. 1977. Hill of Content. Melbourne.

10. Symons, Michael. One Continuous Picnic. 2nd edition. 2007. Melbourne University Press. Melbourne.

11. Chant, Susan. A History of Local Food In Australia 1788-2015. PhD Thesis. 2015. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

12. Newling, Jacqueline. Foodways Unfettered: Eighteenth-Century Food in the Sydney Settlement. Thesis for Masters of Arts. 2007. University of Adelaide. Adelaide.

13. Bannerman, Colin. Print Media and the Development of an Australian Culture of Food and Eating c.1850 to c.1920. PhD Thesis. 2001. University of Canberra. Canberra.

14. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power- The Place of Sugar in Modern History. 1986. Penguin Books. New York.

15. Elizabeth, L; Machadol, P; Zinocker, M; Baker, P; Lawrence, M. Ultra-processed foods and health outcomes: A narrative review. Nutrients June 30 2020; 12(7): 1955 doi: 10.3390/nu12071955.

16. Definition: Mother Country: “The original country of colonists or settlers.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th edition 2014.

17. Longo, Valter. The Longevity Diet. Penguin Random House. 2018

Sowing the seeds for growth in 2020



The year 2019 was a defining year for me, a year of growth …

After some major set-backs earlier in the decade I reinvented myself from 2014 onwards including returning to University and completing a Masters in Human Nutrition through Deakin University in October of last year, 2019. The course included a research component of four units. My research topic was Ultra-processed food and health outcomes. I also researched the Health Star Ratings, a nutrient-profiling system introduced in Australia in 2014. I am currently writing some papers form my research which is taking all my time and focus. After all that is finished I am planning to focus more on this blog to provide educational content.

I am conflicted as to which direction I want my blog to take. Yes, I want it to be science-based and provide accurate evidence-based information. Yes, I would like to dispel some inaccurate mis-information that abounds within the lay-press currently. However, whether it will be strictly academic or incorporate my personal view, I am yet to decide.

One thing that this course has taught me is that science is evolving and nothing is set in stone as factual without controversy. The more I have learned, the more I know there is yet to know. The more expert I become in an area, the more I realise how in-expert I really am. However, at the same time, I have come to understand that there are so many unanswered questions, of how things pan out for an individual.

Taking my own example, I suffered significant trauma throughout the period 1998-2016. In the worst period I put on significant weight, ten kilograms in two years (2009-1011) and 18 kilograms in total over an 18 year period of trauma.  I managed to turn that around in 2015. However, my experience as a nutritionist (I had a graduate diploma in Nutrition from 1991), my knowledge, my determination and resolve was not enough to fight against the trauma effects. From everything I have learned in my nutrition studies, there is not much advice on having to first go through a recovery-from-trauma process before you can apply the nutrition knowledge to achieve better health. Discussions on ‘behaviour’ or ‘foods’ or ‘nutrients’ is useless without applying that to an individual’s personal situation.

So this is the other direction I would like my blog to go – application to an individual’s situation.

Aside from that, and even presuming individuals are humming along happy and healthy in good personal, financial and social situations; there are still unanswered questions especially in regards to the current food environment we have today. I aim to explore these questions on my blog and, like a gardener, intend to grow my knowledge and impart that knowledge to others. My fields of interest are prevention of non-communicable diseases especially heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some cancers; food sensitivities; surviving the current food environment of excess food availability and constant social pressure to indulge with food; and extending one’s health-span, not simply one’s lifespan.

That is my aim as I enter a decade of personal growth … it is never too late to be where you want to be.



Leonie Elizabeth
03 January 2020


Image courtesy[digitalart]




My Food Health # 3: I am the solution.



On 02 January 2015 I had an epiphany of sorts when, almost as if a light had come on, I made a major decision to change my life. At the time I was in the midst of a personal crisis, that had been loaded on top of several other crises. I was barely able to keep breathing enough to plough through each day, let alone make a major decision. Despite that I made the biggest decision that I had made for a long time and that was the decision to take back control of my life. My life. My responsibility.

That may sound like a simple and logical thing to do. However, as I had been swept along for many years working, rearing children, and coping with life events and catastrophes, it sometimes felt I was being pulled with no control. Continue reading “My Food Health # 3: I am the solution.”

The Mother Country – England – food in the middle ages.

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In tracing the food of my great-great-great-grandparents I returned to the land of my ancestors – England – and life in the middle ages. Knowledge of food customs and eating habits before that era is limited, incomplete or ambiguous due to reliance on accounts written after-the-fact with uncertain translations. The year 1066, a significant year when many small kingdoms joined into one larger Kingdom (England), seemed a logical time-period to start.1,2

In the middle ages England had a largely agricultural economy with an estimated 90% of the population living in rural areas. There were marked social inequalities ranging from wealthy aristocrats and the clergy, through to peasants living in poverty. Society operated under a feudal system, with land held by the ruling elite and communities structured around manors. Peasants in surrounding villages worked the land for the Lord of the manor or church and were allotted strips of land to cultivate for themselves. Markets were held in towns and villages for exchange of foods and goods.3-7

The Food System

Foods eaten varied over different time periods and from the wealthy to the poor. The food system in the middle ages was based on grains and vegetables. Barley, rye, oats and millet were eaten by the poor. Wheat, requiring expensive manure, was grown only by wealthy farmers, gradually spreading to lower classes and becoming a staple food. Bread was a staple for all classes, cooked in public ovens or over embers. It was course, heavy and unleavened. Peas and beans were included if grain was in short supply. Vegetables were dependent on those grown or bartered, with underground types considered unfit for noble classes and only eaten by the poor. Vegetables were cooked as raw forms were considered the cause of disease. Fruit was cooked, served in pies, or candied.8-13

All classes consumed ‘pottage’ a thick soup or porridge made with pease, oats, bran, grains, vegetables; and meat if available. Pottage was eaten with bread and cooked in a large pot over an open fire. Bread was used as plates (trenchers) for serving of food, soaking up juices and then consumed.10-12,14

Upper classes dined on meat, game meat, fish and fowl. Feasts and banquets were held by the aristocracy and clergy. Gluttony was common. The main meat for peasants was pigs. They were cheap, ran free in forests and were available year-round. Other animals required slaughtering in autumn to save on winter-feeding. Fish was available for those who lived near the sea, rivers or lakes. Mutton and poultry were also eaten. While dairy foods, especially cheese, were consumed all over Europe, milk drinking was confined to cooler regions due to spoilage in warm temperatures. In England, milk was drunk in farming areas although often reserved for the young. Meat and fish were preserved by pickling in brine or vinegar, gelatinised, dry-salting or smoking; cereal grains, meat and fruit were preserved by drying; and butter by salting.9-12,15-18

With water often unclean, and milk difficult to keep fresh, the commonest beverage was ale made from barley, mead or cider. The wealthy also drank wine.10,11,16

The late middle ages

In the 12th-13th century England had sporadic involvement in the Crusades, a doubling of its population and a growth in towns. Biscuits, of bread baked twice, were developed by the crusaders, and found useful on long voyagers as it kept well. The crusaders brought back spices, raisins, dates, figs and sugar from the middle east. The first large shipment of sugar to England was recorded in 1319. Spices and sugar were expensive and only consumed by the wealthy.9,11,19,20,

In 1314-1317 the Great Famine struck after two cold wet summers with crop shortages, harvest failures, starved livestock and climbing food prices. In the winter of 1315/16 to stave off starvation peasants were forced to eat seeds intended for planting with disastrous consequences the following year. There was a large death rate and the population declined. The Black Death swept through beginning in 1348 reducing the population by 23-45%. This led to a labour shortage and a shrinking agricultural sector (with less food required) throwing the economy into chaos, although ironically with temporarily more food available for lower classes. Now in high demand, workers began pushing for higher wages. Resistance by ruling classes culminated in the Peasant’s Revolt (also called the Great Rising) of 1381. Subsequently, the system of peasants in tenure-by-service to Lords was gradually replaced by paid services and tenure by paid rent.11,21-23

In the 15th century, the growth of the cloth industry, ship-building and metalworking, and the emergence of a new ‘middle’ class of merchants based primarily in London and the south, brought the rural economy dominance to an end.20,24 The death of Henry VII in 1509 marked the start of the early modern period.1,24

Food … moving from the land to the market

In the middle ages there would have been a deep connection with food and the land from whence it came. The daily existence of life on the manor revolved around its production. Food included fresh, cooked and preserved (salted, smoked, dried, pickled, candied) foods; bread and cheese. Later, ‘convenience’ foods of biscuits and Ploughman’s lunch were available. For the wealthy, there were sugar and spices.6,8-19,25

In his closing chapter of ‘One Continuous Picnic‘. Michael Symons explores the loss of the true free-market system when people bartered and exchanged foods. He claims the term market has been misused in ‘super-markets’ and food corporations where the driving force is not food-sharing but profit-making. However, the evidence is that in the middle ages there was no such thing as a “free” market; with weekly markets being the property of the local Lord; each one having precise rules on quality, prices and terms of payment. There were already brokers acting as an intermediary between trades, and peasants never had the capacity to make a profit – so it wasn’t an equal playing field.7,26

Nevertheless, markets per se were local on the scale of an individual household, manor or village. Over the next centuries this would move on to a broader world-wide market-place … as England (later Great Britain) sought to expand its empire …

To Be Continued …


This is the second post in my theme: Food History in Australia.
# 1: Introduction: “eat what your great-great-great-grandparents ate …”
# 2: English food history in the middle ages.
# 3: The relevance of food in the rise of the British Empire.
# 4: To Australia: The Hungry Years. 1777 – 1800.
# 5: Australian Food History: Greener Pastures. 1800 to 1850.
# 6: Australian Food History: The Gold Rush Years. 1850 to 1900.
# 7: Australian Food History: Federation and WW1. 1900 to 1920.
# 8: Australian Food History: Nutritionism begins. 1920 to 1950
# 9: Living through History: 1950s to 1970s
# 10: Living through history: 1980s to 2000s


Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


Notes and References:

1. The middle ages is the period of time between The Antiquity and The Modern Period. It spans the era from the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 to the end of the 15th century. Early middle ages is 476 – 1066, high middle ages 1066 – 1250 and late middle ages 1250-1509. The year 1066 is significant is it was the date of the Battle of Hastings and the last time Britain was successfully invaded by a foreign power. Subsequently smaller kingdoms were joined into one Kingdom (England) over which King William I ruled. It marked the  beginning of the high middle ages era. I note historians are not in agreement as to dates of the middle ages, the splitting into or dates of the three sub-periods.

2. Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking- The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Page 127. Harper Collins. 1991. London.

3. Various estimates of population of England and proportion in rural areas are given throughout historical accounts and books, and approximately 90% rural is often stated. In The Black Death (22) Zeigler estimates less than 12% lived in cities and towns at the time of the Black death in the mid 14th century.

4. Elizabeth Brown. Feudalism. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Online version. retrieved 14 Feb 2019. < E Brown, Emeritus Professor of History, University of New York.>
I note that the term feudalism is controversial, may have predated the Norman conquest, and some academics refrain from using the term altogether.

5. Social classes in England considered the ruling elite in the Middle Ages were: Royalty, Nobles (Dukes, Marquess, Earls, Viscounts, Barons); and below them Knights, Baronets, and Landed Gentry. Clergy had a separate hierarchy of Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Abbots and Monks.

6. Manors were the administrative centre of the territorial organization in the feudal system. Land had three classes: (1) Demesne which was land for the Lord and his household; (2) Dependant land that the peasants worked in service to the Lord; and (3) land the peasants were able to work for themselves. Manorial structures and economies were not all uniform nor contained all three types of holdings.

After the Norman conquest land of the English was given to Norman Nobles and Knights and a substantial portion retained by the King. The land was divided between the Lord of the manor’s ‘demesne’ and the remainder of the land in strips plus a house in the village surrounding the manor allotted to peasants who worked his land. (11)

7. (a) Boerner, Lars* and Quint, Daniel#, Medieval Matching Markets (December 10, 2010). Available at SSRN: or Paper drawing on literature from legal and economic historians. * Humboldt University, Berlin; #Stanford University.

7. (b) Arnoux, Mathieux. Medieval markets: economic institutions and social implication.
University of Paris-7. EHESS. Institute University of France.

8. The term ‘vegetable’ was not used in England until the early 15th century. Prior to that edible plants were referred to as ‘herbs’. (9, 11) Vegetables in middle ages include: onion, garlic, parsnips, fennel, parsley, shallot, watercress, endive, lettuce, beetroot, cabbage, leeks, carrots, artichokes, long beans, broad beans, peas, lentils, asparagus, cabbages. Fresh Herbs were used by noble’s for medicinal purposes and in cooked food. (11,12)

9. Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking- The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Harper Collins. 1991. London.

10. C N Trueman “Food and Drink in Medieval England The History Learning Site, 5 Mar 2015. Update 14 Jan 2019. Retrieved 14 February, 2019.

11. Lords and Ladies. Middle Ages Food. Retrieved 14 February, 2019.

12. Alixie Bovey. The Middle Ages. The medieval diet. British Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0) Retrieved 14 February 2019. <Alixie Bovey, medievalist British Library. Head of Research Courtauld Institute of Art>

13.Some sources state yeast-leavened bread was not introduced until 16th century (11). McGee states fermentation by chance and then promoted by old dough developed much earlier and by 300 BC yeast making was a specialty in Egypt, although later north of the Mediterranean. The early breads used in middle ages made from rye, barley and oats made course heavy breads; than later breads when wheat was used. He notes a 14th century recipe using ‘Warme Berme’ with Berme being the yeast produced by fermentation of ale. (9, pge 275-6)
In 18th century sodium bicarbonate developed in New York. (
The mixture of an acid with an alkali to produce a reaction carbon dioxide gas that aerates for leavening dough mixtures was developed in England in 1835 and commercially produced from about 1850. (9, pge 282).

 14. Pease is a middle English term for peas. Pease pudding was a dish made from dried peas and appears in the nursery rhyme ‘Pease pudding hot”.

15. Meat The term ‘meat’ previously meant solid food in general. In the 14th century it meat flesh of animals and later meat from cattle, pigs and sheep distinct from poultry and fish. (9) Upper classes ate more venison, beef, pork, goat, lamb, rabbit, hare, mutton; game including deer, boar, hares, rabbits; and birds swans, herons, geese, ducks, pheasant, pea-fowl, turkey, crane, crow, stork, thrush, black-birds, quail, cuckoo, and partridge. (9,11) Easter was a feast with much meat consumed. (11)

16. (a) Rebecca Slitt. What’s for dinner? Ultimate history project <Rebecca Slitt. Historian on 12th Century England.>

16. (b) Food and Drink In The Medieval Village Retrieved 14 February 2019

17. Feasts who dined on venison, beef, pork, goat, lamb, rabbit, hare, mutton, game meats, fish and fowl. (9,11) Gluttony Feasts The wealthy ate a larger amount of meat and game, as well as white bread, spices and rich sauces. (16,b) Great feasts were adorned with speculator dishes of jellies, pies fritters and stews; magnificent animal foods,  jellies and custards, and sugar sculptures. (12) Noblemen had access to more meat, game, fish, spices, sugar and almonds. (11) Lower Classes ate fruit herbs nuts and honey (11, 16,a). Bowls and spoons were the main implements used. (11) Royalty ate from silverware or gold dishes, lower classes from wooden or horn. (11) Liquids, including soup, were drunk from cups. Knives had been long used whereas forks were introduced only from the 14th century. (11) Recipes exist from the middle ages, although most would have been from Noblemens’ households. (12) In certain religious periods and on some days during the week, the eating of meat was banned.

18. Food Processing techniques in the middle ages: Salt was used as a preservative by dry-salting or soaking is salted water (brine). Meat and fish were preserved by pickling in brine or vinegar, gelatin, or smoking; cereal grains, meat and fruit by drying; fruit and nuts were candied in honey or fruit puree. (11) Ham, sausages, and black puddings (made from from pig’s blood) were processed meats in the middle ages. (10) Biscuits were made by baking bread twice which kept well. Developed by the Crusaders.

19. In the 12th-13th century England had sporadic involvement in the Crusades. Biscuits, of bread baked twice, were developed by the crusaders, and found useful on long voyagers as it kept well. The crusaders brought back spices, raisins, dates, figs and sugar from the middle east. (11) Spices included Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmeg, Ginger, Saffron, Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin, Garlic, Turmeric, Mace, Anise, Caraway and Mustard as well as sugar, dates, figs and raisins. (11,12)

20. Growth in towns and cities occurred in the later centuries of the middle ages and by 1500 has been estimated to be approximately 20% of the population compared to 10% at the start of high-middle ages.  (Ref)

21. Kathryn Warner. The Great Famine, 1315-1317. retrieved 19 February, 2019.

22. Ziegler, Phillip. The Black Death. 1991. Alan Sutton Publishing Limited. Gloucestershire. Digital edition via Internet Archive Library. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
The Black Death (not called that until later centuries) was a plague, a highly contagious and deadly disease, that swept Europe in the 14th century and entered England in 1348. Ziegler describes the difficulty and differences in methodologies used by historians in estimating population prior to and deaths due to the Black Death. He claims an exact figure is not possible. Nevertheless from accurate records that were kept (on clergy and in some manors) and extrapolation to the rest of the population, he estimates the range to have been a 23-45% death rate.

23. White, Ian. The Black Death, Economic and Social Change and the Great Rising of 1381 in Hertfordshire. Birkbeck University of London.

24. Hodgett, Gerald (2006). A Social and Economic History of Medieval Europe. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

25. Ploughmans lunch ‘Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede‘ <  > electronic edition. Print Source Rev Walter W Skeat, Ma.A., ed English Text Society, 1867.

26. Symons, Michael. One Continuous Picnic. A Gastronomic History of Australia. Second edition. 2007. Melbourne University Press.

27. Image courtesy <zirconicusso>; adapted excluding items from later eras.






ENERGY – our prime need from food




Energy from food is one of our prime needs for survival. As well as oxygen and water, without energy from food we would die. Every cell in the body requires a continuous supply. The macro-nutrients carbohydrates, fats, and protein are the sources for energy. When the body uses these for energy, the bonds between the atoms break and energy is released. Energy is expended within the body as electrical energy such as in nerve impulses, kinetic energy such as muscle movement, chemical reactions such as synthesis of new molecules; or the energy can be liberated as heat. (1,2)

Units of measuring the food energy supplied are the joule (amount of work performed when a mass of one kilogram is moved one metre by a force of one newton) or the calorie (heat required to raise temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius). Being small units kilojoules (kJ) or kilocalories (kcal) are more commonly used. The standard measurement in Australia is kilojoules. One kcal is approximately 4.18 kJ. The energy supplied by each macro-nutrient differs. Fat averages 37 kJ (9kcal) per gram, protein 17 kJ (4 kcal); carbohydrates 17 kJ (4 kcal) and alcohol (in adults) 29 kJ (7kcal). (1)

The macro-nutrients are broken down into smaller units during digestion after a meal; carbohydrates into sugars, fats into fatty acids and protein into amino acids; which allows their absorption from the gut into the blood stream. They are then transported by the blood around the body for immediate use or converted into storage forms for later use. It is these storage forms of macro-nutrients that allows a continual supply of energy to each cell, between meals. (1,2)

In summary, in simple terms nutrients digested from food are absorbed into the blood stream and from there fluctuate within three main states.

The Fed State

After a meal (called post-prandial), the absorbed macro-nutrients flood into the blood stream. The influx of these nutrients are considered to be obtained exogenously which means from ‘outside the body’, or in other words – from food. The level of these nutrients rise in the blood in the fed state.


Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. Fat is stored in adipose tissue. Protein does not have a storage form as such and there is a continual cycle of protein synthesis, breakdown, and replenishment. However, breakdown substrates can be used for fuel; and muscle and other tissue are considered protein reservoirs that can be broken down and used as fuel in an emergency. (1,2)

The Fasting State

Between meals, over-night or in periods of food deprivation; nutrients are considered to be obtained endogenously or from ‘inside the body’. This is when nutrients are drawn from storage or synthesised from other substrates to ensure adequate supply to every cell.

Nutrient Balance

The body has an amazing capacity to keep essential nutrients, including macro-nutrients, within a narrow range in the blood stream to ensure a constant supply. One of the main nutrients and a prime need of the body is glucose …

To Be Continued

DisclaimerNothing in this article or website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related issue they may have. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


(1) E Whitney, S R Rolfes, T Crowe, D Cameron-Smith, A Walsh. Understanding Nutrition. Australia and New Zealand Edition. 2nd Edition. Cengate Learning. 2014.

(2) M L Wahlqvist. Ed. Food and Nutrition in Australia. Methuen Australia. 1982.

(3) Image courtesy [Grant.Cochrane]/