Non-nutrients, also known as non-essential nutrients, are elements that are either made by the body or absorbed from food and, though not strictly required by the body to function, may be required to maintain good health. Examples of non-nutrients include dietary fiber, some amino acids, antioxidants, prebiotics, and probiotics.
Dietary fiber is considered a non-nutrient because it is not absorbed in the human digestive system, although it is still important for digestion and maintaining good health. It helps move food through the body, attracts water to the small and large intestines, and may help prevent some epidemiological diseases.
Non-essential amino acids include alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, L-cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, ornithine, proline, selenocysteine, serine, taurine and tyrosine.
Antioxidants, also non-essential nutrients, are believed to provide benefits not given by vitamins or minerals. Current theories suggest that antioxidants help to absorb free radicals within the body. Antioxidants come from plant phytochemicals such as lycopenes in tomatoes and anthocyanins in cranberries.
Probiotics are believed to promote optimal functioning of the digestive tract and prevent or fight colds. Prebiotics, a non-digestible element of food, also help to maintain proper digestive health. Excesses or deficiencies of non-nutrients such as this can lead to disease.