Any item of food that provides nourishment to the body may be referred to as a nutriment. Nutriments help increase growth and development in humans and other animals. They provide living creatures with energy, allow for bodily repair, and allow life to take place in general.
As a nutriment can be any number of things that provide nourishment to the body, it can exist in a wide variety of forms. Vitamin and mineral supplements, sold as tablets, powders, or otherwise, are nutriments. Juice, milk, and other beverages that contain nutrients can be called nutriments. Any type of food that contains nutritional value, from stews to purees and fruits to vegetables, is a nutriment.
Prepared foods can be considered as nutriments provided that they retain their nutritional value. These can include processed foods as well, such as microwavable dishes and frozen meals. Junk foods and snacks can also be nutriments, since they provide the body with some calories to use as energy. The same status applies to fast food.
Nontraditional foods may be considered nutriments when appropriate. When a lack of food is present, for example, insects, wild plants, and other potentially unsavory yet edible items may be considered nutriments. In extreme cases, the consumption of one's fellow species in times of emergency or disaster has occurred, making humans a rare source of nutriment.
The word nutriment was commonly used to describe foods during the 15th century. Historical fiction as well as nonfictional accounts from that period still utilize the word in writing. In modern times, however, the archaic term is usually substituted with the words food or nutrient. It is of Middle English origin, and comes from the Latin words nutrimentum and nutrire, meaning "to suckle."
In Buddhism, a nutriment refers to the laws of nutriment, and can be one of four things. Like the general description of nutriments, it can be an edible food. Nutriments may also exist, however, in consciousness, sense impressions, and intentions. Of these components, the Buddha is said to have stated that, "all beings subsist on nutriment." Most of these nutriments, according to Buddhist philosophy, can be fostered by cultivating a practice of mindful living.
A nutritional drink with a slightly different spelling, Nutrament®, was developed by Novartis Labs in 1960. The beverage was created to be used as a vitamin supplement. It is made from skim milk, sugar, minerals, and vitamins and is available in several flavors, including chocolate, coconut, and cappuccino.