You know your basic food groups. You know how much water you should drink a day. And you know what a healthy meal looks like, but do you know what macro-nutrients are?
You do, but you’ve just been calling them something different.
Your body requires a lot of materials in order to maintain homeostasis or an internal balance.
One of the more important materials come in the form of nutrients.
Nutrients can be divided into macronutrients and micronutrients.
We’ll learn about what they are and why they’re so important to your health.
What are Macro-nutrients? Macro-nutrients are our main source of energy from foods. It also makes up the majority of our diet.
Macro-nutrients are in one of the three following groups:
See, you knew what they were. Macro-nutrients contain vitamins and minerals essential to our well-being. Now we consume each of these three groups in some form each day, but do we know exactly what we’re eating?
Do we know which portions of the group are healthy and which are not?
Let’s go through each group and take a look.
Carbs are the macro-nutrient you need the most. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.
Simple carbs are broken down fast, but because of this your blood sugar rises quickly and can result in that “crash” we feel after eating a delicious cinnamon roll or whatever your favorite sugary snack is.
That’s because the sugar is burned so fast that the energy we feel from it fades quickly. Simple sugars also provide very little if any nutritional value. Some examples of these sugars include:
- Fructose (found in fruit)
- Galactose (found in dairy products)
- Lactose (found in milk and dairy products)
- Maltose (found in fermented foods)
Complex carbohydrates take more time to break down and are what you should be eating the most of. Since it takes them a while to break down, they provide steady energy, with no blood sugar spikes.
Complex carbs also have fiber in them, which is good for your digestive and heart health.
Some examples include:
Starches like legumes, grains, peas, and potatoes
Dietary fiber like veggies and whole grains
Proteins are used to repair and build muscles and tissue. It also regulates your hormones and digestive enzymes.
Some examples include:
- Meats like beef, pork, chicken, lamb
- Fish or seafood
- Dairy like milk and yogurt
- Soy/Tofu products
Everyone gives fat a hard time, but it can actually be a good thing! Fats are used for energy now and can also be stored for energy later. It also stores vitamins, regulates hormone production, and protects your organs.
There are two types of fats: Saturated and unsaturated.
Your intake of saturated fats needs to be limited because this isn’t the good fat. Some examples include meat fat, butter, full-fat dairy products, chips, biscuits, and cakes.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, should play a bigger role in your diet. Some examples of these include fish, nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils like olive, canola, sunflower, and rice bran.
What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients is a term used to describe minerals and vitamins in general. Relative to your body’s macronutrients (fat and carbohydrates), your body needs vitamins and minerals in a smaller amount, hence the name, “micro”.
Micronutrients is also referred to as an essential nutrient because your body cannot produce vitamins and minerals from the inside. This means that all of your vitamins and minerals have to come from your diet.
Vitamins are compounds that are made by plants and animals which are broken down by a variety of materials, such as acid or heat. Minerals exist in water or soil, and they cannot be broken down.
This makes them inorganic. It can be difficult to discern which food items contain the most amount of micronutrients, so it is recommended to eat a variety of foods to be on the safe side.
Why Do You Need Micronutrients?
The reason why micronutrients are essential to the body is that there are a variety of factors that depend on a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients help maintain blood flow, your immune system and maintain other parts of your body.
For example, calcium is a mineral that is necessary for building bones and keeping them healthy. It also enables blood clotting.
Potassium, on the other hand, regulates the fluid levels and muscle contractions in your body.
Micronutrients have also been found to have a special role in your general well-being, and being in a state of micronutrient deficiency can have adverse effects on your health.
Low levels of micronutrients have been linked to putting many at increased risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
How Can You Ensure You Have Enough?
As mentioned before, micronutrients cannot be synthesized by the body, which means they have to come from an external source.
For most people who do not have a deficiency, a well-balanced diet that incorporates healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables will ensure your body has a great internal balance.
For the sake of convenience, many opt to take supplementations, such as multivitamins.
For the sake of foods that you eat every day, there are many sources that can get you the proper micronutrients that you need.
Calcium is most commonly found in dairy products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese.
Potassium can be found in a variety of fruits such as bananas. A lot of vitamins are commonly present in vegetables such as spinach, bell peppers, broccoli, and carrots.
As you can see, micronutrients are an important part of your body to function properly. So if you want to ensure that your body has the fuel it needs to maintain functioning, incorporate a well-balanced diet into your daily routine.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what macro-nutrients and micronutrients are and why they play such a big role in your overall health.
Stay healthy, and take care!