Understanding Macronutrients and Micronutrients

Understanding Macronutrients and Micronutrients

In this article we look at the main difference between macro – and micronutrients but also to explain why you really do not need to think too much about it.

When I studied for my Nutritionist certifications, it was a small part of the course. Of course, you need to know the difference, the functions and what role it plays in the body but more importantly, how do you incorporate macro and micronutrients in your diet and why has this become such a big thing in recent years. The answer is simple, most often the media reports convince you that “Oh I really need to buy this and that supplement, or that latest superfood”, to complete my macro-and micronutrient needs.

The truth is, that if you follow a whole food plant-based diet, most of your nutrient needs are going to be met without the need for other expensive gimmicks.

 

Macronutrients are split into three categories:

Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats. They all yield energy once they are broken down in the body and digested.

 

1.Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are sugar and starches and supply your body with glucose, which is the body’s primary fuel source and preferred source of energy. Most types of carbohydrates are divided into simple or complex Carbohydrates, and this refers to the length of the overall molecule. Shorter molecules are easier for your body to break down, so they are classified as simple, (i.e bad carbs). They primarily consist of sugars (both natural and added, like white bread, cakes, crackers, white pasta, ect).

Complex carbohydrates (“good carbs) consist of whole wheat, fruits and vegetables as close to their natural and unaltered state as possible. These carbs are filled with various nutrients.Most people’s diets consist of far too many ‘bad’

This can be the main issue that causes bloating, unhealthy weight gain, lethary, brain fog, digestion issues and a general feeling of unwell.

 

2 – Protein is the building block of the body. All proteins are composed of combinations of twenty different amino acids, which your body consequently breaks apart and combines to form different physical structures. Your system uses amino acids in three main ways:

  • to build new proteins for cellular functioning
  • as an energy source (not the body’s preferred source of energy)
  • as a building material

In other words, your body needs protein to support organ functioning, power enzyme reaction, and form your hair, nails, and other tissues. Unfortunately, most people eat too much protein per day. Scientific studies show that eating too much protein is associated with cancer, heart disease and arteriosclerosis and a whole bunch of other autoimmune diseases. I recommend reading the China Study, T.Colin Campbell, in my opinion a compelling read and one of many interesting studies in this field.

 

  1. Fat

Fat supports your hormone functioning, insulates the nerves, and promotes healthier skin, and hair. Essential fats are found naturally in whole foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and seeds.

Concentrated fats, such as oils, and oil-based spreads (think of condiments, salad dressings, all types of candy and most store -bought cakes, crackers, ect) do not fall under a food group.

 

Then we have the Micronutrients, and these are split into two categories:

Vitamins and Minerals

Micronutrients do not yield energy once broken down in the body, but they regulate the release of energy and other aspects of metabolism. There are 13 vitamins each with its special role to play. Vitamins are divided into two classes: water-soluble (the B vitamin and vitamin C) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The minerals also perform important functions. Some such as calcium, make up the structure of the bones and teeth. Other’s including sodium, float about in the body’s fluids, where they help regulate crucial bodily functions, such as heartbeat and muscle concentrations.

However, when eating a whole food plant-based diet, you are eating food as close to its natural state as possible, meaning the food has not been or only very little altered and therefore still contain almost all nutrients and therefore you do not need to track down your daily Macronutrient and Micronutrient needs. A whole food plant-based diet is also associated with many health benefits, here are a few examples:

  • Prevent and even reverse heart disease
  • Lower your blood cholesterol
  • Lose weight
  • Live longer
  • Look and feel younger
  • Have more energy
  • Avoid Alzheimer’s
  • Beat Arthritis

A balanced whole food plant-based diet is made up of these four food groups:

  • Legumes, nuts and seeds: This includes beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy products
  • Grains such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, millet, wheat berries
  • Vegetables, including cruciferous vegetables
  • Fruits, especially citrus fruits, and berries are a great source of vitamin C

To put it simply, if you’re eating a whole food plant-based diet and you pay attention to the food groups above you’re almost certainly going to be getting all the Macro and Micronutrients you need.

References:

Dr Greger, How not to Die / Campbell, T.C The China study

 

Written by Barbara Donnelly from Thrive Expert Panel.

Barbara is a Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Holistic Nutritionist, certified Personal Trainer and Callanetics Instructor. https://www.bhealthyeatwhole.com/