Basic Nutrition: Macronutrients and Micronutrients

Basic nutrition is what the body needs to survive on a daily basis. In order to have a well balanced healthy life it’s important to understand what the body needs and why.

We believe that good health is about good nutrition. After all you are what you eat and drink. What goes into our body determines our physical and emotional well being. Some people don’t realize that the quality of our life depends partly on the quality of our diet. Food can have a huge effect on our overall health. It can cause problems or it can protect our health.

If you care about your health and are concerned about being overweight, or developing a serious disease, or dying too young, then you need to care about what you eat and drink. The first step is to have a good understanding of basic nutrition. This can help you make better choices.

Nutrition means to nourish. To nourish means to keep alive and well by food. So, it should be of utmost importance to eat a diet of good quality food in order to provide yourself with good nutrition.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a nutritional expert to understand the basics of nutrition. You just need to know what is good and what is not so good in order to make better decisions about what to eat and what not to eat.

For us, once we understood the basics, we quickly got into the habit of making good food choices. This has kept us healthy and we’ve maintained our weight easily.

Basic nutrition can be grouped into two different categories, macronutrients and micronutrients.

Basic Nutrition: Macronutrients

Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are called “macronutrients” because we need these in large amounts in our diet. I’ve also included water and fiber because they are also needed in good amounts and vitally essential for health and survival.

It’s important for our body to acquire all these in order to function properly. Our body needs water and a certain amount of energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein on a daily basis. That energy is measured in calories.

Most health professionals/authorities recommend that we eat a diet made up of approximately 15 percent protein, 55 percent carbohydrates and up to 30 percent total fats.

Basic Nutrition: Protein

The body uses protein to build and repair muscles, bone, tissue, skin, internal organs and blood. So it is important that we get an adequate amount of protein in our diets on a daily basis.

The recommended levels of protein that international organizations advise us are 0.4 grams of protein a day per pound of body weight or approximately 1 gram per kilo of body weight. For example an adult who weighs 160 pounds should have about 64 grams of protein a day.

Protein can be found in red meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, vegetables, soy, legumes, nuts and seeds. If you are eating enough calories from the foods mentioned above then you should be getting enough protein.

Daily Protein Intake

Understand the differences between plant protein and animal protein.

Benefits of Soy Protein

Understand the advantages of soy in your diet.

Protein and Weight Loss

Understand why protein and weight loss go hand in hand.

Basic Nutrition: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body’s main supply of energy. When eating carbohydrate foods your body digests them and breaks them down into glucose, also known as blood sugar. This blood sugar provides the essential energy for our brain and nervous system. It is important to keep your blood sugar levels balanced because this helps to maintain even energy levels and a healthy weight.

Carbohydrates are essential in your daily diet so that vital tissue building protein is not used up for energy when it might be needed for repair.

Carbohydrates are classified into two different categories:

  1. Simple carbohydrates
  2. Complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates and Weight Loss

Understand why the right carbohydrates are good for losing weight.

Basic Nutrition: Fats

Eating the right kinds of fats is good for you and essential for optimum health. Fats also provide us with energy. Not only is it important to watch how much fat you eat, but it is also important to know the type of fats you are eating.

There is a variety of different fats and some of these fats are more harmful than others. The two major kinds of fats in the foods that we eat are saturated fats and unsaturated fats.

For optimum health, no more than 20 percent of your total calories should be in the form of fat. And no more than 10 percent of that fat should be saturated fat. Most people in the western world eat too much saturated fat and too little of the healthier unsaturated fats. So the message is simple, limit the bad fats and replace them with good fats.

Basic Nutrition: Water

Water is one of the most important macronutrients and is overlooked by many people. It makes up around 60 to 70 percent of our body weight. You can survive several weeks without food, but you can only survive a few days without water.

Basic Nutrition: Fiber

Fiber or fibre is only found in plant foods and is a type of complex carbohydrate that comes from the cell wall of plants. It cannot be digested or absorbed into the blood stream and therefore is not considered a nutrient, but still vitally important to health.

Basic Nutrition: Micronutrients

A healthy well balanced diet must consist not only of good amounts of macronutrients but also of very small amounts of micronutrients. Micronutrients which include vitamins and minerals are just as essential as macronutrients. They help your body function properly. They work at the cellular level, which is where good health begins.

Basic Nutrition: Vitamins

Vitamins are natural substances that are required in small amounts and are necessary to sustain life. They assist in regulating metabolism and releasing the energy from digested food. Vitamins help to promote growth and to maintain good health. Vitamins are produced by living material such as plants and animals. They must be obtained from our food, as they are not made by the body in sufficient quantities, to promote and maintain good health.

There are two groups of vitamins, fat soluble and water soluble. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble. They need a sufficient supply of minerals and fats to be absorbed in the digestive system. These vitamins are stored in the liver. The other vitamins, like vitamin C, are water soluble. They need to be replenished often because any excesses are excreted in the urine, not stored in the body.

Basic Nutrition: Minerals

Minerals are also required in small amounts and are as important as vitamins. The body does not produce any minerals. They must be obtained from food sources such as plants, animals and water.

Minerals are an important part of your body structure, for example, calcium for bones. There are about twenty minerals that are essential for maintaining good health. There are two groups of minerals, major and minor or trace minerals. Major minerals are required in larger amounts like calcium, phosphorus and potassium. Trace minerals are required in smaller amounts like iron, manganese and selenium.