Food is fuel and we get out of our body what we put in!
While it’s important to have a fitness and exercise plan tailored to your goals, a nutrient rich diet will help you reach those goals and sustain a healthy weight and lifestyle. We hear a lot of conflicting diet information out there; plant-based, keto diet, paleo…what’s the best choice for you? What does the right healthy, nutritious diet look like?
The best place to begin is by dissecting the term ‘nutrients’ to uncover its true identity.
Our bodies have the amazing ability to break foods down into their chemical parts. Hence why the quality of the foods we eat is so important. Nutrients are organic substances present in food that are used by the body to live and grow. Nutrients can be divided into two types – micronutrients and macronutrients. While they’re both members of the same team, they play very different roles; without the combined power of both, our bodies would struggle. But what exactly are they?
Difference between micronutrients and macronutrients
Macronutrients are measured in grams as they are the nutrients our bodies need lots of. Macronutrients are the carbs, fats and proteins in food that give our bodies the energy power through the day. All foods contain fat, protein or carbs. To perform at our best we also need micronutrients.
Micronutrients are the vitamins, trace minerals and antioxidants in food that nourish our body and create the good stuff that enables growth and development. We’ll generally measure our micronutrients in milligrams as our bodies don’t need as much of them. It’s important to remember that not all foods contain micronutrients, and a diet low in these essential vitamins and minerals can be really bad news. Best to stay away from processed foods and ensure you have healthy doses of natural superfoods to keep your micronutrient levels in check.
Let’s take a closer look and create a macronutrients and micronutrients list.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We need them in relatively large amounts (grams), depending on how much energy we exert throughout the day. Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for our body and promote healthy function of many of our body’s systems. They’re especially important for those doing high-intensity exercise. Proteins fill our bodies with enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and maintain an acid-base balance.
As for fats, they’re often given a bad rap, however good fats go a long way. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help to maintain healthy heart and brain function, and allows the body to absorb disease-fighting nutrients. If your body is burning dietary fats for energy that can actually help you lose weight. What you DO need to avoid more than fats, is the nasty added sugars that are not naturally occurring in your food.
Macronutrients are found in most of the food we eat, however our bodies value the quality of these macronutrients very highly. Try and incorporate complex-carbohydrates, complete proteins high in amino acids and unsaturated ‘good’ fats into your diet.
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Oats and cereals
- Starchy vegetables e.g. Sweet potato, pumpkin
- Black beans
- Lean red meat, chicken & fish
- Lentils, chickpeas & kidney beans
- Peanut butter
- Broccoli & Brussels sprouts
- Milk and milk products
- Good oils
- Meat, Poultry, Fish
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Dark chocolate
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients not only play a crucial role in improving our health, but can also stimulate muscle growth. While our bodies only need them in miniscule amounts (milligrams or micrograms), it’s important we don’t overlook their power! Micronutrients consist of minerals (zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium & potassium), water-soluble vitamins (B1, B2, B6, B12, C & folic acid), fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) and water. We could talk for hours about the benefits of micronutrients. They range from producing cell growth, promoting healthy hair, skin, teeth & bones, producing hormones and building a strong immune system. A diet deficient in any of the micronutrients can have a very negative impact on how we feel from day to day.
What to eat:
- Dairy products, green vegetables & almonds
- Lean red meat, poultry, spinach, beans
- Dark leafy greens, nuts & seeds, brown rice, lentils, fish
- Bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges, squash
- Lean red meat, seafood, chicken, cashews, chickpeas
Water-soluble vitamins can dissolve in water. They travel to the body’s tissues; but are not stored in the body, therefore they must be replenished each day. Vitamin C and B complex vitamins are water-soluble.
- Citrus fruits
- Lean meat & fish
- Fermented foods
- Cereals and grains
Fat-soluble vitamins dissolve in oil (liquid fat). Vitamins A, D, E and K. In contrast to water-soluble vitamins the body does not need these every day and will store them in the liver and fat tissue.
- Nuts & seeds
- Milk & dairy
- Fish and Vegetable oils
- Leafy green vegetables
- Orange fruits and vegetables
- Cauliflower, Cabbage & Broccoli
- Healthy oils
- Oily Fish
- Soybean and corn
- Grains and fortified cereals
If you’re lacking energy, having trouble sleeping or feeling a little flat in general, you might have a vitamin deficiency, or are not quite getting the right amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs to thrive. If you’d like some help getting your diet balance just right for your age, size and fitness level, consult your fitness professionals about recommending a nutritionist. After all, your body is the most important thing you’ve got! Best to look after it as much as you can.
A balanced diet filled with right amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients will not only positively contribute to your training or weight loss goals, but will ensure your body and mind can function at its best. This in turn makes you happier, healthier and more relaxed in general.
Reward your body with the right nutrients and it will reward you back!
(updated 18 February 2020)