So what’s up with all the talk about macro & micro nutrients? If you want a balanced diet, you should probably take a look.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. In order to maintain optimal health you need to eat a balanced diet. But what does that mean exactly? Well, a healthy diet is more than just organic produce and low sugar. Food is made up of chemical compounds that divide into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fat; these are the items our bodies need in greater quantities. Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals; we need less of these but they are still of essential importance for our health. In order to have a balanced diet, you’ll need to understand why these are important.
These are fuel for our bodies. We use them for energy but they also provide us with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and good bacteria for our guts. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.
1. Simple carbohydrates are made up of simple sugars and break down quickly in our bodies, providing us with a burst of fuel, but it runs out quickly and can leave us with an energy slump. Foods that fall into this category include table sugar, white flour, dairy products, and whole fruit. Except for the whole fruit, there isn’t much nutrient value to the foods in this category and they should be reduced or eliminated from your diet.
2. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, break down slowly in the body, providing us with day-long energy. They also have more nutritional value, making them an excellent source of energy. Foods in this category include whole grains, legumes, and sweet potatoes.
There are 22 amino acids that make up protein and these are the building blocks of life. They are needed for regeneration of cells, digestion, transport, immunity, brain function and so much more. Of the 22 amino acids, nine are considered essential because we can only get them from our food. So it is important that you eat complete proteins at every meal, but you can combine foods to make up the complete protein. Plant-based foods that are good sources of protein include beans, nuts, seeds, greens, protein powders, sprouts, and soy.
Yes, fat is good for you! Fat is an essential component to a healthy diet. We need fats for fuel, insulation, maintenance of brain cells, and much more. However, you still shouldn’t eat too much of it, and the source of the fat you eat is really important. Make sure the source of the fat is clean, use heat stable fats for cooking, avoid trans and hydrogenated fats, and ensure adequate amounts of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids. Good sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, almonds, and avocados. Get your saturated fats from coconut and palm oils.
Instead of measuring serving amounts, I’ve learned a neat trick to make sure I get a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Your dinner plate should consist of 70% vegetables, 15% protein, and 15% healthy fat.
These are needed for growth, vitality, and health. They function as co-enzymes that help every metabolic process in your body. The B vitamins are needed for energy production, and B12 in particular is hard to get in adequate amounts in a plant-based diet. This is one vitamin that is essential to take a supplement for. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin and requires exposure to sunlight (usually 15–30 minutes) in order for our bodies to produce it. The other vitamins are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. Just make sure you eat a variety in your diet and you’ll get enough daily.
Minerals have the same functions as vitamins but can’t be produced in the body so all must come from our diet. Deficiencies in minerals are more common because of that, and because food tends not to be fortified with minerals. However, we only need miniscule amounts so it’s possible to get enough in our diet as long as we eat a variety of plant-based foods. Ideally we should choose organic since the soil is more nutrient diverse and the food it produces will be more nutrient dense.
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