Nutrition is a huge topic when it comes to health, and it can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. You can explain pretty much anything using it correctly, and that's just one of the reasons that it is so important that you know about; from a general perspective if nothing else. One of the broadest ways that your nutrition is split is by looking at macro and micronutrients, what they do, the differences between them, and where you naturally get them from. It sounds like a lot, but it's easily digestible information (sorry…).


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Macronutrients

Table of healthy foods such as seeds, fish and fruit

Starting with the larger group of the two, macronutrients are looking at things from a much bigger viewpoint and taking into account what is what. Generally speaking, you’ve got three primary macronutrients to think about. They're fats, proteins and carbohydrates. They can all be broken down further but, in a nutshell, they're the big players that you need to know about. Most foods we consume are made up of some sort of combination of the three, and we need them all to function properly. We'll go into more detail below.

Micronutrients

On the other side of the coin, we need to look at micronutrients too, and not just the bigger picture of macronutrients. Micronutrients are all of the little things we need in relatively small doses, but a lot of different kinds. They're responsible for more than many of us realise, and we need all of them in some form or another just to do simple things. They help maintain our energy, cells, senses, and even how we process other nutrients too. Generally speaking, again, they come in two very broad categories: vitamins and minerals.

What Do They Do?

So now that we know what macronutrients and micronutrients are, we can take things a step further; what they do. They're all responsible for different kinds of things, but we'll break them down a little more so that we can understand why they're so important in our diets.

Types of Macronutrients

So, as we said above, macronutrients are split into three biggies: proteins, carbs and fats. They all have their own values, but you need all of them.

Protein

Protein is one of the biggest macros that gets talked about, especially when fitness is in the same conversation. It’s famously responsible for building muscle and helping you get bigger, but that’s merely scratching the surface of what protein is all about as a macronutrient.

Protein is responsible for cell growth and cell maintenance. It keeps all of our body's cells in good shape, and that is undoubtedly important. No one can question that. It’s one of the best ways to get all of the amino acids that we need to build from, and a lot of these we can't get anywhere else. It's incredible how the body deals with them to break and build.

Where Can They Be Found?

Meat, nuts, dairy, eggs, pulses.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates come in a lot of shapes and sizes, so they don’t really have a one size fits all role in what they do for the human body. Simply put, they come in multiple forms. These are usually simple and complex carbs (and there's a difference!). They give you the energy you need throughout the day, whether that's stored in your body or given to you instantly in a huge spike.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is the fuel that we need to keep going. You can have it in a huge range of forms, and again, they’re found in just about anything. That could be simple things like sugars through to complex carbohydrate chains that are in famously healthy foods like pasta. You break them down as you need them, and they’re a big help; especially in your training.

Where Can They Be Found?

Simple Carbs

Fruits (sweet especially), vegetables, sugars, white bread.

Complex Carbs

Bread, wheat, pasta, rice, potato, cereals.

Fats

The last macronutrient we’ll look at is fats. These have a bad name, and they really don’t deserve to all of the time. Like everything, they're needed in moderation, but don't rule them out just because they're labelled as fat and the bad connotations that come with it.

Fats again come in different forms, and typically, we can put them into healthy and unhealthy fats. There are things like oils that are vital for our body health, and unhealthy fats like saturates that don't quite fit the bill and have a lot of adverse health effects if consumed incorrectly or in abundance. Just like the others, they're found in pretty much anything we eat. Just don't rule them out!

Where Can They Be Found?

Fat, oil, dairy, meat, nuts.

Types of Micronutrients

Taking things up a notch, we have the tiny micronutrients. Like we said above, you need less of them, but there are more of them than there are macronutrients, so balance is the key here. They're easy to miss after all, especially if you have a very routine or unhealthy diet.

Vitamins

One of the most important nutrient requirements out there is the need for vitamins. There are a lot of them too, so they're hard to miss. They're in just about anything, but how much and which kind is where things differ.

They're so minute that they even have subgroups, like vitamin B. There's B1, B2, B3, B6, B12... It's easy to get confused. On top of that, there are acids, missing letters and numbers too. It's hard to get to grips with it. Get as many of them as you can and make sure you're trying to fill in the gaps. After all, they help all systems in the long run, from your skin to your sight.

Where Can They Be Found?

Vitamin A

Dairy, orange vegetables, dark green vegetables.

Vitamin B1

Cereals, bread, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin B2

Milk, eggs, almonds, mushrooms.

Vitamin B3

Meat, fish, brown carbs, nuts.

Vitamin B6

Meat, fish, eggs, fruits.

Vitamin B12

Meat, fish, eggs, shellfish.

Vitamin C

Citrusy fruits, greens, red veg & fruit.

Vitamin D

Oily fish, eggs (sunlight does the most!).

Vitamin E

Seed oils, seeds and nuts.

Vitamin K

Greens!

Folic Acid

Leafy greens, peas, beans, berries.

Minerals

The other vital player and hugely broad micronutrient category is minerals. There are a lot of them, and they don’t always sound like they should be in your diet. The thing is though, all of these minerals in trace amounts are vital for your body to do what it needs to.

Often, these come in the form of elements like iron and magnesium that are found in natural sources and even water that all help things run smoothly. They help your memory, circulation, growth, and everything in between. Just like with vitamins, it’s easy to miss a few out. Make sure you’re getting all of them!

Where Can They Be Found?

Calcium

Dairy and dairy alternatives.

Fluoride

Tap water.

Iodine

Dairy and fish.

Iron

Beans, pulses, meat and fish.

Magnesium

Nuts, seeds, grains.

Phosphorous

Red meat, dairy.

Potassium

Fruit, meat, fish and dairy.

Sodium - Salt

Everything, cut down!

Selenium

Nuts, seeds and meat.

Zinc

Meat, fish, dairy and seeds.

These are just some of the biggest macro and micronutrients out there to get what you need, and just about everything has some of everything. Make sure that you’re sticking to a balanced diet and eat as healthily (and as colourfully) as you can do. That truly is the best advice that you can take.

For more information, check out this awesome article from nutrition.org.uk

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/basics/exploring-nutrients.html?limitstart=0


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