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Micronutrients and Macronutrients are essential compounds that you should include throughout your eating plan and if you’re not on one, there are so many foods here that you can incorporate into your eating style.

There are three main food groups they consist of and we need to consume them daily because they are crucial for the proper functioning of tissues and organs in the body.

Macronutrients

Protein

What is it?

This macronutrient is found throughout the body and it can be obtained from various food sources. Interestingly, we may not need as much of it as is commonly believed.

Here are a few basic nutritional facts about this essential nutrient.

Macro and micronutrients: carrots, juices, carrot dishes as good example of a food that contains all of them
Photo credits: Unsplash / Pexels | Graphics: cravenutritionalcooking.com
  • Protein is made up of one or more long chains of amino acids which are molecules that combine to form actual proteins and they are the building blocks of life.
  • The chemical composition of amino acids is carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen and these chemicals form the basis of all living things.
  • Proteins give cells their shape and structure as they help in the production of energy and transport molecules to cells.
  • As you can see it is an essential building block in any cellular organism or life form.

Why do we need it

We need Protein nutrients to help break down the food we digest.

They also help build muscle mass and boost our metabolism.

Protein also maintains and repairs tissue so the body can heal itself from injury so it’s beneficial for physical activity and why athletes love it.

How much Protein do you need?

general guideline for calculating your daily intake is consuming about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight.

According to the School of Public Health, we only need just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight3.

Sources

Protein can be found in many foods in whole and fresh forms. Below is a list of the most common plant-based and animal sources of Macronutrients:

  • Eggs (Dairy)
  • Nut
  • Chicken
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt (Dairy)
  • Milk (Dairy)
  • Broccoli
  • Grains
  • Sprouts
  • Red Meat (Beef)
  • Fish
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Healthy Fats

What are ‘good’ Fats?

In the context of macronutrients, these fats are commonly referred to as ‘good’ fats because they don’t necessarily make you gain weight or are bad for your heart health.

They can help you control your weight and are beneficial for heart health as they contain antioxidants that protect blood vessels from oxidation and damage, keeping them flexible as they contract and expand for healthy blood flow.

They fall under three categories namely SaturatedMonounsaturated and
Polyunsaturated fats.

Why do we need healthy fats and what do they do?

‘Good’ fats are excellent sources of fuel or energy because it is absorbed into the bloodstream and less of it is converted into fat, meaning it is burned rather than stored.

Monounsaturated fats, which are Omega 9, aid in lowering the risk of heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

Polyunsaturated fats, which are Omega 3 & 6, reduce inflammation, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of heart disease, and facilitate the building of cell membranes.

How much do you need?

It is important to balance out the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 to get their full benefit.

Also, fats and oils should be used in their natural or un-hydrogenated state ie. avoid processed foods and treated fats such as vegetable oils.

Sources of Good Fats

Monounsaturated fats (Omega 9)

  • Chia
  • Flax
  • Hemp
  • Pumpkin and Sesame seeds
  • Algae
  • Salmon
  • Ghee and Butter
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Almonds and Walnuts
  • Coconut (Raw)
  • Sesame and Olive oil

Polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3 & 6)

Omega-3

  • Salmon, Sardines, Pilchards, Mackerel, Anchovies
  • Eggs (Dairy)
  • Flaxseeds (Linseeds) including Flaxseed Oil
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh – Approximately 365 milligrams of Omega-3 fats1
  • Canola Oil
  • Walnuts – Almonds, Macadamia nuts, Hazelnuts and Pecans are also heart-healthy
  • Soybeans
  • Margarines (fortified foods), Juices and Yogurts

Omega-6

  • Soybeans
  • Tempeh –  There are almost 6,000 milligrams of Omega-6 fats2
  • Corn
  • Nuts – Walnuts and Pine Nuts
  • Red meat, Poultry, Fish and dairy eggs
  • Sunflower oil as well as Safflower
  • Seeds – Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds

Carbohydrates

What are Carbs and are they all bad?

No, they’re not all bad or fattening.

Carbohydrates provide essential energy and are an important part of a healthy diet.

They are found in the sugars, starches, and fibers of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products as well as grains.

Carbohydrates are divided into what is most commonly known as Simple and Complex Carbs, the difference is how quickly the sugars are absorbed and digested.

So why do we need it and what does it do exactly?

Simple Carbs provide a burst of energy and they are found in both natural and refined sugars. Because they provide a quick spike in blood sugar levels, they can cause them to drop just as quickly.

Complex Carbs on the other hand provide a more sustained energy source, meaning it provides a slower release of energy. This is great because it stabilizes your blood sugar levels and consequently prevents a sharp drop in it. Complex Carbs are perfect for diabetics because blood sugar maintenance is so crucial for managing their disease properly.

Another amazing health benefit of these nutrients is that they are also low in calories, high in micronutrients, which we’ll discuss further on, and contain no refined sugars.

For those of us who suffer from high blood pressure, they are a great source of low-sodium foods that are equally low in saturated fats, ie. cholesterol, and trans fats, which are considered bad news for heart health.

How much carbohydrates do you need daily?

You need to consume enough carbohydrates every day for a sustained level of energy.

Approximately two-thirds of your plate should comprise different types of ‘good’ Carbs which include (and are not limited to) an array of fresh whole foods and unprocessed ingredients. Think fresh vegetables, and lots of greens and generally try to eat as many ‘colors’ as you can.

A low daily intake of these macronutrients can lead to dizziness, fatigue, weakness, headaches, and/or constipation because remember, they are not only an important source of energy but can provide a sustained release of it too.

Sources of Carbohydrates


Complex Carbs can be found in:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Parsnips
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables.

Micronutrients

These include vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that each have a specific nutritional value that promotes good health.

Micronutrients – Vitamins

Vitamin A

Provitamin A is found in plant foods in the form of Carotenoids such as Beta Carotene. The body converts Vitamin A when it needs it from Beta Carotene.

These are good for eye health, they support the immune system, facilitate skin health, and function as an antioxidant.

Vitamin B

They play an important part in metabolism and healthy brain function.

The B group consists of B1 (Thiamin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B8 (Biotin), B9 (Folic Acid), and B12.

Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C

It’s the most popular of all vitamins as it supports the immune system and is beneficial for skin health too.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation.

This micronutrient is a powerful antioxidant that protects against the effects of free radical damage so it’s worth adding to your meals.

It also facilitates the production of collagen in the body, L-Carnitine, and some neurotransmitters3.

Water-soluble Vitamin C helps absorb minerals such as Iron which is beneficial if you are anemic or have an iron deficiency.

Calciferol or Vitamin D

This is a micronutrient that we can produce naturally in our bodies, and we can produce vitamin D by simply going outside and getting some sunshine!

Vitamin D also helps with the absorption of calcium as well as supporting our immune system.

Tocopherol or Vitamin E

This vitamin is amazing for skin health and a very popular ingredient in cosmetic products.

It is a powerful antioxidant and because of this also contributes to cardiovascular health because it plays a role in preventing the oxidation of blood vessel walls.

Phytonadione or Vitamin K

It’s essential for blood clotting and it’s also important for bone and heart health.

The most common form of this vitamin is K1 which can be found in plant foods like dark, leafy greens such as Broccoli, Kale, and Spinach.

Sources of Vitamins

Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C
  • Kale (x2 the amount than Spinach)
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Bell Peppers
  • Brussel Sprouts
Calciferol or Vitamin D
  • Oily fish eg. Salmon, Sardines, Mackerel
  • Red Meat
  • Liver
  • Egg Yolks (Dairy)
  • Margarine (fortified fat spreads)
  • Cereals (fortified)
Tocopherol or Vitamin E
  • Sunflower, Safflower Oil, Wheat Germ Oil
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocado
Phytonadione or Vitamin K
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Fish
  • Liver
  • Meat
  • Eggs (Dairy)
  • Breakfast cereals (fortified)

Micronutrients – Minerals

Calcium

It is the most abundant mineral in the body and 99% of it is found in our bones.

Calcium maintains bone mineralization, facilitates cell communication, and aids with muscle contraction.

Sources of Calcium

  • Yoghurt (Dairy)
  • Seeds – Calcium
  • Salmon and Sardines
  • Legumes
  • Lentils

Magnesium

This mineral plays a vital role in enzyme activity in that they regulate them, making sure they function properly as relates to their chemical reactions.

They are also important for energy production at a cellular level as well as being an essential micronutrient for cardiovascular health.

They also help with relaxing muscles and so they’re a great supplement to aid sleep.

Sources of Magnesium

  • Bananas
  • Raw Cacao – So you can get this dark chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Legumes
  • Tofu

Iron

This mineral is crucial in the transportation of oxygen to our tissues and cells.

A deficiency can lead to fatigue and anemia, so it is an essential nutrient to all humans irrespective of age.

Sources of Iron

  • Meats – source of Heme iron
  • Chicken – source of Heme iron
  • Seafood – source of Heme iron
  • Kale and Spinach
  • Grains – Fortified
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Legumes

Phosphorous

This essential mineral is used to build healthy bones, produce energy and create new cells.

In conjunction with calcium, it is important for overall well-being as it aids in building bone and teeth strength, muscle contraction and recovery, and assists in the production of DNA and RNA.

Source of Phosphorous

  • Dairy
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Legumes
  • Nuts

Selenium

This ‘trace’ mineral – meaning we only need them in small quantities – is part of the enzyme Glutathione Peroxidase that protects cells and cell membranes from oxidative damage, making it function as an antioxidant.

Source of Selenium

  • Seafood
  • Chicken
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oatmeal
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Lentils

Zinc

Zinc is also referred to as a ‘trace’ mineral element and is found in cells throughout the body.

It supports the immune system and is well-known as a remedy for colds.

It is also excellent for skin health as it aids in the production of oil in the skin thereby helping maintain moisture.

Source of Zinc

  • Red meat
  • Shell Fish – Oysters
  • Legumes
  • Seeds – Pumpkin, Hemp and Sesame

Phytonutrients

These are also referred to as Phytochemicals or antioxidants. They are natural chemicals found in plants that protect them from infections (bacterial or fungal), insects, and the sun.

All Fruits and vegetables are rich in these micronutrients and it is important to consume all types and as many colors across the spectrum to get their full benefits.

Phytonutrients are beneficial in building immune health because they promote heart health as well as bone and eye health.

They also fight inflammation and assist in cancer prevention. So it’s just another reason to make sure that you are eating all the colors from a range of vegetables and fruits.

Source of Phytonutrients

  • All vegetables
  • All Fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes

Getting the right Macro and Micronutrients balance daily

The best way to track your intake is to plan your meals in advance. That way, you plan each dish it is easier to see where you’re sourcing those nutrients from and how you’re consuming them.

This way you can optimize your intake of macro and micronutrients. You will ensure the proper absorption of those constituents when you integrate them with other ingredients.

Conclusion

Think about consuming a balance of Micro and Macronutrients in all your meals.

If you focus on getting a portion of all vitamins and minerals from both nutrient groups then you can make sure you are targeting all the right nutrients. This is especially beneficial when you are suffering from ailments.

It’s always good to understand what these nutrients do for you exactly and not just assume that they’re just generically healthy.

Some may even contribute to the healing of specific health conditions and you may not even be aware of it.

I hope this inspires you to relook your current eating or meal plans and see where you can include more macro and micronutrients.

Your daily intake of macro and micronutrients

Would you like to see separate recipes here focussing on specific nutrients? If you liked this article you’ll love this blog post on the health benefits of Kale.

Let me know in the comment section below.

All feedback gives me insight into what you value most about cooking with essential nutrients.

*cravenutritionalcooking.com does not give medical advice. Where there is reference to it, it is used to illustrate a point or give context to food and cooking for nutrition. It is not related to a specific condition or to any specific individual. Always consult your healthcare professional for medical and dietetic advice before embarking on any type of eating plan or ingesting nutritional supplements.

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References

Nutrition Basics. Washington State University website. The Nutrition Basics section. Available at https://mynutrition.wsu.edu/nutrition-basics
Top 12 Foods That Are High in Phosphorus. Healthline website. Nutrition section. Available at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-phosphorus
What are the health benefits of phosphorus? Medical News Today website. Articles section. Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325623
What Are Phytonutrients? Fruits and Veggies website. Stories section. Available at https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/what-are-phytochemicals/
20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin K. Healthline website. Nutrition section. Available at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-vitamin-k – TOC_TITLE_HDR_2
Sources and types of carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar Nutrition Resource website. The Basics section. Available at https://www.sugarnutritionresource.org/the-basics/sources-and-types-of-carbohydrates-and-sugar
 https://www.livestrong.com/article/343966-how-to-calculate-protein-rda/
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/20-delicious-high-protein-foods
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161547 – :~:text=Carbohydrates are the main source, of milk sugar called lactose.
 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318617#tips
Pinnock, Dale. The Nutrition Bible. London: Quadrille, 2020. Print

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