When it comes to taking care of your body, exercise is just one element of many for leading a healthy lifestyle. What you put into your body, and how much of it, is just as important as exercise. What you eat becomes the all-powerful fuel that propels your body, giving your body what it needs to be healthy and functional. When it comes down to it, your body needs a healthy balance of both micronutrients and macronutrients.
At the most basic level, macronutrients provide the nutrients and sustenance that your body needs in large amounts to function properly. They do this by providing your body with energy, or calories. Micronutrients, by contrast, are needed by the body in smaller amounts, but they are also essential for healthy bodily function.1
Macronutrients fall under three major categories:
Carbohydrates are a critical component of a macrobiotic diet. They serve many macronutrient purposes in the body, but their primary functions include:
- Providing fuel in the form of calories (especially during exercise);
- Preserving protein (which helps preserve muscle mass while exercising);
- Acting as fuel and energy for your central nervous system – aka real life brain food.3
Carbohydrates also include the starches and sugars that can be found in cereal, bread, fruit, and vegetables.4 When your food is digested, your body transforms the carbohydrates into basic sugars, such as glucose, galactose, and fructose. Each of these are then stored in the liver until the body is ready to use them.5
Depending on your lifestyle and your general level of physical activity, the amount of carbohydrates your body needs varies. For example, if you are an active individual, carbohydrates should make up approximately 60 percent of your daily calories. If you’re less active, carbohydrates should make up between 40 and 50 percent of your daily calories.6
And if you’re considering a low carbohydrate diet, consider this – some of the healthiest foods on the planet – fruits and vegetables – are made up of carbohydrates. So think low carb, not no carb.
Like carbohydrates, proteins are a significant part of a well-rounded macrobiotic diet. Proteins are important parts of cell plasma membranes, and a key component of enzymes that regulate metabolism. Proteins also:
Provide tissue structure for organs, muscle, hair, bones, tendons, ligaments, and blood plasma;
Help balance the acids and bases (pH) in the body7
A wide array of foods are rich in protein, including many vegan-friendly options. Beans, lentils, nuts, grains (like brown rice and quinoa), and seeds are all excellent sources of protein and are easily found in most grocery stores.8
The amount of protein that makes up a healthy diet depends on how active someone is, as well as their age. As a general rule, the body can utilize no more than .91 grams of protein per pound of body weight.9 A person’s activity level determines their ideal protein intake.
Fats get a bad rap sometimes, but the fact is, they are key to your health. Fats serve as a way to store energy for future use. They also protect important organs like your heart, provide insulation, and help transport fat-soluble vitamins.11
While carbohydrates and proteins should be consumed in larger amounts, fats should only make up about 20-35 percent of your daily calories.12 Fats can be found in non-animal foods like nuts, seeds, and oils (olive and vegetable).13
Now that you have a better idea of what macronutrients are and how they fit into your diet, it is important to understand how macronutrients balance with micronutrients.
Micronutrients are essential to your diet, but you need fewer amounts of them than you do macronutrients. Micronutrients play a central role in the maintenance of tissue function, as well as in metabolism.14 They are found in essential vitamins (both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins), minerals, and even water (especially mineral water).15
Key foods that contain vital micronutrients include:
- A (veggies high in carotene, like carrots and sweet potatoes)
- B1 (whole grains, dried beans, legumes, and nuts)
- B2 (whole grains, yellow and green veggies)
- B6 (potatoes, bananas, nuts, and chickpeas)
- B12 (cereals, yeast, and algae)
- C (citrus fruits, berries, and peppers)
- D (cereals, mushrooms, and sunlight)
- E (seeds and nuts, vegetable oil)
- Folic acid (wheat germ, dark leafy veggies)16
Important minerals and their sources include:
- Calcium (legumes, almonds, and fortified non-dairy milk)
- Potassium (oranges, bananas, and potatoes)
- Sodium (bread, table salt)
- Iron (brown rice, quinoa, lentils, and legumes)
- Zinc (whole grains, fortified non-dairy milk, and legumes)17
Consuming vitamins, minerals, and water in the proper amounts helps promote many of body’s functions. These include tissue building and maintenance, assisting the nervous system, breaking down glucose and protein, forming hormones, promoting strong teeth and bones, and building DNA.18
Micronutrients or Macronutrients: It’s All About Balance
Both micro- and macronutrients are essential for a healthy, well-functioning body. One thing to keep in mind as you begin to find your own balance between micro- and macronutrients, however, is that quality is just as important as quantity. In other words, it is important to fuel your body with the right types of foods, vitamins, and minerals. This ensures that you’re not just filling up with unhealthy foods which significantly lack nutritional value.
As you learn more about a balanced diet and exercise regimen that works for you, consider how the foods you eat serve as fuel for your body. If you’re unsure about the right balance for you, your physician or nutritionist may be a great resource for finding the right foods and proper proportions.
For more health tips, keep reading:
How to Boost Your Immune System To Avoid Getting Sick This Winter