Eating right is the cornerstone for good health, no matter what age you are. However, knowing what nutrients your body needs can be confusing, especially when it comes to decoding key terms, such as macronutrients and micronutrients.
Fortunately, understanding the basics of good nutrition isn’t as complex as it might seem. Dr. Ranjit S. Grewal and the team at Houston Family MD, in Cypress, Texas, is dedicated to helping patients understand nutritional concepts. Here are a few basics you should know.
Nutrients and health
Most people think of their diet in terms of how much they weigh and how their diet influences their weight. But, your diet influences a lot more than your weight. It has a direct influence on your overall health.
Foods contain the nutrients you need to maintain good heart health, optimize digestion and metabolism, and ward off diseases and illnesses. Nutrients also help your body replenish damaged cells and aid in healing. Knowing the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients can help ensure you get the right combination of nutrients at every stage of life.
Macronutrients vs. micronutrients
Even though these terms differ by just one letter, they mean entirely different things, and the difference is actually pretty simple. The term “macronutrients” refers to large dietary categories, specifically carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. The term “micronutrients” refers to individual nutrients, such as specific vitamins and minerals.
Macronutrients form the foundation for the federal dietary guidelines as well as for several popular diets, such as the keto diet and the paleo diet. For instance, the federal dietary guidelines recommend that most adults consume the following amounts of macronutrients daily:
- 45-65% of calories derived from carbohydrates
- 20-35% of calories derived from fat
- 10-35% of calories derived from protein
It’s important to note, though, that macronutrient recommendations vary based on age. For example, under these guidelines, toddlers need less protein and more fat, while adolescents and teens need more protein and just slightly more fat.
Certainly, using macronutrients as a general guideline for diets is more convenient for consumers. Keeping track of dozens of micronutrients would be a lot more complicated.
Still, you need to be sure you’re getting the right combination of micronutrients in order to stay healthy. In fact, many diets that focus solely on macronutrients can leave you depleted of important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to fight off diseases and function properly.
Vitamins and minerals — the “building blocks” of nutrition — play vital roles in having good health. For example, they help control your metabolism, immune function, bone health, fluid balance, and organ health and function. Micronutrients can be divided into four groups:
- Fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K), which dissolve in fat, but not water
- Water-soluble vitamins (C and B vitamin family), which dissolve in water, not fat
- Microminerals, including calcium, sodium, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium
- Trace minerals or trace nutrients, such as copper, iron, zinc, manganese, and selenium
Your body needs all of these micronutrients in varying quantities, and the amount you need will depend on certain factors, such as your age, lifestyle, and health history.
Making sense of it all
Following a healthy diet doesn’t have to be difficult, but figuring out what you need can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. After all, your nutritional needs can vary a lot based on your age, your health history, your family risk factors, and other variables. Good nutrition depends on understanding these variables and how they interact with your nutritional needs.
At Houston Family MD, our team offers nutrition consultations that incorporate a physical exam, medical testing, and a thorough review of your medical history and lifestyle. Following the consultation, we can identify potential nutritional deficiencies and recommend healthy eating guidelines tailored to you. We can take the guesswork out of a healthy eating plan, so you can get the nutrients you need without worry or frustration.
The beginning of the year is a great time to focus on healthy habits, and one of the most important habits you can form is the habit of eating well. To learn how Dr. Grewal can help, call 281-477-0525 or book an appointment online at Houston Family MD today.