I’m sure at one point or another you have heard the words macronutrients and micronutrients. What exactly are they and why are they important? Both are two types of nutrients that our bodies need to thrive. Macronutrients are needed in large amounts to create energy and fuel the body. There are three primary macronutrients, Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. We need all three for growth and development. Micronutrients are your vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and antioxidants found in foods. Micronutrients are essential to our overall health and wellness. They aid in production of enzymes, hormones, and proteins that are critical for body and brain function. They also help regulate metabolism as well as other processes.
Each of the three macros have important roles throughout the body. Carbohydrates break down foods into glucose, which is used easily for energy. They also prevent the breakdown of proteins and fatty acids. Foods such as refined white sugar, brown sugar, white bread, and candy are referred to as simple carboyhrdates. They are easily processed but are quickly gone. This is why you experience a “sugar rush” or rush of energy and then a crash after eating these foods. Complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to metabolize, which leave you feeling fuller for longer. These are foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and legumes.
- Simple Carbs= hungry in 30 min
- Complex Carbs= fuller for a few hours
The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates are usually around 35-50% but for pregnant women it’s around 45-65%. While pregnant, a mother’s major source of energy is from fats, while a baby’s main source of energy comes from carbs and proteins. If you are pregnant, I wouldn’t suggest a low carb diet, such as Atkins or Keto.
Fats can be a scary for a lot of people. Eating the RIGHT fats are actually really important for the body. They transport nutrients, cushion organs and joints, and provide energy. They also help form brain tissue and nerve cell membranes. Your daily intake of fats should be around 20-35% of your overall daily calories. Focusing on good fats is essential since they help lower cholesterol levels.
For pregnant women, fats help with the development of baby’s brain and central nervous system. During the last trimester, the most rapid period of brain development happens, so it is essential to eat the right amount of good fats. Good fats come from foods such as avocados, almonds, fish, flax seeds, and olive oil. For a more detailed breakdown on fats, visit my earlier post here
Proteins are super important throughout the body. Proteins are converted to amino acids which are needed to make new cells as well as manufacture enzymes and hormones. Protein is vital in the maintenance of the body, including development and repair. Hair, skin, eyes, muscles, and organs are all made from proteins. The recommended daily intake of protein is roughly 0.34 grams per pound of body weight. For a sedentary man weighing 175 lbs., his protein intake would be about 59g. (175 X 0.34) Many factors play a part in calculating the right amount of protein for each individual, such as activity level, age, muscle mass, and fitness goals.
For pregnant women, protein affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps stabilize blood sugar, making you less prone to gestational diabetes. It is recommended the daily intake of protein should be between 50 to 100 grams a day. This is different for everyone, talking with your doctor can help you figure out the right amount for you!
Protein in Foods:
- Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless)- 3oz. =28g
- Pork Tenderloin- 3oz. =21g
- Lean Beef- 3oz. =21g
- Fish Fillets- 3oz. =20g
- Cottage cheese (low-fat)- ½ cup =15g
- Yogurt- 8oz. =13g
- Egg- 1 large =6g
- Almonds- ¼ cup =8g
- Pumpkin seeds- ¼ cup =8g
- Brown rice- 1 cup =5g
Micronutrients are most common in fruits and vegetables. They can also be found in dairy, nuts, poultry, and lean meats. Micronutrients protect our bodies from disease and help every bodily system properly function. The functions of micronutrients are synthesizing DNA, producing digestive enzymes, breaking down cards, fats, and proteins for energy, aiding in bone mineralization, helping with hormone production, slowing oxidation damage (signs of aging), protecting the brain, amongst many others. No single type of food contains all the micronutrients needed, which is why we need a variety in our daily diet.
Vitamins are the most common form of micronutrients. Vitamins can be water soluble vitamins, which are all the B vitamins and vitamin C. These are lost easily through urine and other bodily fluids, so it is important to replenish these vitamins daily. Or they can be fat soluble vitamins, which are A, D, E, and K. Fat soluble vitamins can accumulate within the bodily tissue, so we don’t have to replenish them as often.
Another important nutrient we need is minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, iron, zinc, etc. As well as trace elements like cooper, manganese, iodine, and selenium. Minerals and other trace elements play a large part in the body, like bone development, brain health, cellular functions, and supporting metabolism.
Examples of Micronutrient foods:
- Green Leafy Vegetables: Vitamin C, A, K, folate, and magnesium
- Red Peppers, Broccoli, Squash, Carrots: fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A and C
- Strawberries, Raspberries, blueberries: Vitamin A and C, fiber, and potassium
- Chia seeds, Flax seeds, Almonds, Walnuts: Vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium
- Beans: calcium, manganese, folate, and iron
Macronutrients and micronutrients help your body thrive. Eating a variety of healthy foods will keep your body working to the best of its ability. It may seem like a lot of information to keep up with but if you remember to eat lean protein, healthy fats, and mostly complex carbs, as well as a variety of different fruits and vegetables, your body is getting the nutrients needed to keep you healthy and strong. This is where I apply the 80/20 rule to my daily diet. If I can eat healthy foods 80% of the time, I know my body is getting everything it needs, so I don’t have to worry if I decide to have pizza for dinner or an extra slice of cake for dessert. 🙂