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In the midst of a society obsessed with weight, diet crazes, and health, it can be hard to find good information about food. The truth is, no food is “bad,” It can be bad to have a lot of it, but the key to eating well is having a diet that you enjoy. That means when you eat chips all day, you should try to find something else with nutrients that you have not yet gotten. 

The “essential nutrients” are compounds that our body needs us to eat, because it can not provide them sufficiently by itself. These are critical to keeping us healthy. People who have mastered the balance of each nutrient in their diet have better overall health. There are two subcategories of essential nutrients, macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are the big events of a meal (or snack!). The large quantity, large reward foods that we can feel working. Once we have eaten them, we feel energized and awake, because they turn into energy in our cells. The three kinds of macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Protein

Protein is the great builder in our bodies. It helps us grow and heal. Protein is everywhere, in your joints, bones, and even hair. Protein is a major component of the immune system, helping defend against disease and maintain good health. This crucial ingredient is made up of amino acids that our bodies do not create independently. This is especially important for young children and pregnant people, both of whom are doing a lot of growing. Protein-rich foods include meats and fish, soy (including tofu), nuts, and eggs. Any of these foods would be a valuable addition to your diet if you are hoping to increase your protein consumption.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates (also known as carbs) are the main source of energy in the body. When your body breaks down the compounds within carbs, it converts into glucose, the sugar that enters your cells and fuels your body. Simple carbs, like sugar or fruit, break down quickly and give you a quick hit of energy. Complex carbs, like starch and fiber, take longer to break down, so they keep you sustained. When you leverage these benefits, you can help your body maximize its energy potential. Avoiding simple carbs before bed helps you get to sleep, but choosing fruits and cereal in the morning gives you that morning rush. Washington State University has compiled a great list of complex carb snacks that you can bring to work and grab on the go.

Fats

One of the most important nutrients in the diet, but people avoid fat like the plague. In fact, fat helps your body absorb nutrients, and promotes agility and blood flow. Those all sound pretty important to me! Fat is also a major contributor to caloric intake, which is a crucial way to stay healthy and growing. Eating healthy fats regularly stabilizes blood sugar and helps prevent inflammation. You can find healthy fats in foods like nuts, fish, and vegetable oils (Healthline recommends olive, avocado, and flaxseed).

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are the small dosage, high impact parts of a healthy diet. That includes vitamins and minerals. Those two are very important to staying healthy, but they can be hard to track down. Since your body can not produce them on its own, you have to rely on nutrient-dense foods and supplements. Many people opt for a multivitamin to cover this category, because it is harder to measure how much you get out of foods. 

Vitamins

Vitamins promote healthy bodies. Without them, we have issues with eyesight, bone density, and much more. There are 13 essential vitamins, which makes it hard to incorporate them into a balanced diet. Since these are so important, we recommend either upping your fruit and vegetable intake, or a multivitamin approach, to ensure that you are getting the right amount of the important ingredients. Vitamins are also strong antioxidants, which means that they help reduce inflammation and keep everything in your body running smoothly. 

Minerals

Minerals act like vitamins, maintaining strong bones and helping your essential bodily functions. Things like calcium and iron are important minerals. You can get minerals through yogurt, leafy greens, most vegetables, soy sauce, and much more. In fact, most foods have some mineral component, but you should make sure you are getting enough of them to prevent a deficit.

Water

Last but certainly not least, water is a very essential nutrient. There are almost infinite benefits to good hydration, including improved digestion, energy sustainment, and healthy hair, skin, and nails. Drinking enough water is crucial to staying healthy and optimizing your body.