Understanding Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients
There’s some truth to the adage “you are what you eat.” The human body has the amazing ability to process the foods you eat and turn them into, well, you. Whether you eat a steak, an apple, or a piece of cheese, your body will break it down into its chemical components and reassemble those components into your cells and the energy you need to get through the day.
There’s a catch, though. Your body is only as good as the materials it has available to it. The quality of your food plays a huge role in your overall health. A steak isn’t just a steak; an apple isn’t just an apple. Your body breaks these foods down into their chemical parts – specifically, macro- and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are the caloric components of food that give us our energy. These include fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Micronutrients are the individual nutrients you need for good health, including vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
The amount and quality of these nutrients vary greatly in different foods. Processed foods tend to have more macronutrients and fewer micronutrients because processing strips food of many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and make the food more shelf-stable. That means that foods such as bread, cereal grains, dairy products, sweets, and most fast food provide a lot of calories without significant micronutrient content. This type of eating is responsible for many dangerous health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Instead of filling up on processed foods, eat a natural diet rich in micronutrients. These high-quality foods include fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and meat. Keep in mind that even these foods vary in quality. Focus on local foods when possible to cut down on transport time and ensure you’re getting the freshest food possible. Also, try to choose organic options and grass-fed meat if you can; these foods will contain fewer hormones and antibiotics and give your body the best possible fuel for energy. Don’t obsess over it, though. Simply replacing most of the processed foods in your diet with whole natural foods will provide you with significant health benefits.