We’re often told that we should eat “a balanced, nutritious diet”.
But many of us don’t fully understand what exactly that means, or why it’s so important.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the nutrients our bodies need in large quantities in order to function properly. The three primary macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and play an important role in the proper functioning of our brain and central nervous system. They can be found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, bread, and pasta.
Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies and play an essential role in the growth and repair of our tissues. Rich sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Fats are also essential for our health, as they help absorb vitamins and minerals, provide insulation for our organs, and aid in hormone production. Healthy fats can be found in foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and vegetable cooking oils.
Water is another macronutrient that often gets overlooked, but it is just as important as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. While water does not provide energy like other macronutrients, it is still essential for our overall health and well-being. It plays a crucial role in countless bodily functions, including regulating body temperature, transporting nutrients, and aiding in digestion. Even slight dehydration can lead to digestive issues, decreased energy levels, and reduced physical and mental performance.
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are the nutrients our bodies need in smaller quantities but are still essential for our overall health. Vitamins and minerals are the two basic types of micronutrients.
Vitamins are essential for maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and immune function. They can be found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and fortified cereals.
Minerals are also important for our health, as they play a role in maintaining strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses, and regulating our heart rate. Good sources of these include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and meats.
Each different vitamin and mineral has its own unique role in maintaining your health. A deficiency of any of these essential nutrients can lead to serious health issues.
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
If you are eating a varied diet that includes plenty of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, you probably don’t need to spend much effort tracking your nutrient intake.
However, if you have a specific health concern, eat lots of processed meals and snacks, or if you’re following a restrictive diet for any reason, you may need to pay closer attention to make sure you’re getting enough of each of the essential nutrients.
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all the different food groups ensures that you get the macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs to function properly. A balanced diet is also essential for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Focus on Nutrient Density
If you want to ensure that you’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet, focusing on nutrient density is key.
Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients a food provides in comparison to its calorie count. A food that is nutrient dense provides a lot of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients for a relatively low number of calories.
These foods allow you to get all the nutrients your body needs to function properly, without overconsuming excess calories. This will then also help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Here are some extra tips to help improve your diet:
● Choose whole foods: Whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, are generally high in nutrient density.
● Include leafy greens: Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. Try to include them in your diet regularly.
● Limit processed foods: Processed foods are often low in nutrient density and high in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients. Try to limit your intake of these foods and choose whole foods instead.
● Avoid added sugars: Foods and drinks that are high in added sugars, such as soda and candy, are often low in nutrient density. Try to limit your intake of these foods and choose healthier alternatives instead.
By focusing on nutrient density, you can make sure you’re getting as many nutrients as possible from your meals and snacks. This can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of illness, and support your overall health and well-being.