When it comes to diet and healthy lifestyles, the one thing we’ve all heard about is calories. Instead of looking at foods for how they interact with your body, people look at the number count. Many restaurants have even begun to publish the calories next to dishes on their menu. We spend calories like we spend cash: with a budget.
But our bodies need more than just the calorie count. And everyone who has ever successfully lost weight knows that once you stop counting the calories, there’s a good chance you’ll gain it all back. So instead of analyzing the calories in a dish, maybe we should be looking at something else. And today’s blog post is all about that something else: micronutrients and macronutrients.
WHAT IS A MICRONUTRIENT?
Micronutrients are essentially the chemicals in what we eat. And no I don’t mean the periodic table. Most of time when people are talking about micronutrients, they are referring to the vitamins and minerals you’re getting from your food. If you’re looking at a food and considering it as a great source of iron or vitamin K, you’re looking at the micronutrients.
WHAT IS A MACRONUTRIENT?
Macronutrients, or macros, are a bit more commonly counted. When you hear someone saying they’re tracking their macros, they are talking about macronutrients. There are three types of macros: fat, protein and carbs. If you were on a macro type diet, you would consider the macro count of a food towards your daily allotment instead of the calories.
WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Our bodies need both macro and micronutrients to survive. And in all honesty, you don’t really get one without the other when you eat. It’s just more common to see someone counting their macronutrients rather than their micronutrients. But both nutrients contribute to creating a healthy diet and lifestyle. We need a balance of both to be healthy. And for some with deficiencies, we might even need more of one particular one.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I COUNT?
I’m not an advocate for counting anything food related. I think when you “budget” your food you take away your ability to really listen to your body. As someone who has tried many a diet, I know that when I’ve counted calories I’ve neglected the nutrients. Eating 100 calories of broccoli wasn’t as appealing as 100 calories of chocolate. And definitely not quite as healthy. It’s good to be aware of both but I wouldn’t recommend counting either.
IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?
At the end of the day, we really need both macro and micronutrients. If you’re feeling run down or trying to lose weight, making sure your getting a good balance of healthy fats, carbs & protein in every meal can make a big difference. When we balance our meals and try to eat the rainbow (aka have several colors on your plate every meal), we do a better job at making sure our bodies are getting what they need. So if you’re feeling like your diet could be better, try to focus on creating a meal that includes a bit of all of the macros. Like with most aspects of life, balance is key. And taking the time to make the extra effort will pay off in the long run.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T GET ENOUGH MACRO OR MICRONUTRIENTS?
There’s probably a good chance every meal won’t be balanced. And maybe you’re like a lot of others and your diet needs some extra supplements. You’re not alone. Depending on your diet, it might be wise to supplement micronutrients in the form of vitamins and mineral to make sure you’re getting what you need. Otherwise, you could end up with vitamin deficiencies that cause other problems.
As far as macros go, try to focus on not having too much of one thing per meal. Body Love by Kelly Leveque* is a great place to start if you’re looking to get into more detail. Kelly shares a lot about eating balanced meals and the impact it has on your health. She also focuses heavily on eating meals that help maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Instead of banishing foods, she creates meals that allow for your body to be at it’s best by balancing the amount of fats, carbs, fiber and protein in each meal.
When it comes down to it, we need an array of micronutrients and macronutrients. Sure, you could count calories and macros until you’re blue in the face. But a healthy lifestyle comes with knowing your body and being able to listen to its needs. If your body needs extra carbs but it doesn’t fit your macros, you’re less likely to listen to that need. Take the time to get to know your body. Eat the rainbow and focus on balanced meals. Both you and your body will thank you in the long run.