How Do I Balance My Diet? Understanding the Role of Micronutrients
“How do I balance my diet?” is a question many individuals contemplate when they start working toward a lifestyle of healthy eating. The most common focus is evaluating one’s macronutrient intake, as carbohydrates, protein and fat provide the body with calories. Your specific goal, whether that is weight loss, weight maintenance or weight gain, will tell you how much of each macronutrient you should eat daily. However, there is another category of nutrients, called micronutrients, that individuals should be paying just as much attention to when balancing their diets. This nutrient group consists of all the vitamins and minerals your body requires to live.
Micronutrients are essential to every metabolic process in your body! They help create energy from the food you eat, strengthen your immune system, fight off disease and illness, build strong bones, enhance recovery from exercise and so much more. Think of micronutrients as the “behind the scenes crew,” working to pull off a big concert or the presidential address; you don’t know they’re there, but without them the show would not go on.
While we could spend weeks discussing each vitamin and mineral’s role in the body, it is more important to understand a general view of how certain ones work together to improve your health and where you can find them in food. Knowing the micronutrients you need to help strengthen your immune system, build and maintain strong bones and recover from exercise will help you live a more nutrient-rich life!
Strengthening Immune Health
Lots of vitamins and minerals play a role in immune health, but vitamins A, B6, C, D, E as well as the minerals zinc, selenium, magnesium, iron and copper top the chart in regard to helping your body fight off disease and illness. While you may be thinking, “How will I ever get all these nutrients in my diet?” the truth is that consuming a balanced, nutrient-rich diet will provide you with what you need. Focus on getting a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats into your meals and snacks to help boost your immune health. Let your diet do the work to help you stay healthy and strong.
Build and Maintain Strong Bones
Calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and magnesium are the main micronutrient players when it comes to bone health. Calcium and vitamin D work together to build bone, as without adequate vitamin D you only absorb about 10-20 percent of the calcium consumed. The best sources of calcium in the diet are dairy foods (cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt), but some calcium can also be found in fortified and plant foods. Vitamin D can be found in milk, egg yolk and fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines), but is ideally “consumed” with 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure in the middle of the day.
Recovery from Exercise
While a variety of micronutrients are needed to support exercise, focusing on antioxidants and omega 3-fatty acids can help with the recovery process. Antioxidants help protect cell membranes from the oxidative damage that occurs during exercise. They are a classification of vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium, zinc and copper. Polyphenols and flavonoids that are found in plants also have antioxidant properties. Bright colored fruits and vegetables are the body’s biggest suppliers of antioxidants, as they are loaded with the nutrients required to rebuild, recover and restore. Animal and plant proteins also provide the body with an abundance of zinc and selenium. In addition, omega 3 fatty acids play a role in decreasing cellular inflammation and can be found in fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, sardines), walnuts, flaxseeds and soy foods.
Understanding which macronutrient foods (carbohydrates, protein and fat) will provide you with the most micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is vital in balancing your diet and eating more nutrient-rich. So, as you head to the grocery store this week, fill your basket up with foods that help strengthen your immune system and health!
If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.
Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.