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Macronutrients and food groups: Part 1 of 7

This is the first of a seven-part series about the nutrients our body needs to survive and the foods we get those nutrients from. I find that people are often confused about macronutrients and food groups. Maybe they have heard of them, but they are not totally sure what they are or if they need to pay attention to them. “Do I pay attention to carbs and protein or am I supposed to get 5 servings of veggies and focus on whole grains!?” In this series I will go into detail about the nutrients our body needs, why they are important and which foods provide those nutrients. Each week I will focus on something different. Today we will start with an overview of the difference between the essential nutrients (macro and micronutrients) and food groups.

Essential nutrients are the things we must eat for our body to function. They are called essential because we our body cannot produce them and we have to get them from the foods we eat. There are 6 categories of essential nutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Protein
  3. Fat
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals
  6. Water

These essential nutrients are divided in groups depending on how much of each we need. Macronutrients are the nutrients we need in large quantities. Macro means large. The macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and protein. These nutrients provide the building blocks for the cells in our body, provide us with energy and help with function and repair of all our body systems.

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients. Micronutrients are the nutrients our body needs in small quantities. Micro means small. Vitamins and minerals are needed for the billions of chemical reactions that happen in our body every second.

The last thing our body needs to survive is water. Water makes up 60-70% of our body. Water is involved in many of the chemical reactions that take place in the body to keep our cells functioning and keeps us alive and well.

Food groups were created to help us talk about the kinds of foods we need to eat to get the essential nutrients. We do not talk about eating nutrients, we talk about eating food. Food is grouped into food groups based on which nutrients they provide the body with. Each group provides us with similar nutrients. The foods represented on the USDA issued MyPlate (formerly called the Food Pyramid) are grains, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. The USDA MyPlate includes the food groups people are encouraged to eat to stay healthy, but there are other categories that I (and many other nutrition experts) think should be added to help represent the way people eat. Those two categories are fats and treats/sweets. More on this in coming weeks.

In the coming weeks I will go more into depth about the essential nutrients, what they do in our body, and what food groups we get them from. Next week I will be focusing on carbohydrates.

Stay healthy!
Lisa Robinson-Mihiar, RDN, LD
ClubWorx Dietitian

Have a question you want Lisa to answer on the blog? Send your questions and ideas to Lisa at lrobinson (at) clubworx.net

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