Macros vs Micros

Thanks to social media, we are bombarded with top tips for healthy living.  But have you noticed they always seem to focus on macronutrients?  These are the three nutrients we need in larger amounts to function and they include protein, fat and carbohydrates.

We generally use these nutrients to yield energy.  Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which can be used by the brain and red blood cells, along with other cells in the body.  Fat too can be used as energy, but it also provides transport for our fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).  Protein is the building blocks of the body; we eat a type of protein, our digestive system breaks it down and then our liver rearranges its component parts into new proteins to be used around the body. 

But, in these top tips or fad diets, they're missing other key nutrients that are important to our health. 

Eating Well

We tend to fall into two camps when it comes to eating well.  There are those of us who know we aren’t great but keep trying and those of us who think we have it nailed.  Recent survey responses collated in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, however, suggest that most of us aren’t doing that well at all.

-          All age groups from 4-65 years old, and 65 years and older demonstrated a folate concentration below the threshold, indicating risk of anaemia - this makes you feel tired and lethargic, amongst other things.

-          Whilst higher in children, Vitamin D status is below the threshold for all age groups - this leads to a whole host of health issues, of most interest, poor immune function.

Additional data highlights that in the UK we are regularly running low on:

-          Vitamin A,

-          Riboflavin,

-          Folic Acid,

-          Calcium,

-          Magnesium,

-          Potassium,

-          Iodine,

-          Copper

-          Selenium,

It appears that females are particularly vulnerable to micronutrient shortfalls, along with the young (in their 20’s).

Micros

Micronutrients are our vitamins and minerals.  Although they are needed in micro amounts in the body, they are still needed. They perform hundreds of roles in the body, from helping wounds to heal, to supporting immune function and helping us feel the way we do! 

Think back to the days of Scurvy – old-time sailors learned that living months without fresh fruit or vegetables caused bleeding gums and listlessness.  This was due to vitamin C deficiency. 

In many developing countries, blindness is an issue due to Vitamin A deficiency.

A case of Vitamin D deficiency can result in rickets, which is when bones become soft and weak.

Of perhaps more relevance at this time of year, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with more severe cold and flu symptoms and severity.

Beta-carotene (which can be converted to Vitamin A) has also been seen as protective in cases of flu. 

In a world where we seem focussed on getting our macros in, perhaps its time to consider how we get our micros in too!  Fruit and veg are great sources of most micronutrients.  Rather than looking at what we need to remove from our diets, maybe we need to start thinking about how much fruit and veg we can get in?

The aim is 5 portions per day, but this should be a minimum, we are noticing significant benefits from eating upwards of this with some countries even advising 10 or 20 portions per day!

How are you getting your portions in?