- Nutrients we need for life are broke down into macronutrients and micronutrients.
- Macronutrients include nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and water.
- Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
- People should start with getting proper macronutrients and then look at micronutrients needs.
We live in an exciting time because we know more about essential nutrition than we ever have known. Of all the fields of science, nutrition is one of the only ones that can really optimize your health. There are certain nutrients you need that are essential to your health, and when you get them, your health improves. Diet, after all, is an essential component of healthy aging.
Macronutrients and Micronutrients
Nutrients we need for life are broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are nutrients that you need in large amounts and include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and water. Macronutrients are called “macros” for short.
Minimal Macronutrients to Survive
The amounts of these needed daily vary, but here are the minimums that adults need:
- 60 grams carbohydrates (240 calories)
- 0.8 grams protein for every 2.2 lbs, assuming a 150 lb person, 55 grams (220 calories)
- Fat is 0.2- 0.25 grams per pound body weight; assuming a 150 lb person, 38 grams fat (342 calories)
- 25 grams fiber (0 calories)
- Water to equal 1 ounce for every 2 pounds of your body weight (0 calories)
If you ate these minimal amounts, you would only get about 800 calories. That’s why most people will eat about three times this amount every day. Those on a diet will usually eat up to two times the above-mentioned amounts. However, the breakdown looks more like this:
|100 grams carbohydrates
|110 grams protein
|74 grams fat
|25 grams fiber
What are the Macros for the Standard American Diet?
If someone is eating the standard American diet, they are generally eating a lot more carbohydrates. It’s not uncommon for some men to eat 200 grams carbohydrates a day, and for athletes to eat up to 250 grams carbohydrates daily. Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories.
A 5-ounce burger is 35 grams protein or 140 calories but if that protein has a higher amount of fat in it, you might have to add another 120 calories to make up for that difference. This is why some burgers could be up to 300 calories, especially if they have an additional slice of cheese on them.
Macros vary, depending on the type of diet you are on. A low carb diet will have carbohydrates down closer to 60 grams a day. A keto diet will have carbohydrates closer to 30 grams a day and fat will be higher. Protein is usually higher on a keto diet as well. A diabetic diet will have carbohydrates lower around the 60 grams a day if the diabetic wants to regain better blood sugar control.
A diet meant to lose weight could limit calories to as low as 550 a day, such as on an intermittent fasting diet, and if so, then all the macros will be lower than the minimal amounts.
What About the Micronutrients?
The micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. They are needed in lesser amounts. For example, calcium is the mineral that is needed in the greatest amount of all the micronutrients – and still, you only need a maximum of 2.2 grams a day.
This amount is reserved for those with osteoporosis. Those without osteoporosis only need 800 mg a day. Since there are 1000 mg in 1 gram, that’s not a lot – and it’s nowhere compared to the 60 grams you need of carbohydrates. This is why the vitamins and minerals are called micronutrients.
But don’t think that because you need so much less it’s not that important. You need them just as much as the macros because a vitamin or mineral deficiency could cause death. This is why many people take multiple vitamins and minerals and read the labels carefully to make sure all the vitamins and minerals are covered in 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
If you are getting the RDA, it won’t reverse vitamin and mineral deficiencies you may have, but it will prevent them from worsening. This is why it’s so important to set up an appointment with a clinical nutritionist or integrative medicine doctor that specializes in nutrition.
You need to know where your nutritional status is starting from in order to make a difference in your health.
Expecting that a regular vitamin and mineral tablet like a one-a-day will insure good health is like thinking a bath once a week will leave you smelling good all week. Most one-a-day vitamin and mineral tablets are not adequate enough. They alone will not help you meet your essential nutrition needs, and if you have illness, your vitamin and mineral needs rise to much higher levels.
We Continue Learning MoreAbout Nutrition’s Usefulness
As more and more scientists from around the world share their essential nutrition research, the body of nutrition grows. The greater it expands, the greater our ability improves to reverse illnesses with proper nutrition.
For example, about a decade ago, scientists discovered that the needs for vitamin D were not being met by over half the population. They linked vitamin D at higher levels in the body with better immunity, less chance of developing diabetes, and less risk of dying early of any cause.
Once doctors started checking their patients’ vitamin D levels at the annual checkup and making corrections on their low levels, their patients started improving their health much more rapidly. They weren’t so frail anymore. And their moods improved.
There have been a lot of studies on polyphenols and medicinal ingredients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs as well. Now we have a much better idea of what the function of these is in our diet. This is why it’s so important to eat a plant-based diet (with adequate protein levels).
Many people have found drastic improvement in health once they add green powders or superfoods to their diet. Others take fruit and vegetable capsules that insure they get 17 servings of these foods a day. Many who do this note changes in their vision – for the better. Macular degeneration is a disease that is helped tremendously by adding fruits and vegetables to the diet, and if they can’t be eaten because of teeth problems, capsules work just as well.
There are even medicinal mushrooms that can be combined with green powders or herbs and used to make a soup powder. In one study, scientists found that a soy-mushroom-moringa soup powder was nutritionally superior to locally available soups.
Essential Nutrition Further Reading
There are many things you can do to improve your health via nutrition. Start with getting your macros correct daily, and then get the micronutrients correct. The change can be very dramatic.
If you would like to read more on essential nutrition needs of older adults, consider these titles:
- Nix McIntosh MS RD CD, Staci (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- Schlenker PhD RDN, Eleanor (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- Dudek, Susan (Author)
- English (Publication Language)