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Macro, and Micro, and Phyto — Oh My!

by on August 08, 2012 7:45 AM

It can get confusing out there in the world of natural and nutritional health, especially if you are new to the lingo.

Everyone tosses around fancy words and uses jargon we may be unfamiliar with. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain and expose the nutritional wizard — let's learn a little about nutrients together.

Macronutrients are the main components of our diet. The three macronutrients of protein, fat and carbohydrates all perform essential roles in the human body. Our bodies require other nutrients as well, such as vitamins and minerals, which are needed in much smaller quantities and referred to as micronutrients. Micronutrients work hand in hand with the macronutrients to fuel the body.

For example, to make energy your body uses carbohydrates as fuel along with B vitamins, or coenzymes, as the “spark.” Phytonutrients are nutrients derived from plant material that have been shown to be necessary for sustaining human life. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing, compounds. Don’t let the word “chemicals” throw you… these types of chemicals are actually good for you.

Their role in plants is to protect them from disease, injuries, insects, drought, excessive heat, ultraviolet rays, and poisons or pollutants in the air or soil. These phytochemicals form part of the plants immune system. Phytochemicals are associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in Western countries — cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. They are involved in many processes including ones that help prevent cell damage, prevent cancer cell replication and decrease cholesterol levels.

Now that we have defined the “jargon” words, let’s pull back that curtain a little further and completely expose the macronutrient.

Proteins are essential to a balanced diet as amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Proteins crucial role in the body includes building, maintaining and repairing body tissue. Proteins are also used to aid in the immune process. Complete proteins are found in animal products such as meat, eggs and milk. A protein that contains all 20 amino acids are called complete proteins. There are 20 different amino acids, 9 of which are essential. These essential amino acids must be obtained through the diet because the body cannot produce them naturally.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the body and are found in many foods. When choosing a healthy carbohydrate choose options like fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts as well as whole grains. Glucose is the byproduct of simple sugar breakdown. And glucose is essential for the body, the preferred source of energy in our brain, heart and central nervous system.

Fat is in fact essential for maintaining a healthy body. The trick is to eat more of the good fats and less of the bad fats. Saturated and trans fats should be avoided while increased levels of unsaturated and the essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 can be good for you.

Replacing sweets and high fat meats with food such as nuts, avocados and olive oil will help shift the balance away from unhealthy towards those fats that are useful to the body. Fat plays a vital role in the digestion and assimilation of vitamins A, D, E and K which are all fat soluble vitamins, meaning they need fat in order to be absorbed into the body.

If you are still confused about what these nutrients are and why they are important in creating and maintain a vibrant body visit my website for more information Or for help in creating your own personalized healthy lifestyle program contact Julie at or (724) 407-8017.

Julie A. Wilczynski is a correspondent for the Centre County Gazette. She is a traditional naturopath, counselor of natural health, certified nutritional consultant, certified personal trainer and yoga and pilates instructor from Butler, Pa. For more information or for help in creating your own personalized healthy lifestyle program, contact Julie at
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