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Understanding the Basics of Nutrition

Written by Brianna Hanson and Elizabeth Beil

Nutrition can be very confusing. Especially when we involve diet culture into the mix. On a daily basis we receive so much information about the choices we “should or shouldn’t” be making about our nutrition. Learning the basics of nutrition allows us to make better informed choices about our choices and the nourishment we are choosing.


Nutrition 101

Here is your guide to nutrition in its simplest form. In this blog post, you’ll find an overview of macronutrients and micronutrients so you can better understand the make-up of food. 

All of the food we consume is broken down into three compounds called macronutrients. The three macronutrients include carbs, fats, and protein and they provide us with energy. Each macronutrient is then even further broken down into something called micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, and they are a vital part of your nourishment.  


Macronutrients: 

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Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates act as your body’s main sources of energy. Carbs are often seen as the enemy, but they are an essential part of your diet. Carbs are broken down into sugar in your body and are then used immediately for energy or used at a later time. Sources of carbs include whole grains, refined grains, starchy vegetables, fruit, beans, and desserts. 

Fiber is found within most carbohydrate sources which provides the body with fullness and aids in digestion. Most recommendations of fiber for adults is 25-30 grams of fiber per day. 

Protein:  Protein helps build and repair cells, specifically in our muscles. It is important for growth and development as we go through multiple life changes. Protein sources include animal based ( meat, seafood, eggs, poultry, etc.) non animal based ( beans, tofu, soy based products, nuts, nut butters, etc.) and dairy products (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, milk)

It is important if you are vegetarian or vegan to talk with your dietitian or doctor about how to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of protein. 

Fats: Fats help with vitamin and mineral absorption as well as act as a back-up energy source. Fats also contribute to the feeling of satiety. Sources of fat include oils, avocado, nuts, seeds, dressings, mayo, butter, cheese, cream sauces, etc. 


Micronutrients: 

A Guide to Micronutrients: Recommendations & Sources [NASM]

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals needed in a small amount by the body. Because they are not needed in large amounts, it may seem that they are less significant, but this is not the case. Micronutrients play critical roles in our body. I believe it is important to recognize that you can get adequate micronutrients by eating from all three macronutrient groups (carbs, fats, and protein), incorporating foods with color into your diet and providing our body with variety from multiple food sources.

A few examples of micronutrients include: 

Vitamin A:  an important vitamin for our vision, growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity. Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties and can be found in cheese, eggs, red, yellow and leafy green vegetables and fruit. 

Vitamin D: helps with regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body and is needed to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Sources can be found in egg yolk, oily fish, red meat, and fortified products. 

Iron (mineral): important in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Sources can be found in red meat, nuts, beans, dried fruit and fortified foods.  


I hope that after reading this brief overview of nutrition, you understand that the food you eat matters towards your overall health. Food is the fuel that runs our bodies. Before you go, I want to note that no one food is better than another. Every food will vary in nutrient content, which is why variety is the key to a healthy diet. Eat food and be nourished. Thanks for reading! 

If you are looking for additional information on how to use the concept of macronutrients and micronutrients in everyday life, checkout this blog post on the plate method. 

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