The word nutrient sounds like something very beneficial for nutrition. Consuming nutrients sounds like it will have a positive effect on your health. However, there are many different types of nutrients. What exactly is a nutrient? What different types of nutrients are there? Are all nutrients good? These are some questions to examine in the following article.
Etymology of Macronutrients
Micro and macro both trace their roots to ancient Greek words. You may have heard of microeconomics and macroeconomics. Micro basically means small and macro means big. Macronutrients are larger nutrients. You may be familiar with the main types of macronutrients already. The main macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and fats which are also known as lipids. Do not get confused by the word fat. Just because something is made up of the fat macronutrient, that does not necessarily mean it will make you fat. Likewise carbohydrates can be converted into fat in your body even though they are not the macronutrient fat. Micronutrients are smaller nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Maybe you have heard of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a micro nutrient.
Types of Micronutrients
There are many different types of micronutrients. It can be exhausting to try to consume them all. You will have to maybe make a spreadsheet and keep track of a lot of data. For some people that may be too much work and unnecessary. Other people may try to take a multivitamin. The thing you must keep in mind is that there are some types of nutrients that you do not actually need to consume because your body can produce them. If you do not have enough of these nutrients in your diet, that is OK because your body will produce what you are missing. However you also need to keep in mind that there are some other nutrients that cannot be produced by the human body. If you do not consume these nutrients in your food, then you may have some health problems or nutritional deficiencies. These types of nutrients are called essential nutrients. In the past sailors had scurvy because when they were on long voyages they were unable to obtain certain essential nutrients.
Nutrients (or lack thereof) in Processed Foods
Many people who are health-conscious nowadays try to avoid “processed foods”. Simply because the food is processed, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad, however it is true that there are a lot of processing mechanisms that modern technology uses which can make food unhealthy. Food has actually been processed for thousands of years. Ancient Romans would put salt on their meat to preserve it and make it last longer. That was one way of processing food. Of course they did not have factories like we have nowadays that can produce food on an assembly line. Modern food production creates processed food to extend the shelf life and also make it taste better. Since so many different types of food are processed, you will need to research what you eat to make sure it is nutritious.
How can you ensure you are getting the micronutrients that your body needs? Well, everyone is different. If you feel like you have some nutritional deficiency or you are suffering from malnutrition, then you may need to see your personal physician. Some people may lack iron in their diet and they may be anemic. Other people may have too much iron. Everybody is different. Even a doctor may not be able to now just by looking at you, if you really need to find out, they may do blood tests or take a urine sample. You may also want to review your family history to see if you relatives have a history of any type of nutritional disorders. Nowadays many people have diabetes. Celiac disease is another issue where people have difficulty digesting gluten. You may have seen many gluten-free products in the market. These types of products are marketed towards people who have celiac disease.
Nutrition In the 21st Century
For much of human history, many people suffered from famine and lack of sufficient food. Due to the industrial and agricultural revolution, food can now be mass produced at a very large scale. Modern people are able to access food much easier than people in the past. That being said, there are still people who go hungry. Nobody in this world should go hungry because society does have the resources to provide for everyone. If you are someone that you know suffers on an insufficient amount of food, then you should know that there are resources that can help you for free. In the United States there are food banks and churches that will give free food to people in need. If your income is below a certain threshold you may also qualify for the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) also known as food stamps or EBT which can give you free money from the government to spend on food every month.