Nutrients 101 – an understandable overview (Part 1)

Hello all!!  Today’s training is all about Nutrients – what they are, why they are important and where to find them.

First off, I want to lay down a key underlying foundational truth that many people don’t often think about when thinking about their health.

A human’s health is only as good as the health of their cells.  I’ll say it again YOUR HEALTH IS ONLY AS GOOD AS THE HEALTH OF YOUR CELLS (yes imagine me yelling).

If you keep your cells happy, you’ll feel great – happy and healthy. If your cells become sickly or break because they aren’t getting what they need, you experience pain, sickness and disease.  It’s as simple as that.

So, what do your cells need and how can we provide that? 2 of the biggest components that help our cells maintain their happiness are macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.

Macros – fats, carbs, proteins & H20

Micro – Vitamins and minerals

Macros – these will be the focus of today’s training. Micro will follow…

Knowing the job of each macronutrient as well as which ratios help you function optimally, may unlock the door to weight loss, better energy, better sleep and hormone balance & repair.

Central to our cellular health are macronutrients (macros). All foods are made up of macros and contain calories. They are called macro – think big – because your body needs them in large amounts. Macros nourish cells, build & repair tissue, facilitate body processes, provide energy and affect genetic expression. There are four types of macros: carbohydrates, protein, fat and water.

Carbs – Our bodies primary source of energy (notwithstanding ketones which is a whole separate discussion).  These are fibers, starches & sugars. And there are 2 types: simple and complex. 

  • Simple carbs are easily and quickly broken down by your body and used for energy; Simple carbs are things like fruit juice, milk & milk products (lactose), sugar (glucose), cookies, cakes, pasta, chips, honey, sodas & are contained in almost all processed foods.
  • Complex carbs take longer to break down and thus provide longer, more sustainable energy. Complex carbs are found in vegetables, whole grains, oats, brown rice, quinoa, fruits and some beans. Wherever possible, simple carbs should be replaced with complex carbs in your diet. Complex carbs help your body absorb certain minerals, facilitate digestive health, help form fatty acids (important in bodily functions) and support your immune system. Soluble fiber slows down digestion and stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria. It also helps to decrease blood cholesterol & blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber helps to keep you regular (woo hoo for that)!

Please remember that carbs themselves are not the enemy! We need them for A LOT of bodily functions, it is the OVER-CONSUMPTION of carbs that is the issue. Excess consumption of carbs leads to high levels of insulin, which contributes to joint pain and swelling, causes us to hold on to abdominal fat & crave sweets, increases blood pressure, and makes us feel fatigued. When insulin is not regulated it’s nearly impossible to lose weight, even if you are following a healthy diet and exercising. The irregular hormone levels caused by excess insulin will make your body hold on to the fat making it impossible to lose it. Additionally, high blood sugar (high insulin) aggravates your system. Your body knows this excess sugar doesn’t belong and works overtime to fight it by creating inflammation. That inflammation makes the body ache, your joints swell, and causes your hands, feet, and eyes to look puffy.

Fats – Fats are AMAZING!! They are fabulous & necessary for our health. They are NOT our enemy. Fats help the body absorb nutrients, form the structure of our cell membranes and our brains run almost exclusively on fats. They are the building blocks of our hormones. They help lubricate our joints; act as a backup energy source after your body depletes its glycogen levels (keto will be a whole other topic for another day); help you to maintain a level core body temperature and protects your organs.  

Fat DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!  It’s actually sugar in excess that helps you pack on the pounds. Fats also help to slow down the digestive process (we feel fuller longer), which is also why low-fat diets leave you hungry and craving more carbs. Having fat in almost every meal is important to regulate your hunger and your blood sugar levels.

There are 2 types: saturated & unsaturated and both play different roles in your body. Both are important! There are 3 types of saturated fats & despite what you may have heard about saturated fats – they are not all the same. There are some forms of saturated fat (think medium-chain fatty acids) that are easily digested and are converted right to energy easily in your liver. Some can even pass through the blood/brain barrier where your brain can convert the fat to energy immediately (my favorite – MCT Oil). It’s the trans-fats we need to watch out for. These man-made fats are the true bad guys roaming around inside us causing havoc.

Proteins – Proteins are the building blocks of life. They:

  • help form cellular organelles and enzymes that spark metabolism;
  • play a structural role in joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles;
  • help to synthesize (or process) hormones that regulate body chemistry;
  • are a standby source of energy in the absence of carbs & fat;
  • helps us to feel satisfied longer and have less of a spike in blood sugar;
  • help in the formation of antibodies to fight infection;
  • build & repair tissue;
  • carry oxygen to tissues;
  • regulate water in your cells;
  • help sustain normal electrolyte balance; and
  • help to normalize your bodies acid vs alkaline levels.

There are 23 amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) with 10 being essential – meaning your body can’t make them and we need to get them from outside sources such as the foods we eat or the supplements we take. Additionally, there are 9 different types of proteins, each with its own special set of functions.

Protein comes from lots of different sources, both animal-based & plant-based: animal meat, dairy, quinoa, chia, flaxseeds, lentils, nuts, nut butters, chickpeas, broccoli, beans, seeds and some fruits and other veggies.

One issue with animal-based protein is quality. We ingest what the animals we are eating did. It builds up in our systems and makes us sick. Many industrial-sized farms use low-quality feed, antibiotics and hormones to bulk up the animals. The result is low-quality, nutrient-poor, sickly meat. Another problem with protein today (similar to carbs) is over-consumption. Many people get far too much and the excess is actually converted to sugar, which converts to fat.

Water – yes, water is actually classified as a macro. It helps with the absorption of some nutrients, helps in the detoxification processes and the cells utilize it for many functions. Your body, organs, systems and cells are mainly made up of water – so it is kind of important!

Well – that was A LOT of information! We just briefly touched on what Macro-Nutrients are and how they function in the body. Fascinating stuff – well, at least I think so. But, even though you may not geek out on the science aspect as much as I do it is important to at least have an understanding of what these are and why they are important to your health. If you are going to take your health under your own control, a basic knowledge of this is important! I hope this was helpful and if you want to know more, please, I encourage you to do your own research!  I’m always happy to answer questions or dig deeper if you’re interested in learning how paying attention to the ratios, quality and quantities of nutrients that you are putting into your body will affect your overall health.

Until next time – Be Who YOU are – because it’s pretty amazing!


Published by

Shannon Vitale, CTNC; Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition

SMALL STEPS EVERY DAY! Successful, driven, motivated - Professional & Entreprenuerial moms not only lead teams, departments and organizations to get results, but are the CEO's of their family's lives as well. Too often we fall prey to our own perfectionistic tendencies and are unable to find a way to "balance" it all so that we are not only successful at work, but happy at home. Our health and our home life suffers - often undetected by those around us. We tread water - barely, with no time for ourselves. There is a path, a roadmap, we can use to clarify our goals, create habits, routines and actions around those goals and successfully be able to breathe! To know we are taking care of ourselves and our family's needs. And we can do this efficiently, without wasting time and without it being complicated. I would love to help you learn how! Contact me for a free consultation call!

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