“Antioxidants?” Micronutrients? Macronutrients? Phytochemicals? What Are They?

Food is MedicineWith America going through a health crisis, nutritional terminology is coming at us from all directions, from doctor daytime shows,  news broadcasts alerts and talk show segments.  Some of the more confusing terms might be Micronutrients vs Macronutrients vs Phytochemicals vs Antioxidants? They are suppose to be good for you but what are they? 

  • Nutrients are substances in the food we eat that are needed by our bodies to maintain good health. You may know some as protein or minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium or vitamins such as Vitamins A, B, C etc. These nutrients may come from plant or animal sources
  • Micronutrients are important nutrients needed by the body but are measured in small quantities, micro. These micronutrients do not contain calories. Nutrients such as Vitamins A, B, C etc are actually micronutrients.  Some may be found in food from animal sources and some from plant sources.
  • Macronutrients are nutrients we eat for energy as these nutrients contain calories. These are from protein, carbohydrates and fat.
  • Phytochemicals are chemical compounds found in plants. Not all of them, but a good many of these phytochemical compounds are considered micronutrients because they are needed by our bodies for good health. Nutritional researchers and scientists are studying thousands of these compounds in vegetables and fruits and are discovering that these powerful phytochemicals are needed by our bodies to prevent, resist and fight disease, illness and cancer.
  • Antioxidants are substances in the food we eat that inhibits or slows the damage done to our cells by oxidation. Think of an apple that is cut in half and the flesh of the apple is exposed to the air. The oxygen in the air causes the apple to turn brown, that’s like the damage to our cells. But if we squeeze lemon juice on the apple, it takes a lot longer to turn brown. Lemons contain an anti-oxidant, Vitamin C,  which is one of many antioxidant compounds  that can protect our cells from oxidation damage (free radicals).  Antioxidants can come from plant and animal sources, but modern nutritional science shows that the majority and the most powerful sources of antioxidants come from plants sources rich in the micronutrients Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Betacarotene.

How do you know you are getting the right amount of nutrients to fight and prevent disease?

You may want to use a free online nutrient calculator such as The RightTrak.com. The RightTrak.com will calculate your Recommended Daily Allowances(RDA) for over 30 nutrients while it is calculating your BMI. You can select a variety of foods and The RightTrak will add up the nutrient values of your selected foods such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, beta carotene…and more. The RightTrak will turn Green if those allowances are met or Red if those allowances are not met.

Spend some time on The RightTrak.com and do several food searches. You will quickly learn and understand what favorite foods are giving you the most “Nutrient Bang for Your Buck!

Resources:
USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov
U.S. Food and Drug Administration-Nutrition Facts
National Institutes of Health-MedlinePlus
Archives of Internal Medicine

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