MICRONUTRIENTS, FIBRE AND WATER –
Outside of macronutrients, our food provides other substances that we require to function healthily. Micronutrients, fibre and water are important parts of our diet that do not provide any energy, but are essential for health.
Micronutrients are nutrients that we need from our diets in small dosages – hence the prefix ‘micro’. Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals and other compounds such as phytonutrients (phyto- meaning plant), myconutrients (myco- meaning mushroom) and zoonutrients (and zoo- meaning animal). All interact differently in the body to help in ways such as synthesizing DNA, facilitating the production of energy, or to contract muscles. For instance, calcium is involved in transmitting nerve impulses, contracting muscles, secreting hormones and forming teeth and bone. Not getting enough of each micronutrient, or even getting too much, can have adverse effects on health. It can be overwhelming trying to keep track of every single micronutrient, so the best way to ensure you’re hitting your recommended intake is to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, meat and dairy. Coming back to calcium as an example; it can be found in dairy, dark green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fish and rhubarb. Whole foods typically also come packed with a wide diversity of micronutrients. Just broccoli alone contains vitamin C, choline, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, almost all the B vitamins plus more. A good rule to follow to ensure you’re consuming a bit of everything is to try and eat the full spectrum of colours in vegetables, from bright red capsicum to dark purple blackberries and everything in between.
Another important part of the diet is fibre. Fibre is technically a carbohydrate, however we aren’t able to digest it so we can’t use any of the energy it could provide. It does, however, get fermented by the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tracts to produce short-chain fatty acids that have been shown to provide various health benefits. Fibre comes in two different forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is, as the name suggests, dissolves in water and forms a kind of gel. It can be found in oats, dried beans and peas, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Soluble fibre can help decrease cholesterol levels and aids with excreting other fat-soluble substances. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools and helps maintain healthy bowel movements and can be found in seeds, nuts, dark green leafy vegetables, especially with stalks and roots and fruit and vegetable skins.
Finally, for obvious reasons, water is essential to life. It makes up about 60% of our whole body weight, dissolves and transports substances, facilitates chemical reactions in solution, lubricates joints, regulates temperature and often contains natural occurring minerals when we drink it. The main point to understand with water is to function optimally, we need to have the right amount of water in our systems. For most average people without exercising in a temperate environment, drinking around 2 litres of water per day is sufficient, along with the water found in food. Athletes and consistent exercisers will need more; around 600mL per hour of moderate intensity activity with another 600mL afterwards. To get more information contact us at Fighting Fit Pt by calling us on (03) 9470 3342.