Macronutrients, macros… These words are thrown around a lot in magazines and on Instagram, but what do they mean?
Macronutrients are nutrients our bodies need to survive, so we have to eat a lot of them. There are three essential macronutrients: carbs, good fats and protein. They fill us up, lift our energy, and keep our raging cravings at bay. They play an important role in the body, which is why nutritionists say to include a source of each in every meal.
Micronutrients help us to look and feel our best too, but we don’t need to eat as much. Some examples of micronutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamin C.
SO WHAT ARE MACRONUTRIENTS
Let’s break it down…
Have you ever cut out carbs and felt tired and sleepy all the time? It’s not just you! Carbs aren’t the devil – they’re actually the body’s main source of energy. If we don’t eat carbs, our energy levels suffer BIG time, and we end up feeling sluggish.
Before you stuff yourself silly with pasta, the goal is to eat ‘complex’ carbs. They’re full of nutrients and they release energy slooowly so you stay energised. On the other hand, ‘simple’ carbs like cereal, white pasta, and white bread give you a boost of energy, but it doesn’t last long. They contain gluten, so they’re harder to digest and not the best for your gut health. This doesn’t mean you need to break up with your fav foods – just eat the healthier versions. ☺
At each meal, aim to eat one source of complex carbs, like:
- Breads: rye, sourdough and spelt
- Brekkie foods: oats, quinoa porridge and brown rice cakes
- Wholegrains: quinoa, brown rice, basmati, amaranth, buckwheat and millet
- Pasta: brown rice pasta, lentil pasta and mung bean pasta
- Noodles: soba, black bean, konjac and buckwheat
- Pizza: gluten-free bases or try cauliflower pizza!
- Veggies: sweet potato, carrots, peas, zucchini and pumpkin
#2 GOOD FATS
Fat also gets a bit of a bad rap, but the body needs fat to function at its best.
Now, we’re talking about good fats – aka the natural fats found in fish, nuts, and so on. These babies are essential fatty acids (called omega-3s and omega-6s) to calm inflammation, lower blood pressure, boost our mood and memory, and give us that glowy skin we all know and love. They rev up our metabolism and balance out or hormones, and can even help with PMS symptoms. Are you eating an avo yet?
Finally, fat combats sugar cravings and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. Think about the last time you ate a slice of salmon or a spoonful of peanut butter (zero judgement). Were you full for a while? Did you skip your post-dinner block of chocolate? That’s fat in action!
These are some good sources of healthy fats. Add one small serving to each meal if you can:
- Oily fish: salmon, ocean trout and sardines
- Nuts and seeds
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil and flaxseed oil
- Nut butter
The fats you want to avoid are trans fats. These are found in processed, packaged and fried foods, and they’re made in labs – not in nature. Since they’re not natural, our bodies have no clue how to break them down, and they can end up clogging our arteries and causing high cholesterol. If you’re not sure if something contains trans fats, look at the nutritional label. By law, brands have to state how many grams of trans fats are in their products – if any!
Protein feeds every cell in the body. Yep, every single one – from your heart to your hair. It’s an essential macronutrient because we need it to keep our organs, muscles, and bodily systems healthy. It helps to produce hormones (like serotonin, the happy hormone), enzymes for good digestion, and antibodies to boost our immunity so we don’t get every bloody cold going around. Protein also boosts our energy, as well as tissue building and repair, which is why athletes go on and on about it. Oh, and it improves your mental clarity (and hopefully, your productivity!).
In other words, protein is kind of a big deal.
Try to include one palm-sized portion of protein at each meal. If you’re working out a lot, you might want to eat a little more.
These are some of the best sources of animal and vegetarian protein:
- Lean meat, like turkey and beef (150g)
- Chicken (150g)
- Fish (150g)
- Eggs (2)
- Tempeh or tofu (120g)
- Lentils (1/2 cup)
- Chickpeas (1/2 cup)
- Greek yoghurt (100g)
- Protein powder (30g or one scoop)
And there you go – that’s a balanced plate! Did you know about macronutrients?
You've been educated by Katia Iervasi.