Most of us have probably heard of macro-nutrients. But what exactly are they, what are the different types, and which ones are most important? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more!
Most diet plans – whether for weight loss, a food allergy, health or ethical concerns, tend to over-emphasize the importance of macro-nutrients and under-emphasize micro-nutrients. While it is important to ensure that you consume adequate amounts of each macro-nutrient, doing so is easily achieved for most people by eating a varied diet with an appropriate overall caloric intake. Take a look at the chart: Macro-Nutrients.
What’s more important for many people is taking care to evenly distribute their nutrient intake throughout the day. In particular, limiting the quantity of protein and/or fat eaten in one sitting can improve digestion and help reduce stomach upset.
Very dense protein sources, especially those that are also high in saturated fat, are extremely difficult to digest. This is yet ANOTHER reason to avoid meat and other animal products. You may also find that eating a lot of fat at a single meal causes digestive problems or just a general feeling of heaviness, or that you feel better by avoiding certain sources of fat.
The three macronutrients all have their own specific roles and functions in the body and supply us with calories or energy. For this reason, the body requires these nutrients in relatively large amounts to grow, develop, repair and feel good!
Each macronutrient is almost always found in every item of food, whether a raw or lightly steamed vegetable; the only difference is how the macronutrients are balanced. As an example, the nutritional composition of an avocado is generally made up of 75% (good) fats, 20% carbohydrates and 5% protein, therefore this is clearly a fat-based food. On the other hand a banana consists of 95% carbohydrates, with only small amounts of protein and fats.
The trick is to understand how each macronutrient plays a different role in the body and tailor your diet accordingly!
Don’t be scared of fats! Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and should account for about 15-20% what you consume. They help by improving brain development, overall cell functioning, protecting the body’s organs and even helping you absorb vitamins found in foods.
Some examples of healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, seeds (pumpkin, chia), olives, avocados.
For more information on healthy fats visit our FOOD FOR LIFE: Fats & Omegas page
Protein is essential for repairing and regenerating body tissues and cells, a healthy functioning immune system and manufacturing hormones. This wouldn’t be possible without amino acids, which are found in protein-based foods. In total there are 20 types of amino acids, 9 of which are ‘essential’ and can only be found in certain foods.
Good sources of protein: Beans, pulses and legumes, seeds (hemp, chia, flax), nuts (unsalted), quinoa, avocado, beets, raw greens (kale, spinach).
For more information on healthy protein visit our FOOD FOR LIFE: Protein page
Carbohydrates are comprised of small chains of sugar which the digestive body breaks down into glucose to use as the body’s primarily energy source and therefore need to make up around 45-65% of a diet.
Carbohydrates to choose: Apples, bananas, cauliflower, carrots, oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans.
For more information on carbohydrates visit our FOOD FOR LIFE: Whole Grains & Cereals page
The importance of eating a well-balanced diet – selecting foods from the Four Food Groups as well as Eating From The Rainbow, cannot be stressed enough. There is no need to count calories, provided you are eating the recommended daily amounts as per our DBM Food Plate & Pyramid and eating a diverse range of Whole Food Plant-Based foods.