To put it simply, macronutrients are the nutrients your body needs in larger amounts – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These provide the body with the calories and the energy that we need. As a result, we typically measure them in grams because our bodies need a lot of them.
Micronutrients are what we commonly refer to as vitamins and minerals. The body requires smaller amounts of these but still needs them in order to digest macronutrients. As a result, we measure them in milligrams because our bodies don’t need as much.
Carbs are the most useful source of energy because our bodies can easily break them down into glucose, which muscles use to function. However, they have a bad reputation, mostly because they are found in large quantities in unhealthy processed foods like cakes and doughnuts.
The important difference to make out is whether they are simple or complex carbs. To put it in layman’s terms, simple carbs (bad) release sugar faster and don’t contain any vitamins, minerals or fibres. Complex carbs (good), on the other hand, are filled with various nutrients.
Some of the best complex carbs to include in your diet: Fruits, Vegetables, Wholegrain foods, Sweet Potatoes, Legumes.
These are chains of amino acids that make up parts of bodily structures like muscle fibres, skin, hair and connective tissues. They also function as hormones, enzymes and as an antibody in the immune system.
Instead of providing a direct source of energy like Carbohydrates, these are more like building blocks. The nutritional value of protein comes from the amount of essential amino acids it contains and this will vary according to food source.
The best sources of protein to include in your diet: Legumes, Fish, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Meat
It is important to understand that your body only needs unsaturated fats. These regulate metabolism, promote cell regeneration and growth, and maintain the elasticity of cell membranes. Fats also help to deliver Vitamins A, D, E and K into the body.
In terms of saturated fats, although your body doesn’t need them because it produces its own cholesterol, a small amount in your diet can help build cell membranes and produce hormones like oestrogen and testosterone. It can also produce bile acids that help digest fat and absorb nutrients. That being said, too much increases the risk of heart disease.
The best sources of fats to include in your diet: Dairy, Eggs, Oily fish, Nuts, Chia seeds
Just some of the tasks vitamins carry out include:
- Release energy from food (Several B vitamins are key components of certain molecules that aid enzymes)
- Produce energy (Thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin all help in this way)
- Build proteins and cells (Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid metabolise amino acids and help cells multiply)
- Make collagen (Vitamin C helps to make collagen which knits together wounds, supports blood vessel walls and forms a base for teeth and bones)
- Protect against diseases
Just some of the tasks minerals carry out include:
- Maintain the correct balance of water in the body
- Promote healthy bones and stabilise protein structures that you get from your diet – including those that make up your hair, skin, and nails
- Assist in your ability to taste and smell
- Help oxygen get around the body
Ultimately, there are foods that contain an array of both macro and micronutrients, and it is best to include as many of these as possible in the diet. For example, a lot of people think we should only eat chicken because of its protein content – they forget that chicken also contains Vitamin B12, Choline, Zinc, Iron and more.