Macronutrients (macros) are nutrients that provide calories or energy. Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, rebuilding and all basic body functions. There are three macronutrients that all food categorized as:
- Carbohydrates (CHO)
- Protein (PRO)
This is the macro we need the most of. Approximately 40% of our daily caloric intake should come from CHO. We need CHO because:
- They are the body’s main source of fuel.
- They are easily used by the body for energy.
- All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy.
- They are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly.
- They can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.
- They are important in intestinal health and waste elimination.
Your primary sources of CHO are vegetables, fruit, roots and tubers. Other starchy foods such as rice, pasta and white potato are used much less or avoided entirely, depending on the individual.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Almost all internal and external parts of the body are made up primarily of protein. Approximately 30% of our caloric intake should come from protein, and we need protein for:
- Growth (especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women)
- Tissue repair
- Immune function
- Making essential hormones and enzymes
- Energy when carbohydrate is not available
- Preserving lean muscle
Primary sources of protein are meal, all poultry, all seafood, cheese and milk, legumes, and meat substitutes such as soy and tofu.
Fat is essential for health and survival. It’s important to understand that fat from food doesn’t increase body fat. Approximately 30% of our caloric intake should come from fat, and we need that amount of fat because:
- Normal growth and development
- Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)
- Absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
- Providing cushioning for the organs
- Maintaining cell membranes
- Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Fat is found in meat, poultry, dairy products and most seafood. However, those are primarily protein sources. Primary sources of fat include nuts, avocadoes, oils, lard, and fresh cream.
Micronutrients are the minerals and vitamins that the body needs in order to function healthily. Compared to macros, you require small (micro) amounts of micronutrients. However, they are just as important to consume. Insufficient consumption of macronutrients leads to deficiency-based diseases such as rickets, scurvy and osteoporosis.
You get the right amounts of micronutrients by eating nutrient dense macronutrients. These are foods that have a good balance between the calories and micronutrients provided. Calorie dense foods, such as white carbohydrates (starch), provide lots of calories and little micronutrients.
What sorts of foods are those? You’ve read it here before: You need to eat good quality protein, vegetables including roots and tubers, some fruit, healthy fats, little to no sugar, and avoid refined and processed carbohydrates.
Macros (quantity) matter just as much as micros (quality).