Do you know your Macros from your Micros or your Vitamins from your Minerals?
Macronutrients and Micronutrients
Macros are those nutrients that the body needs in large amounts – carbohydrates, protein and fats. Micros are nutrients that the body requires in smaller amounts – vitamins and minerals.
Carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fibers which help to provide fuel for the body.
Carbs can be split into two distinct groups – simple and complex carbohydrates (based on their chemical structure).
Simple carbs have a simple chemical structure whilst complex carbs have a more complex structure (as the names suggest). A few simple carbohydrate examples would be sweets, soft drinks, cake and other refined sugar products. These foods provide a quick burst of energy however they do lack vitamins, minerals and fiber (needed for digestion).
Simple carbs are useful for quick energy boost as they replenish glucose stores quickly – perhaps after a tough workout or in preparation for exercise.
Meanwhile, the complex carbohydrates provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. Complex carbs provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals and fiber that the body requires for bodily functions. A few example of complex carbs would be certain fruits, green and starchy vegetables, oats, grains, pasta, beans and lentils.
A common misconception is that cutting down or eliminating carbs entirely from a persons diet will help to reduce overall body fat. It’s important to recognise that weight loss occurs through being in an energy deficit (consuming less calories than your body needs per day), and is not directly related to the amount of carbohydrates consumed.
Protein plays a pivotal role in many bodily functions such as growth and repair of the living cells of the body and the breakdown of food.
Proteins are formed by chains of amino acids which are known as the “building blocks” of protein and these acids make up 75% of the human body! After a meal, proteins are broken down into amino acids which are then absorbed and used by body.
Amino acids can be categorised into 3 distinct groups – Essential, Non-essential and Conditional Amino acids.
There are 9 AA’s that are consider essential and must be consumed through diet because the body cannot synthesise it; therefore, essential amino acids must be ingested every day as failure to do so can result in protein degradation (breakdown of protein).
Non-essential’s are AA’s that the body can synthesise – there are 4 of them. Lastly, there are 7 Conditional AA’s which are not usually essential, except in times of illness or stress.
The most effective way to ensure ingestion of the essential amino acids is to eat animal protein. Meat, eggs, and dairy are the most common sources of essential AA’s.
Because of this, it can be more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to consume the right amount of essential AA’s that their body requires. The combination of proteins from a wide range of vegetable sources and a balanced food choice are extremely important to ensure that required levels of essential amino acids are reached for both the vegetarian and vegan.
Fats are often thought in a negative light, however, as with Protein and Carbohydrates, Fats are essential for the body to maintain proper bodily function.
There are 3 different types of fat – Saturated, Unsaturated and Hydrogenated (or Trans fats).
Unsaturated fats are fats that are liquid at room temperature. There are two types of Unsaturated fats – Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated – and consuming a good level of these fats has has been shown to improve overall cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, peanut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds – to mention a few. It is important to consume polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6) as these are fats that cannot be synthesised within the body. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in many seafood sources and also nuts and seeds.
Saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Common sources come from animal products such as cuts of meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. It has been found that consuming a high level of Saturated fat can raise your overall cholesterol levels.
Hydrogenated (Trans) fats are fats that have been changed through a process called hydrogenation (where hydrogen is pumped into unsaturated fats). Trans fats examples include processed foods, snack foods (i.e crisps) and baked goods (i.e muffins). These fats should be avoided or eaten in moderation.
Numerous vitamins and minerals are required by the body for many bodily functions. For example, they help to fight disease, build strong bones, make collagen (connective tissue), produce energy, release energy and build cells – to name a few. A few example of vitamins and minerals are vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K, folic acid, iron, zinc, and selenium.