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macronutrients

macros

Even when you don't (want to) stick to a strict food plan where you weigh nutriments; knowing what your body needs and planning meals accordingly can offer benefits beyond making you healthier. It helps you to make a grocery list and you may even save some money as a list will help avoid buying things you don't need. Most likely you will also throw away less food that has gone bad.⠀

Macros is short for macronutrients and refers to the three basic groups of foods our bodies need to function: protein (to build and repair muscle), carbohydrates (for energy) and fats (to keep you warm and for absorption of certain vitamins. Those are just a few functions, but you get the idea. Our bodies need all three to function and it needs them in a certain ratio. A nutritionist can help calculate your ideal ratio and set you up with a plan. If you know (how to calculate) your macros you can use online tools such as MyFitnessPal to track your intake (no commercial interest, it is a very complete tool which has extensive lists of foods and their macros)

protein

Protein is an essential nutrient and has multiple functions in our body. Building and repairing muscle, building cells, controlling hunger are among the ones we're most interested in. The average person needs a little less than 1g of protein per kg bodyweight, but if you're a weightlifter or an endurance athlethe you will want to up that quite a bit. Getting protein in after a workout is great for recovery, in general you will want to spread your intake throughout the day as your body can only take in that much at a time.⠀

Grilled chicken breast is a good lean source of protein, but protein doesn't necessarily mean meat and there are a multitude of options beyond chicken and whey protein, below I list a mix of meat and non-meat foods that are considered good sources of protein (not in any particular order):⠀

  • chicken breast
  • turkey breast
  • eggs
  • halibut
  • salmon
  • (greek) yoghurt
  • quinoa
  • beans
  • lentils
  • sardines
  • leafy greens
  • cottage cheese
  • steak
  • nuts and nut butters
  • edamame
  • seafood
  • chia seeds
  • chickpeas
  • unsweetened cocoa powder

carbohydrates

Carbs or carbohydrates are part of the macronutrients, together with fat and protein. Much like fat, carbs are not in everyone's good book. Benefits of low-carb diets and ketosis are being touted and it is true that when you lower your carb intake you will most likely lose weight. Let's have a look at what carbs are for and see if you're still ready to give up on them :) Carbohydrates are our body's primary source of energy, especially for the brain and the nervous system. The WHO recommends between 35 to 50% of your daily caloric intake to come from carbs. Carbs prevent ketosis and keep your blood glucose levels stable... well, just like with fats, not all carbs are equal.

Out of all carbs, the ones to go for are the whole grain starchy versions as they include the wheat grain and kernel which provide the majority of fibre and nutrients to be found in starchy foods. While whole grain foods impact blood glucose levels more slowly than other forms of carbohydrate, higher levels of carbs can still raise blood sugar levels substantially, that explains why some prefer to avoid them.

When choosing carbs, you may want to pick the ones high in fibre and low in GI (index used to measure the impact on blood glucose), some goodies are:

  • brown rice
  • oatmeal
  • berries
  • most fruit (if not too ripe)
  • broccoli
  • beans
  • whole-wheat pasta
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • lentils

fat

Are you afraid of fats? You're not alone! Fats have been vilified for the past few decades and we were made to believe that we would get fat by eating fat. As a nutritionist I have known for a while that that is a big fat lie and luckily word is getting out there. Fat is one of the major essential nutrients and our bodies need fat to function properly.

Fat keeps your body warm, protects your organs and serves as storage for energy. They are needed to form brain tissue, nerve cell membranes and required for making hormones. They are also needed tor transport the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and antioxidants. Feel better now about including fat in your diet when you know it has all these functions (and more)? :)

The World Health Organisation advises that between 20 tot 30% from your daily caloric intake should come from fat. It is not that difficult to get enough fat as it is present in many foods such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds and even some fruits and vegetables and, of course, in a lot of processed foods. Not all fats are made equal however and you will want to prioritise healthy ones over unhealthy versions. Depending on dietary preferences, definitions of 'healthy' fats slightly differ, studies have however established that translates are simply not good for us.

Some (sources of) healthy fats:

  • avocados and avocado oil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • omega 3 fatty acids (as in salmon, tuna, dark chocolate [choco] or supplements)
  • walnuts, almonds, pistachios
  • nut and seed butters
  • ground flaxseeds
  • lean beef and pork (even if they're higher in saturated fats)
  • full-fat yoghurt
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