Our partners at Be Fit Food have provided us with a detailed breakdown of both macronutrients and micronutrients. Learn more about the role each nutrient plays in helping fuel our bodies and what different foods are classified as:
Macronutrients are the three main nutrients that provide the body with energy. They are known as; proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Protein is an essential macronutrient for building and maintaining muscle mass. Not only is it a great source of fuel for the body, it also helps maintain a strong immune system and has positive effects on satiety, keeping you fuller for long. Protein is found in an abundance of foods such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibres found in food and are the main source of fuel for the body and brain. Carbs are generally classified as ‘simple’ or ‘complex’ which is dependent on the chemical structure and the rate at which the sugar is digested and absorbed.
- Simple carbohydrates are sugars that are easily digestible and found in foods such as fruits, milk and vegetables and are in abundance in cakes, lollies and other processed foods.
- Complex carbohydrates are the starches and fibres and take longer to digest. These can be found in foods such as beans, potatoes, breads and cereals.
Glycaemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates based on their effect on blood glucose levels.
- Low GI foods (complex carbohydrates) cause a slower rise in blood glucose levels.
- High GI foods (simple carbohydrates) cause a faster rise in blood glucose levels.
Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods which assists in maintaining a healthy digestive system. There are 3 different types of fibre: soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch.
- Soluble fibre – slows the emptying process in the stomach, helping in feeling fuller for longer and found in fruits, vegetables, oats and legumes.
- Insoluble fibre – absorbs water to support regular bowel movements by softening the contents of the bowels and is found in wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, and the skin of fruits and vegetables.
- Resistant starch – is not digested in the small intestine but moves through to the large intestine to assist in the production of good bacteria and promotes a healthy bowel. Found in foods such as undercooked pasta, under ripe bananas and cooked potato and rice.
Fat is the most energy dense macronutrient and is used not only as a source of fuel for the body but is the major storage form of energy in the body. There are several different types of fat, some better for you than others.
‘Good’ Fats: are good for your heart, cholesterol and overall health. They lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and increase ‘good’ cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats –
- Olive & canola oil
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower, sesame & pumpkin seeds
- Soy milk
Sources of omega-6 and omega-3 fats can be divided into two categories, which are: Omega-3 fats are found in both plant and marine foods, although it is the omega-3 fats from marine sources that have the strongest evidence for health benefits (including reducing the risk of heart disease). Plant food sources include canola and soy oils, and canola-based margarines. Marine sources include fish, especially oily fish such as Atlantic salmon, mackerel, Southern blue fin tuna, trevally and sardines. Omega-6 fats are found primarily in nuts, seeds and plant oils, such as corn, soy and safflower.
‘Bad’ Fats: decrease ‘good’ cholesterol and create inflammation, which is linked to strokes, heart disease and other chronic conditions.
- Baked goods (cookies, pastries, cakes, muffins & doughnuts)
- Packaged snack foods (chips, crackers and microwave popcorn)
- Fried foods
- Red meat (beef, lamb & pork)
- Chicken skin
- Whole-fat dairy products
- Coconut & palm oil
Called micronutrients because they are needed only in minuscule amounts. These substances are the “magic wands” that enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development. As tiny as the amounts are, the consequences of their absence are severe. There are recommended intakes of vitamins and minerals in Australia for individuals, these are known as the Nutrient Reference Values. You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need from a balanced diet.
The thirteen vitamins required by human metabolism are: vitamin A (as all-trans-retinol, all-trans-retinyl-esters, as well as all-trans-beta-carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids), vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B7 (biotin), vitamin B9 (folic acid or folate), vitamin B12 (cobalamins), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin D (calciferols), vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and vitamin K (quinones).
Minerals are a chemical element required as an essential nutrient by organisms to perform functions necessary for life. The five major minerals in the human body are calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and magnesium. All of the remaining elements in a human body are called “trace elements”. The trace elements that have a specific biochemical function in the human body are sulfur, iron, chlorine, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, iodine and selenium.
This article was originally published by Be Fit Food. It can be viewed using this link.