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You probably already know your basic food groups (if not, you can read up them here). You know how much water you should drink a day (Not sure? Try this hydration calculator). And you know what a healthy meal looks like, but do you know what macronutrients are? You probably do, but you’ve just been calling them something different!

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients, often referred to as macros for short, are our main source of energy from foods. They also makes up the majority of our diet. Macronutrients are in one of the three following groups:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fats
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Macronutrients contain vitamins and minerals essential to our well-being. We consume each of these three groups in some form each day, but do you know exactly what you’re eating? Do you know which portions of the group are healthy and which are not? Let’s go through each group and take a look.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the macronutrient you need the most. There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.

Simple carbs are broken down fast, but because of this your blood sugar rises quickly and can result in that “crash” we feel after eating a delicious cinnamon roll or whatever your favorite sugary snack is. That’s because the sugar is burned so fast that the energy we feel from it fades quickly. Simple sugars also provide very little if any nutritional value. Some examples of these sugars include:

  • Fructose (found in fruit)
  • Galactose (found in dairy products)
  • Lactose (found in milk and dairy products)
  • Maltose (found in fermented foods)

Complex carbohydrates take more time to break down, and are what you should be eating the most of. Since it takes them a while to break down, they provide steady energy, with no blood sugar spikes. Complex carbs also have fiber in them, which is good for your digestive and heart health. Some examples include:

  • Starches like legumes, grains, peas, and potatoes
  • Dietary fiber like veggies and whole grains

Protein

Proteins are used to repair and build muscles and tissue. It also regulates your hormones and digestive enzymes. Some examples include:

  • Meats like beef, pork, chicken, lamb
  • Fish or seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy like milk and yogurt
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Soy/Tofu products

Fats

Everyone gives fat a hard time, but some fats can actually be a good thing! Fats are used for energy now and can also be stored for energy later. It also stores vitamins, regulates hormone production, and protects your organs. There are two types of fats: Saturated and unsaturated.

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Your intake of saturated fats needs to be limited, because this isn’t the good fat. Some examples include meat fat, butter, full fat dairy products, chips, biscuits, and cakes.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, should play a bigger role in your diet. Some examples of these include fish, nuts, avocados, and vegetable oils like olive, canola, sunflower, and rice bran.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what macronutrients are and why they play such a big role in your overall health. Stay healthy, and take care!