Our bodies are pretty complicated, meaning that they have a whole of nutritional needs in order to survive and function. The composition of our diet is essential to meeting these needs and therefore it’s important to understand the two different types of nutrients it can be split into: macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). You’ve probably heard these terms before but what do they actually mean?
The three macronutrients all have their own specific roles and functions in the body and supply us with calories or energy. For this reason, the body requires these nutrients in relatively large amounts to grow, develop, repair and feel good!
Each macronutrient is almost always found in every item of food, whether that’s a healthy snack bar (like Eat Nakd!) or a raw vegetable; the only difference is how the macronutrients are balanced. As an example, the nutritional composition of an avocado is generally made up of 75% (good) fats, 20% carbohydrates and 5% protein, therefore this is clearly a fat-based food. On the other hand a banana consists of 95% carbohydrates, with only small amounts of protein and fats.
The trick is to understand how each macronutrient plays a different role in the body and tailor your diet accordingly!
Don’t be scared of fats! Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and should account for about 15-20% what you consume. They help by improving brain development, overall cell functioning, protecting the body’s organs and even helping you absorb vitamins found in foods.
Some examples of healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, seeds (pumpkin, chia), olives, avocados.
Protein is essential for repairing and regenerating body tissues and cells, a healthy functioning immune system and manufacturing hormones. This wouldn’t be possible without amino acids, which are found in protein-based foods. In total there are 20 types of amino acids, 9 of which are ‘essential’ and can only be found in certain foods.
Good sources of protein: Beans, pulses and legumes, seeds (hemp, chia, flax), nuts (unsalted), quinoa, avocado, beets, raw greens (kale, spinach).
Carbohydrates are comprised of small chains of sugar which the digestive body breaks down into glucose to use as the body’s primarily energy source and therefore need to make up around 45-65% of a diet.
Carbohydrates to choose: Apples, bananas, cauliflower, carrots, oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are not needed in the same quantities as macros, however are still equally as important. Micronutrients work in tandem with macronutrients to keep the body functioning and are crucial in order to maintain energy levels, metabolism, cellular function, and physical and mental wellbeing.
Finding micronutrients on a plant-based diet
No one plant can be certain to contain more micronutrients than another as the level largely depends on the mineral content of the soil each individual plant has grown in. There are a wide-variety of micronutrients, with everything from Vitamin A, B, C through to K, and minerals such as magnesium and zinc being vital for the body. To ensure you’re getting as many of these into your diet you should try to eat as varied as possible, incorporating various different ‘colors’ into each meal.