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Understanding Food: Macronutrients & Micronutrients

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

**DISCLAIMER: Though I am a certified integrative nutrition health coach, I am not a medical professional, doctor or registered dietician so please consult with your primary healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle particularly if you are at risk or suffer from chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension**


One of my favourite things about health coaching is that it is not a handholding approach to working with clients on their health and wellness. Instead as a health coach I get to support you (my clients) by empowering you with the tools to take care of your own health in the long term without necessarily needing mine or anyone else's voice in your head all the time saying "Eat this, not that. Do this, not that"!

In this post I'm going to give an overview of Macro- and Micronutrients which will help you understand nutrition a bit better and make it easier for you to make decisions about how to eat. During one-on-one health coaching sessions however, I go into a lot more detail and we can tailor your understanding to your bio-individual needs.

As we all know, the main reason we eat is for nourishment, energy and general sustenance, and we get the nutrients to fulfil these needs from the food we consume. Every single thing we eat or drink is processed and used by our bodies in one way or the other and can either benefit us greatly or do significant harm. In pursuing a healthier approach to life we of course want to focus on the best ways to consume beneficial foods and beverages from a nutrition perspective, but we also want these things to benefit our mental health by being pleasurable at the same time.

The nutrients in our food can mostly be broken down into macronutrients and micronutrients. "Macro" indicates that we need these in large amounts and "Micro" that we require them in small amounts. Macronutrients therefore, are carbohydrates, proteins and fats while Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D etc. A lot of micronutrients can be found in macros but we focus more on macros in our diets because they are much easier to track and way more filling and enjoyable! All these nutrients provide energy for the body in the form of calories but the amount of calories they each provide differs per gram (macros) and per milligram (micros). In this post I will focus on Macronutrients and I'll discuss Micros separately in the future.


This macronutrient is found in foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs and tofu that provide 4 calories per gram. Protein is extremely important for building and repairing muscle


Fats are found in foods such as oils, nuts, and meats that provide 9 calories per gram. They are an alternative source of fuel to carbohydrates for the body and are categorised into saturated fats, transfats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. (You don't need to memorise these but I've added them in case you want t o dive in deeper!) The best quality fats for the diet are monounsaturated fats like avocados and olive oil. However, as I don't believe in demonising foods, in decent proportions other fats are super beneficial too despite being saturated fats such as coconut oil and palm oil, and these are more readily available to us Africans than some of the other more popularly recommended ones.


Now I saved this for last because it's the food group that has unfortunately been vilified the most and a lot of us over the years, and still now, have completely eliminated certain types of genuinely beneficial carbs from our diets in pursuit of weight loss. Carbs are found in fibre, sugar and starch foods such as breads, pastas, and fruit that provide 4 calories per gram.

Carbs are converted into glucose or blood sugar which is absorbed in the bloodstream and provides the body with energy to function.

Some carbs, known as "simple carbs" (sugars) are quick releasing and can spike blood sugar levels significantly, so while you don't need to eliminate these entirely from your diet, you also don't want a diet that consists solely of these and we will talk more about balance in the next section of this post. Others known as "complex carbs" release sugars more slowly and are much less likely to spike insulin at once as they also contain vitamins, minerals and fibre that are great for your digestion and overall health.

Carbs come in very diverse forms and sometimes even combine with other macronutrients such as in beans, chickpeas and other legumes which are also proteins. Vegetables are also categorised as carbs although they mostly have much lower levels of sugar and a lot more fibre which aids digestion.

Now that you understand your macros a bit more, the most important thing to keep in mind is taking a holistic approach to balancing these food groups on your plate. You do not need to eat a perfect plate every time. Some times you just want toast and butter (carbs and fat) without any protein and that's perfectly fine! Food is to be enjoyed, not treated like a test at every meal. Look at your meals more from a weekly perspective than a meal-to-meal perspective so perhaps you had toast and butter for breakfast, so you can have a prawn salad for lunch (protein and carbs - vegetable).

I hope you can use this information to make more flexible meal choices that are still balanced and healthy overall and if you'd like me to help you understand this on an even deeper level I'm always happy to help! You can book a consultation with me here and we can talk one-on-one!

Did this post help? If anything is unclear please feel free to ask questions below!


**DISCLAIMER: Though I am a certified integrative nutrition health coach, I am not a medical professional, doctor or registered dietitian so please consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle**

Image Credit: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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