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Knowing Your Macros from Your Micros: A Healthy Diet for Energy and Vitality

Written by Dr. Farhan Shahzad and Sarah Davies-Robertson

A healthy diet is a diet that is nutritionally balanced and contains all of the essential vitamins and minerals, as well as the macro nutrients in the required portions. Macro nutrients include protein, the building blocks of tissue; carbohydrates that provide energy; and fats, which can be split into saturated, unsaturated, trans, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated. Focusing on eating healthy fats from oily fish, nuts and avocadoes is important, and avoiding trans fats found in pastries and cakes, is key to getting the essential fatty acids that we need, while avoiding upping our cholesterol.

It’s so important to eat a varied diet. We need variety because we need to ensure we get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) and the 3 macronutrients. Without a varied diet, we risk being under nourished. For instance, vegetarians may need to supplement their iron intake due to a lack of iron. It’s also important to look into having omega 3, 6, and 9 if you’re not eating oily fish.

A nutrient simply nourishes the body. Nutrients are vitamins and minerals that we need. Some are stored in the body and some are needed daily. There are fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, whereas water-soluble are needed on a daily basis. Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble, whereas vitamins B (all of the B vitamins) and C are water-soluble. There can also be too much of a good thing. Too much vitamin A can be dangerous, whereas too much vitamin C is simply excreted. In terms of minerals, we need selenium, iron, iodine, phosphorous, manganese, magnesium, sodium, potassium, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum and copper to function effectively. When we under nourish, we may feel fatigued and unable to perform optimally.

Fruit and vegetables are a good source of nutrients. They contain a lot of plant sources of vitamins and minerals. Meat (organic especially), oily fish, and fortified milks and yoghurts can contain calcium. Nuts and seeds are good sources of omega and selenium too. These are good for giving us a more youthful glow.

The main factors that affect our nutritional needs are age, sex and activity. A pregnant woman will need to up her folic acid levels even while trying to conceive and throughout her pregnancy. Men need zinc for good quality sperm. Sedentary lifestyles will need different nutrient levels to that of an active person. If a person is sick, they may wish to up their nutrient levels to aid healing. Vitamin C is especially good for this.

Macronutrients, or macros, are the three types of food molecules the body can break down for energy:

  • Protein, which has 4 calories per gram.

  • Carbohydrates, which have 4 calories per gram.

  • Fat, which has 9 calories per gram.

Aiming for a healthy diet is a good form of self-care meaning we can avoid unnecessary illness and fatigue. We may also help the body recover in a swifter manner.


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