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National Nutrition Week 2018: What are macro and micronutrients?

The food that comprises our platter should have all the essential nutrients to meet the needs of our body.

The nutritional needs of our bodies are varied. We need a great amount of nutrients to survive and function to the optimum. It is essential to get all these vital nutrients through our diet as diet deficiency can cost us good health and lead to various kinds of illness. The food that comprises our platter should have all the essential nutrients to meet the needs of our body. 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). Here is a rundown of these essential nutrients:

Macronutrients: As the name suggests they constitute the bigger part of our diet. They constitute the foods that have their own specific roles and functions in the body and supply us with calories or energy. Hence the body needs them in larger amounts to grow, develop, repair and feel good. Most foods are made up of these macronutrients whether it is a raw vegetable or a snack. But it always depends how these macronutrients are distributed in a food item. As an example a banana consists of 95% carbohydrates, with only small amounts of protein and fats. So, the trick is to understand how each macronutrient plays a different role in the body and plan your diet accordingly. Here is the list of the macronutrients that our bodies need:

Fats

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Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet and should consist about 15-20 per cent of our total consumption. They help in brain development, overall cell functioning, protecting the body's organs and even helping in absorption of vitamins found in foods. Some examples of healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, seeds (pumpkin, chia), olives, avocados.

Protein

Protein is essential for repairing and regenerating body tissues and cells, a healthy functioning immune system and manufacturing hormones. Proteins in foods break down into amino acids which are the building blocks of the body. 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 and animal-based foods like poultry, eggs, meat and dairy products.

Carbohydrates

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. This is why they consist around 45 to 65 per cent of our diet. Good sources of carbohydrates: Apples, bananas, cauliflower, carrots, oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa, chickpeas, kidney beans, wheat and brown bread.

Micronutrients: Micronutrients as the name suggests are needed in traces and not in the same quantities as macros, however they 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 well-being. They are the vitamins and minerals found in plant sources. No one plant can be certain to contain more micronutrients than another. 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. So, to ensure you're getting as many of these into your diet try to bring a variety in your plate by incorporating various different 'colors' into each meal.

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