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While I am coaching clients, one of my jobs is to teach them about food. What is a protein, what is a fat, what is a carbohydrate? It is amazing how many folks don’t know. Or they think they know, but they don’t. It is important to know the difference, so you know what you are really eating, and how your body is processing the foods you consume.

Do you know what the “macros” are? Or what counting macros means? We have three main macronutrients we must consume daily: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. A “macro” means it is required in relatively large amounts, and we can only get them from food resources. The macronutrients are required for growth, development and repair of our body. In addition, eating the right amount, and in the correct combination, will make us feel good and help us to have good health.

A macro is the main ingredient in a food. For instance, a banana (or any fruit) is primarily made from carbohydrates (sugar), very little amounts of protein and fats. On the flip side, an avocado is primarily made from fats (good), and less carbohydrates and proteins. We all know chicken breast is primarily a protein, but still has a little fat in it.

The trick is to understand how each macronutrient plays a different role in the body and then make sure you are getting what you need daily, and not too much of one, and too little of another.

First, let’s talk fats. Don’t be afraid of them. Fat plays an important role in our body. It protects our organs, helps our brain and cells develop, regulates our temperature, and helps trap toxins from foods. Some examples of healthy fats are almonds, walnuts, seeds (pumpkin, flax, chia), avocados, dairy (milk, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt), oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut), butter, and olives.

Moving onto protein. Protein is the building block of everything in our body; our skin, brain, muscles, teeth, hair, nails, eyes and the synthesis of hormones. We must get all the essential amino acids from food. There are 9 essential amino acids, and a total of 20. Good sources of protein are chicken, beef, pork, eggs, fish/seafood, soy, and whey protein. Although legumes(beans) have a good source of protein, they are primarily a carbohydrate. The same is true with nuts, avocado and cheese. They are a good source of protein, but higher in fat.

Carbohydrates are a vital part of our daily diet, when managed and understood. They are essential for the brain to function properly and for energy. Carbohydrates break down in the body into glucose. The job of glucose is to provide fuel for the body quickly. We must control the amount we eat, and when, but we can’t eliminate them completely. Some good examples of healthy carbs are low glycemic vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, and broccoli. As well, quinoa, brown rice, millet, oats, and sweet potatoes. Additionally, berries, and apples.

I have been taught there is a good time of day to eat proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and when to put them together and when to separate them. Not only for weight management, but also for controlling the release of the hormone insulin. Everyone has different needs based on many factors like age, sex, size, and health. But, understanding the basics of the macronutrients will help you on your journey.

Do you count your macros?