food

Why the "macro diet" will change the way you think about food.

Image via iStock

From Paleo to Atkins, Mediterranean to Nordic, there are no shortage of diet plans to consider if you’re looking to kick-start your health.

While a different set of benefits apply to all of them, simply paying attention to what’s actually in your food can also work wonders for your health. Let us explain.

The “macro” or “macronutrient” diet doesn’t involve cutting out any food or eating less – instead it’s all about focusing on giving your body everything it needs, nutrient-wise. Food is not only measured by calories, but also by ‘macros’.

Macronutrients or macros are essentially nutrients which contain kilojoules. The three main macros all provide different and essential benefits for the body:

– We need carbohydrates for energy and fibre.

– Protein for strong muscles, healthy tissues and hormone production.

– And fat to maintain healthy tissues and cells and ensure proper nerve and brain function.

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, the energy in our diet should come from 15-25 per cent protein, 45-65 per cent carbohydrate and 20-35 per cent from fat, with no more than 10 per cent from saturated fats. The average break up is usually 20 per cent protein, 50 per cent carbohydrates and 30 per cent fat.

Carbohydrates provide 16 kilojoules per gram, protein provides 17 kilojoules per gram and fat provides 37 kilojoules per gram.

While there are a number of macro-focused diets such as The One One One Diet (which encourages one serve of each macro at every meal), they can just as easily be followed using a nutrient monitor or app (I like to use MyFitnessPal) or simply by noting in a food diary, making it an easy and cheap method. (Post continues after gallery.)

“I find using a nutrient counter and monitoring macronutrient intake a great tool for helping people to become more interested in, and aware, of their overall nutrition intake,” says dietitian Melanie McGrice.

“Research shows that keeping a food diary helps you to become more aware and focused on the foods that you are consuming, which in turn causes people to choose more consciously.”

ADVERTISEMENT

However, the macro breakdowns are not a one size fits all policy, so it’s always a good idea to speak to a dietitian who can assess and modify it to suit your specific needs.

You can use apps like My Fitness Pal. Image: supplied.

It's not a method advised if you're looking to lose weight quickly (which should never be your priority anyway) but can be a good long-term option.

"As long as macronutrient goals are healthy and realistic, it's a very sustainable way of eating," says McGrice.

So often foods - particularly carbohydrates - are given a bad rap, but looking at macros shows that every food has a valuable place in your diet.

But just as with any diet or food plan, it's important to remember not to get carried away with obsessively counting food to the point that it takes away the joy of eating. The guidelines are just that - guidelines to help you eat a balanced diet and give your body the nutrients that it needs.

Do you take notice of macronutrients?