What are macronutrients?

Balanced healthy diet

I keep hearing about macronutrients. What are they? Do I need to worry about them?

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Macronutrients are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provide us with energy: in other words, fat, protein and carbohydrate. Micronutrients are mostly vitamins and minerals, and are equally important but consumed in very small amounts.

We generally get our micronutrients along with macronutrients. Protein-containing foods such as meat, beans, milk, fish or eggs are sources of iron, calcium and vitamin D, for example. Carbohydrate-containing foods such as fruit and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre, while starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice, wholegrain bread and cereals provide fibre, B vitamins and magnesium. Fats provide us with vitamins A, D, E and K.

Don’t get too hung up on the ‘perfect’ balance, as what works for one person may not suit you

Some people ‘count macros’ to lose weight. The balance of food groups you consume is important, as it affects how satisfied you feel with your meals and whether you are getting all the nutrients you need.

Counting macros may involve keeping a food diary, which can help you check the balance of nutrients you are getting from your food and, over time, help you to eat healthily. There are also free apps that can help you work out the balance of macronutrients you are eating, such as high-protein or low-carb. But don’t get too hung up on the ‘perfect’ balance, as what works for one person may not suit you.

For most people, ensuring that you have foods from all the main food groups, in roughly the proportions shown on the national Eatwell guide will mean you get the right balance and variety of macronutrients and micronutrients. 

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with 20 years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. She leads the BHF's work on nutrition.

More useful information