There are so many myths about nutrients and food that it is sometimes hard to distinguish what's true and what's not. Do you understand the difference between a nutrient and a whole food? Nutrient it is the building blocks of whole foods and has very specific functions. In this pamphlet, you will get an overview on the truths and functions of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins). The useful pamphlet will also guide you on the best food sources of these macronutrients to buy and even advise on the best value for money products.

What are macronutrients?

  • It is the building blocks of whole foods and other biologically active constituents that are essential for the growth and development of our bodies and the maintenance of its functions.

  • Each nutrient has functions and is needed in various quantities. The quantities or nutritional requirements differ between groups of people, and between individuals. These differences are related to an individual's age, sex, height, level of activity and health status.

  • The classes of macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, lipids (fats and oils). These macronutrients are needed by the body in large quantities.

Carbohydrates – Make starchy foods part of most meals

Rich sources of carbohydrates are starchy foods such as maize meal, cereals, samp, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sweet potato. Other sources of carbohydrates include foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk and nuts to a lesser degree. These foods are our main source of energy, and should be consumed with most meals. It is important to choose unrefined starchy foods which are high in fibre since these increase satiety, supports healthy bowel functioning and lowers the risk of developing diseases such as obesity and heart disease. Source of vitamins and minerals: primarily provide complex carbohydrates, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, iron and folate.
 Whole grains are particularly rich in magnesium, zinc, and fibre.

Carbohydrates are not fattening. It will only cause weight gain if one's intake is much less than one's activity level. Give preference to whole wheat and unrefined cereal products, e.g. high fibre cereals and use brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, lentils or samp instead of rice.

Protein – Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs could be eaten daily and have milk, maas or yoghurt every day.

Rich sources of protein are meat, eggs, legumes and milk and dairy products. Protein’s primary function is the growth, repair and maintenance of body tissue. The body requires new protein every day in order to keep the body tissues healthy. In times of inadequate energy intake (either carbohydrate or lipids), proteins can also provide energy. Proteins consist of amino acid chains. All of the essential amino acids are available from animal protein sources, while not all amino acids are available from plant proteins. Proteins also provide certain vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, niacin, cobalamin, vitamin D, phosphorus, iron, zinc and iodine.


Small portions of these foods can be eaten daily, but need not be eaten daily. Animal-based foods are higher in fat (saturated fat) and we tend to eat more thereof than we need to. Try to include more plant protein sources, eggs, dairy and fatty fish (e.g. snoek, sardines, pilchards, mackerel, and salmon) and less red meat. Milk is not fattening. Aim to eat or drink at least 2 cups of milk, maas or yogurt per day. Skim or low fat is better. It has all the protein and calcium, but less fat.