When it comes to diet and exercise, most of us have come across macronutrients. Often referred to as “macros,” your body uses these nutrients to power your day-to-day functions.
There are over 40 different nutrients your body uses to generate energy, to build bone structure, to create new cellular issues, and to perform other vital functions.
There are two types of nutrients you should be familiar with. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals your body needs in small amounts. Some of the more familiar micronutrients include vitamin C, zinc, and iron. On the other hand, your body needs larger quantities of macronutrients, which include protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
So how important are macronutrients anyway?
This macronutrient is found in every tissue in your body. It also makes up important hormones and enzymes that play critical roles in reactions that occur inside your body. Proteins also contain essential amino acids. Poor consumption of essential amino acids could cause your body to decrease protein construction, decrease neurotransmitter production, and increase blood pressure. You can get protein from both animal and plant sources.
Proteins are categorized as complete and noncomplete proteins, depending on their composition. Incomplete proteins do not have all nine essential amino acids and are found in plant sources. These include beans, nuts, and vegetables. Since these proteins sources don’t have all the essential amino acids your body needs, you must supplement your diet with the other amino acids. You can do this by adding plant-based protein sources to your diet, such as soy beans, quinoa, and amaranth that have all 9 essential amino acids. Your body can create any of the other 11 amino acids if you are consuming a nutritious diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, legumes, and healthy fats.
Carbs such as glucose, a sugar model, is considered the main source of fuel for the body. Carbohydrates can be “simple” or “complex.” Simple carbs are made of two sugar molecules and are found in food like juice, fruit, sugar, and milk. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are composed of more than two sugar molecules. You can find carbs in foods such as bread, rice, and pasta.
Carbohydrates can also be refined or unrefined. In the refining process, valuable fiber content in foods like bread and fruit are stripped away. Foods such as white bread and most fruit juices are refined carbohydrates. Unrefined carbs include foods such as brown rice and whole grains.
So, if you are looking for the most nutritious carbohydrate sources, you should aim to consume unrefined and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and vegetables (yes vegetables have carbs)!
Fats have a reputation of being “unhealthy.” The truth is, your brain is primarily composed of fat! That means that your brain needs fat in order to maintain health and function. Fat plays other critical roles in the formation of hormones, such as the production of testosterone and estrogen. The body requires fat to digest, carry, and absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat also keeps your hair and skin looking and feeling healthy! Like proteins and carbohydrates, fats are classified into four different categories.
- Unsaturated fats are found in oils that remain as liquids at room temperature. They can also be broken down into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Monounsaturated fats can be found in avocados, almonds, and flax seed. They can be helpful in keeping your heart healthy.
- Polyunsaturated fats can further be divided into the omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9. For example, Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish, have anti-inflammatory capabilities.
- Trans fats are not natural forms of fats. They are created by heating liquid oil under high pressure and adding a hydrogen molecule that turns it into a solid, saturated-type fat. Trans fats have been linked to heart damage and increases cholesterol levels. In fact, they were created to increase shelf life of foods but are very damaging to the body when consumed. It is recommended that consuming trans fats be avoided.
Whether you consume large amounts of each macronutrient or not, it’s important to know that each one plays an important role in the function of the human body. Elimination of any macronutrient can have damaging effects on your health and performance. It has been recommended that the average adult should consume between 45 to 65 grams of carbohydrates, 10 to 30 grams of protein, and 25 to 35 grams of fat per meal daily for optimal health.
Stay tuned for our next article on macros where we show you how to stay on track with your weight loss and body composition goals through the holiday season.