Do you know your protein from your fat? Not sure what carbs are or how to reduce them?! Getting to know the foods you eat on a macronutrient level is a good idea and will increase your ability to eat healthy foods. We all need certain amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat each day, so read on to find out more.
Protein is responsible for growth, repair, maintenance and fuel. Not only does it build and repair body tissue, but it is also serves as a major component of enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Every cell in your body contains protein. There are literally thousands of different kinds of protein.
Hormones, enzymes, structural components, immune components and muscle contractile molecules are all proteins. Amino acids are the building blocks from which protein molecules are constructed. Of the twenty amino acids, eight are called essential. Essential amino acids must be provided by your diet.
The major sources of protein in your diet are: meat (beef, chicken, pork), fish, beans, eggs (especially the white), legumes, dairy, and nuts. Note that not all protein sources are created equal! You should eat: lean cuts of meat, fish is excellent, low fat dairy, small amounts of nuts, and plenty of beans. You can also get protein from powders and meal replacements, but we recommend 'real' food in the place of supplements etc.
Carbohydrates provide a major source of energy for the body and are used to power muscular contraction and as a fuel for the central nervous system. Carbohydrates spare protein from being synthesized into glucose, and they are a metabolic primer for fat metabolism.
Carbohydrates range in form from sugars or simple carbohydrates to polysaccharides which are called complex carbohydrates. The simple sugars are fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (grain sugar). Complex carbohydrates are starch, glycogen, and cellulose.
Regardless of the original form of a carbohydrate, the liver converts them into glucose or blood sugars. How quickly this process occurs after ingesting food is measured on the Glycemic Index (GI). Some glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, some is used as energy, and some is converted into fat.
The major sources of carbohydrate in your diet are: bread, grains, rice, pasta, beans, fruit, and vegetables. We recommend eating carbohydrates that are unprocessed, whole grained, and with little or no added sugars or fat. Fruit and vegetable sources are excellent, take it easy on breads and other high energy carbs. Also, see our article on the glycemic index for a great tool to choose healthier carbohydrates.
Fats are the chief storage form of energy in the body. Fat insulates and protects vital organs, and provides fat-soluble vitamins. Fat molecules are made up of simpler units called fatty acids.
Fatty acids can be either saturated (often called 'bad' fat) or unsaturated ('good' fat). Unsaturated fats can be either mono or poly unsaturated. In general, the more liquid the fat or oil, the more unsaturated it is. Unsaturated fat decreases blood cholesterol just as saturated fat increases cholesterol - which is why saturated fats (mainly from meat or dairy sources) is considered 'bad'.
The major sources of fat in your diet are: oils, dairy (butter, margarine, cheese), meat, nuts, and snack or junk foods! It is important to look closely at the foods you are eating and aim to keep your overall fat intake low, especially saturated fat sources.
To find out more about macronutrients, eating well and your individual nutritional needs contact us!