Macronutrients & Their Importance to Proper Nutrition
Today’s blog is going to focus on macronutrients and their importance to a balanced diet and their function and roles in your body. Macros are simply nutrients that your body requires in larger amounts in order to properly function. These nutrients provide your body with energy measured as calories (kcals). There are three types of macronutrients:
Carbohydrates: contain 4kcal per gram
Proteins: contain 4kcal per gram
Fats: Contain 9kcal per gram (2.25x more than proteins and carbs)
Carbohydrates are most commonly sugars, starches and fibers that are found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. At some point, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source for your body and allows you to do physical activities and supports bodily function. Not all carbohydrates are created equally, though. Some carbohydrates are much more healthy for you than others. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex
These carbs are easy for your body to break down into energy or glucose. These are the healthiest carbs for you and involve unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Simple carbs promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fibers and phytonutrients.
These carbs take much longer for your body to break down. Examples of these less health carbs include: white bread, pastries, sodas, and any other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digestible carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
Tips regarding carbohydrates:
WHOLE GRAIN. When shopping look for breads that list whole grain as the first ingredient
Choose whole fruit over juices. (more fiber from fruit than juices)
Pass on the potatoes, add more beans
Limit the amount of refined sugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, agave, honey and white and brown sugar.
Carbohydrates are a major source of field and nutrients for our body. They should be part of a healthy diet, EVEN when the goal is to lose weight. Just pay attention to portion size, choose whole fruits and make it a whole grain!
Proteins main function is it allows your body to grow, build and repair tissue, and protect lean body mass. Here are the primary functions of protein in the body, broken down:
Tissue structure (part of organ tissues, muscle, hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments and blood plasma)
Part of cell plasma membranes
Involved in metabolic, transport, and hormone systems
Make up enzymes that regulate metabolism
Involved in acid/base balance to maintain a neutral environment in our bodies
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, or other types of animal by-products. You can also get a proper amount of protein from eating a variety of plant protein sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy.
Here is a link to a protein calculator so that you input for information and it will tell you the recommended amount of protein needed. It also has some great information on proteins, sources, and tips.
And lastly, fats. Fats get a bad reputation because it is the highest in kcal per gram but if you try to limit the bad types of fat and focus on the ‘more healthy’ fats, it’s important to a healthy diet.Fat allows you to store energy, provides cushion to organs, makes certain hormones, absorb fat soluble vitamins, and helps with cell membrane integrity. It’s important to understand the different types of fats so let’s discuss them a little bit:
You should try and limit the amount of trans fat in your diet. Trans fat is produced from adding hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats. Trans fats can be found in margarine, shortening, baking goods, doughs and fried foods. Try and supplement trans fats with more healthy alternatives when cooking.
These fats, in large amounts, have been shown to increase cholesterol levels and increase your risk for heart disease. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal sources with high fat contents such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry, lard, cream, butter, and dairy. The American Heart Association recommends 5-6% of your daily kcals come from saturated fats and lean more towards unsaturated fats which are the healthiest fat for you!
These fats are known as the ‘healthy fat’ because they have been shown to help decrease your risk for heart disease. Unsaturated fats are commonly found in avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and oils (olive, canola, etc.) You will also find these fats in animal sources such as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring.
This blog was just a broad overlook into macronutrients and their importance and function in your body. Not all nutritional advice works the same for everyone so find some healthy alternatives that YOU like and try and replace some of the not-so-healthy elements from your diet. This doesn’t need to occur instantly, you can slowly phase out of your unhealthy habits as you incorporate more healthy ingredients into your body. Change takes time and sometimes if tough to break habits but striving for a more well balanced, nutritional diet will vastly improve many facets of your life.
Here is the general breakdown for macronutrient recommendations from the USDA. Not to say it’s perfect for everyone, but it’s a good starting point!
If you have any questions I’d be more than willing to answer them, thanks for reading!
1. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. N Engl J Med. 2011;364:2392-404.
2. NIH, "What are proteins and what do they do?", ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein.