Did you know that your body needs large amounts of certain nutrients to function properly? In the health world we refer to these nutrients as macronutrients and they provide your body with energy in the form of calories. Macronutrients can be split into three categories: carbohydrates, protein and fat that are critical to our overall well-being.
Carbohydrates have been deemed (unfairly) a dirty word in the health world. Granted not all carbs are created equal, but they are necessary for your body to create glucose which is its main energy source. Carbohydrates can be split into two categories: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are the easiest for your body to break down and create glucose with. They are identifiable because they are usually sweeter (honey, table sugar, dairy, and fruit).
Complex carbohydrates are harder for your body to breakdown and take time to process. These carbs typically have a savory taste despite the fact they are made up of long strands of sugar molecules. Rice, pasta, starchy vegetables, beans and nuts all fall in the complex carbohydrate family.
Protein (a bit of a buzz word in the health industry) is essential for your body to grow and repair itself. Amino acids are what protein is chemically made of and come in two forms: essential and non-essential.
Essential amino acids are required through your diet and can be used on their own or transformed into a non-essential amino acid.
Non-essential amino acids are not required in your diet because your body has the ability to produce them itself.
Foods rich in protein include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, soy, lentils and nuts.
Much like carbohydrates, fat has been treated a little unfairly in the world of health and fitness. The fact is you need fats in order to store necessary energy, cushion your organs, make hormones, absorb vitamins and keep your cell membranes in tip-top shape. Like everything else though not all fats are created equal and its important to understand the three different fat categories and what they do for your body.
Trans fat is not a necessary staple for your diet and should be limited if not cut out completely. Most trans fat is created by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats creating hydrogenated oil. Trans fat is found in items such as margarine, shortening and fried foods.
Saturated fat can be eaten in moderation as it does have the ability to increase your cholesterol levels and upping your risk for heart disease. You will mostly find saturated fat in animal products such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, lard, cream, butter and cheese.
Unsaturated fat is the healthiest of all and usually found in a liquid state at room temperature. These fats can actually help you to decrease your risk of heart disease and come from plant sources such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and fatty fish such as salmon.
Macronutrients are an important piece to your overall health puzzle but everyone is different and may require different percentages for their particular needs. At the end of the day focusing on your collective calorie intake is the most important and adjustments to the percentages of each macronutrient can be made from there depending on your health goals/needs.