You’ve probably heard of the word “macronutrients” from many people throughout your life, but do you know what a macronutrient is? A macronutrient is a nutrient your body needs in large amounts to provide energy. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates, also known as carbs, are simply sugar molecules (glucose). They are your body’s preferred method of energy, and the average adult should get 45-65% of their calories from carbs, which is around 225-325 grams per day, but recommendations vary per person. Carbohydrates help fuel your bodyduring physical activity, as well as feed your brain. They also help spare protein during exercise, therefore preserving muscles. In addition, carbohydrates can be divided into three categories: sugars, starches and fiber.
Sugars are often called simple carbohydrates because they’re the basic form of carbs and can be found naturally in vegetables, fruits and milk.
Starches are made from numerous sugars connected together and need to be broken down so your body can absorb them. Starches are found in grains, potatoes, peas, corn and legumes.
Fiber is a complex carb your body cannot break down and can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Protein is important for the maintenance of bones, muscles, skin, hair and more. Proteins are also part of cell membranes and are involved in regulating metabolism and hormones. The average adult needs around 5.5-6 ounces of protein per day, which is around 155-170 grams. Just like carbs, protein needs vary between each person. There are two ways to get protein into your diet: animal proteins or plant proteins.
Animal proteins, from meat and dairy, are called complete proteins, meaning they supply all the essential amino acids your body needs in one serving.
Plant proteins, from tofu, breads, beans, nuts and seeds, are not complete proteins, meaning they don’t supply all the amino acids in one serving like animal proteins. Therefore, it’s essential to eat a wide variety of plant proteins throughout the day to provide all the essential amino acids.
Fats also play an important role in your diet. Fats provide you with energy and also help your body absorb certain vitamins. In addition, fats help keep your skin and hair healthy and can affect your cholesterol levels. There are three types of fats: saturated, unsaturated and trans-fats.
Monounsaturated fats are often found in oils, peanut butter, avocados and nuts and seeds. They can help lower bad cholesterol levels in your body, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Polyunsaturated fats, like monounsaturated fats, are found in nut and seed oils and fish. These fats help provide your body with Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. Polyunsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your body and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, poly- and monounsaturated fats provide your body with vitamin E.
Saturated fats typically come from red meats, poultry, full-fat dairy products, butter, margarine, coconut oil and processed foods. These fats can increase bad cholesterol in your blood and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s recommended 10% or less of your calories come from saturated fat.
Trans fats are naturally found in meat, whole milk and milk products in very small amounts. Trans fats can also be made when vegetable oils are hydrogenated (i.e. made into a solid) and then used in sweets and baked goods. An example of a hydrogenated oil is shortening, commonly used for baking. It’s recommended 1% or less of your calories come from trans fats.