Macronutrients – What they are and why we need them

We believe that the key to eating healthy is making informed decisions. That’s why In our last blog post we focused on what a nutritionally balanced diet means and why that’s the first step towards a healthier life. The two groups of nutrients which we mentioned were micro- and macronutrients. Of the two, macronutrients are the ones which are mentioned most often when eating plans are concerned. Those are the nutrients which we consume in larger amounts and make up our daily caloric intake.

Most of us, however, don’t really know what the specific functions of these macronutrients are and why we need to include all of them in our diet (yes, even fats). We’re not going to strictly focus on the ratio in which you should consume the 3 main macronutrients. The emphasis of this blog post is to understand what they do for our body and why we need them.

Protein

This is probably the macronutrient we hear most about and for good reason. Protein is the building block not just for muscles but also for every cell in our body. It helps to repair and regenerate tissues, fight infections and create new enzymes and hormones. When necessary, protein can also be used for energy, although that’s not its main function.

Proteins are made of different types of amino acids and while the body can produce most on its own there are 9 amino acids which we can only get from food. These are called essential amino acids and they need to be consumed daily. The good news is that your body can make complete proteins from the food you need throughout the day so you don’t have to consume all of the amino acids at once.

Here are some good sources of protein: beans, nuts, soy but also meat, eggs, fish and seafood

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a bit of a controversial topic nowadays with quite a lot of diets reducing the number of carbohydrates to a minimum. However, there are several facts you should consider before you make your decision regarding this macronutrient. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy not only for the body but for the brain as well. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent protein from breaking down for energy, thus preserving muscle mass.

The key with carbohydrates is choosing ones that take longer to break down. This way you will feel fuller for longer and your energy levels will also be stable. Some of the healthiest foods you can consume fall under the category of carbohydrates. This includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Fats

When we hear the word ”fat” we immediately associate it with something unhealthy. Actually, years ago people were told to limit fat in their diet so that they can prevent weight gain and avoid heart diseases. Thankfully research has proven that fats should be an essential part of every diet and that not all fats are created equal. There are four different types of fat, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and trans fats. We will not go into too much detail but will still mention a bit about every type of fat.

Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are also known as healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, they can also aid in weight loss and having stable energy levels. Polyunsaturated fats not only provide some of the benefits which monounsaturated fats do but they also supply the body with the essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. They support a healthy brain and muscle function.

Saturated fats are very difficult to place. While mono- and polyunsaturated fats are considered good and trans fats – bad, saturated fats come in between. Some studies suggest that saturated fats are just as bad as trans fats, can raise bad cholesterol and cause heart diseases. Other researchers, however, suggest that they have health benefits and should be consumed. In the end, most dieticians agree that you should consume saturated fats, however, minimize their amount to 10% of the calories you consume each day.

Trans fats are what you truly need to watch out for. They are commonly known as the worst type of fat. There are currently no known health benefits of trans fats and what they do is lower the good cholesterol and increase the bad one.

Good sources of fat are: raw nuts, avocado, vegetable oils and fish

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