When someone refers to macronutrients, they are referring to the three components:
Proteins (4 calories per gram)
Proteins are made of amino acids, small units necessary for growth and tissue repair. Animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, milk and eggs are rich in protein. Good plant sources of protein are beans, peas, nuts and grains.
Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. There are three different kinds of carbohydrates: starch, sugar and fiber.
Starch is made from chains of small sugars. When these chains are broken down during digestion, we get energy.
We do not get calories from fiber, because our bodies do not break fiber down during digestion; however, fiber is great for
- intestinal health
- keeping you “regular”
- feeding your gut microbiome
Sugars are not essential foods. Refined or purified sugars provide energy, but no nutritional value. Occasional sweet treats are a perfectly healthy addition to an otherwise healthy individual. But of course, anything in excess – including sugar – can lead to an imbalance and increase health risks. Remember, sugar is added to almost ALL processed foods – soups, boxed meals, frozen meals and so on. Read labels!
Oils/Fats (9 calories per gram)
Fats and oils (which are liquid fats) have gotten a bad rap, and if you were alive during the 80s and 90s, you may still have a fear of fats. But fats in the diet are necessary for good health. They
- make certain vitamins available for use in the body
- cushion vital organs
- make up the outer shell of our cells
- used to produce hormones
- help to maintain body temperature
- delay feelings of hunger
Two particular fats (polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 types) are needed to build regulatory substances called prostaglandins.