top of page
Search

The Role of Macronutrients in Basic Nutrition


the role of marcronutrients

What are macronutrients?


Macronutrients are the essential nutrients our bodies need in large quantities to maintain proper functioning. They provide energy and support various physiological processes. You're probably familiar with the three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.


Why are macronutrients important?


Macronutrients are essential for our overall health and well-being - we couldn't live without them! They provide the energy required for daily activities, support growth and repair of tissues, and help regulate various bodily functions. Consuming an appropriate balance of macronutrients is essential for maintaining good health (1).


In this blog, we'll be taking a deep dive into the three different macronutrient categories and getting a better understanding of their role in optimal nutrition. This is important information whether you are planning your own diet, investigating ingredients for your food product, or designing a menu.


3 Types of Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats


1) Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates are organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. They are one of the primary sources of energy for the body.


What Foods Contain Carbohydrates?


Grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and dairy products are all sources of carbohydrates. Some common sources include bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, fruits like bananas and oranges, and starchy vegetables like corn and peas (2).


Don’t Count out Carbs!


In recent years, diet culture has often given carbohydrates a bad name with diets like keto and Atkins. But it's important to understand their function for your body- carbohydrates provide energy for the body, particularly for the brain and muscles. Carbs are non-negotiable; our bodies need them to keep functioning properly. They are the body's preferred fuel source and play a crucial role in maintaining blood glucose levels and supporting bodily functions.


Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates


Carbohydrates can be classified into two main types: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, also known as sugars, are composed of one or two sugar molecules and are quickly digested and absorbed. Complex carbohydrates, such as starches and dietary fiber, consist of multiple sugar molecules and take longer to digest (3).


How Many Carbs Should I Eat?


The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates varies depending on factors like age, sex, activity level, and overall health. In general, carbohydrates should contribute to about 45-65% of the total daily caloric intake (4).


2) Proteins


Proteins are large molecules composed of amino acids. They are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues, as well as the production of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies.


What Foods Contain Protein?


Protein-rich foods include animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Plant-based sources of protein include legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and certain grains like quinoa (5).


Why Protein Matters


Proteins are vital for various physiological processes in the body. They play a crucial role in building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function, and acting as enzymes and hormones. Proteins also provide a source of energy, although they are not the body's primary fuel source (6).


How Much Protein Do I Need?


There's a common misconception that only high-performing athletes or people looking to gain muscle need to consume high levels of protein. Protein is an essential building block for all bodies, no matter what your fitness goals are. The recommended daily intake of proteins depends on factors such as age, sex, weight, and activity level. On average, adults should consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (7). However, individual protein needs may vary, such as in athletes or people with specific medical conditions.


3) Fats


Fats, also known as dietary fats, are macronutrients that are an essential part of our diet. This is important knowledge, as many marketing initiatives still denote 'low-fat' on labels featured on grocery shelves, implying that fat is bad for us, which isn't entirely accurate!


Dietary fats are organic molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. They are a concentrated energy source, providing 9 calories per gram, more than double the calories from carbohydrates and proteins (8).


Sources of Dietary Fats in Food


Fats can come from both animal and plant sources. Common sources of fats include:

● Animal fats: Butter, lard, fatty cuts of meat, poultry skin, and whole milk products.

● Plant-based fats: Vegetable oils (olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil), avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconuts (9).


4 Reasons Fats Are Necessary


A) Energy source


Fats provide a concentrated form of energy, serving as a stable fuel source for the body.


B) Nutrient absorption


Certain vitamins (such as A, D, E, and K) are fat-soluble, meaning they require dietary fats for absorption.


C) Insulation and protection


Fats help cushion and protect vital organs and provide insulation to maintain body temperature.


D) Cell function and hormone production

Fats are essential components of cell membranes and play a role in maintaining cell structure and function. They are also involved in the production of hormones in the body (10).


Types of Fats

Saturated fats: These fats are usually solid at room temperature and are commonly found in animal products, such as meat and dairy. They can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.


Unsaturated fats: These fats are usually liquid at room temperature and are considered healthier options. They can be divided into:

  • Monounsaturated fats: Found in foods like olive oil, avocados, and nuts. These fats are associated with potential health benefits when consumed in moderation.

  • Polyunsaturated fats: Found in foods like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. These fats are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.


Trans fats: These are artificially created fats formed through a process called hydrogenation. Trans fats are found in many processed and fried foods and are known to raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. They should be avoided as much as possible (9).

How Much Fat Should I Consume?


By now, you know it depends on individual factors such as age, sex, and overall calorie needs. However, as a general guideline, the American Heart Association suggests that fats should contribute 20-35% of total daily calories. Within this range, you should limit saturated fats to less than 10% of total daily calories and replace them with healthier unsaturated fats (11).


-----------------------------------------------------


With so much information readily available and confusing, conflicting opinions on the internet, it's easy to get confused about what you read. We hope this overview of macronutrients served to debunk some of the myths out there and help you understand their crucial role in optimal health and body function. Macronutrients are building blocks for a healthy, enjoyable life - providing us fuel to achieve our goals each day, insulating our vital organs, and assisting in bodily functions like tissue repair, hormone production, immune function, and so much more!


Frequently Asked Questions About Macronutrients


Which macronutrient is vital for every function of the body

As discusses earlier, getting an appropriate balance of macronutrients is essential for maintaining good health. The three main types of macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.


What are macronutrients and micronutrients?

Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, while micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.


References


1) What Are Macronutrients and Micronutrients? Cleveland Clinic https://health.clevelandclinic.org/macronutrients-vs-micronutrients/


2) The Nutrition Source: Carbohydrates. Harvard University. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/


3) What to know about simple and complex carbs. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325171


4) How Many Carbs Do You Need to Lose Weight? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-many-carbs-to-eat-to-lose-weight/


5) The Nutrition Source: Protein. Harvard University. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/


6) 9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/functions-of-protein


7) Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872778/




10) The Functions of Fats. Nutrition: Science and Everyday Application, Open Oregon. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/nutritionscience/chapter/5a-function-of-fats/


11) A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577766/



2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page