Nutrition Basics – The Macronutrients

Nutrition Basics - The Macronutrients ( Proteins, Carbohydrates & Fats )

Hey Babes! So for today’s Nutrition post I really wanted to go back to the basics and talk about the building blocks of a healthy diet. Now with everyone on the internet having an opinion on how you should and shouldn’t eat I just wanted to do a blog post giving you the facts and allowing you to make the decision on how you should nourish your body. I believe that what you decide to consume is a very personal decision and I will not be telling you how you should eat, I just wish to educate you and allow you to make the decision for yourself.

This first blog post will be very basic, I will go into more detail regarding each macro nutrient in blog posts to come! So, what is a macro nutrient? A Macro nutrient is what the bulk of our diet consists of in order for us to function properly, specifically they are the Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. Each macro nutrient is needed in order for your body to function properly, so you should not severely restrict or cut-out any of these: you need a balance of all three to have a healthy and happy body!

PROTEINS 

Proteins are an important component of our body and are involved in so many bodily functions including: growth & maintenance of tissues, proper immune system function and our metabolism. Although Proteins can be used as a form of energy, the body prefers to break down Carbohydrates and then Fats before even touching the Proteins.

 Each protein molecule is composed of 22 amino acids which can be broken down into one of three categories:

  1. Essential Amino Acids – Meaning our body cannot manufacture them
  2. Non Essential Amino Acids – Meaning our body can manufacture them
  3. Conditionally Essential – Meaning our needs for these amino acids depends on our metabolic state at the time

Each amino acid is needed in assisting in different functions in the body and in building different body proteins.

Proteins can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Complete proteins – proteins that contain all the essential amino acids ( eggs, dairy, seafood & meat )
  2. Incomplete proteins – proteins that are capable of maintaining life but may be lacking in one or more essetial amino acid ( beans, rice etc )

*A popular belief is that if consuming an incomplete protein source you must combine two incomplete proteins to create a complete protein. However researchers are now finding that you do not need to worry about ‘protein combining’ as much as the body will form a complete protein on its own as long as all 22 amino acids are consumed in a 24 hr period*

As for requirements the main goal for a healthy adult is to be in even – to – positive protein balance, meaning that we are not under consuming nor over consuming protein, which allows your body to maintain proper function.

Sources of protein include: meat, dairy products, fish, fowl, eggs, whole grains & legumes

*It is highly suggested by many health care professionals that consuming more plant based protein over animal based protein is extremely beneficial and better for one’s long term health*

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates have been given a bad reputation over the years, but you need to understand that not all carbohydrates are bad! Carbohydrates play an important role in the functioning of internal organs, the nervous system, help in the metabolization of proteins & fats and are both an immediate & time-released source of energy ( meaning they provide a sustainable source of energy for an extended period of time ).

Carbohydrates can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Simple Carbohydrates – these are naturally occurring simple sugars that are easily & quickly digested and used as a form of energy by the body
  2. Complex Carbohydrates – which include whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, take longer to break down and provide a sustaining energy source for the body

All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the main form of energy for the body and what the brain requires for proper function. Any excess glucose not needed for immediate use will be stored as glycogen in the muscles or liver.

When our body has a low ratio of carbohydrates to proteins our body shifts into a ketogenic state, meaning that our body responds the the stress or starvation ( yes. starvation!! ) by increasing the body’s reliance on fat as fuel ( a no, no! )

FATS

Fats are another macro nutrient that has been given a bad rep over the years, but they are needed for some very important functions in the body such as: energy storage, insulation, healthy cell membranes, absorption of fat soluble vitamins and protection of the nervous system.

Fats can be broken down into different categories:

  1. Saturated Fats – come from animal sources ( meat, dairy and eggs ) as well as some plant sources ( such as tropical oils ). *Saturated fats are best eaten in moderation as they are not needed by the body for optimal health and over consumption of saturated fasts has been linked to obesity and heart disease.*
  2. Unsaturated Fats – Unsaturated fats are part of a healthy diet and can be broken down into:
    1. Monounsaturated Fats – mainly in vegetable oils ad nut oils ( almond, olive, canola and peanut )
    2. Polyunsaturated Fats – omega-3 polyunsaturated fats & omega-6 polyunsaturated fats ( which are Essential Fatty Acids, meaning the body cannot manufacture them )  are required for circulation, growth, cell division, brain development, immune function, regulation of blood pressure & blood clotting and anti- inflammatory responses.
  3. Hydrogenated Fats & Trans Fatty Acids – Hydrogenation is the process of making unsaturated fatty acids into saturated fats, helping to extend the shelf life. This process is extremely dangerous to oils and can pose a serious health risk to people: proven to be one of the major health risks associated with heart disease, cancer, premature aging and increases the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) while decreasing the ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL). Hydrogenated Fats are often ingredients in commercially prepared baked goods, candies, ice cream, chocolate, peanut butter, boxed cereals and snack type foods. 

As discussed above, the two main essential fatty acids are:

  1. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fats – helps to increase the ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL, which helps to carry cholesterol from the tissues to the liver), may slow down the formation of blood clots in the arteries, control blood pressure, increase energy, improve learning, decrease the risk of heart attacks and stokes and can assist in weight loss. Rich sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, salmon, halibut, cod, trout and mackrel.
  2. Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fats – are components of all cell membranes, needed for healthy skin/proper functioning of the reproductive system, and can regulate blood pressure. Rich sources include most plant oils, oat germ, wheat germ & rice bran.

I hope that you all found this blog post very informative and has inspired you to adopt a healthier lifestyle, or at least made you stop and think about what you are choosing to nourish your body with on a day to basis! I am planning on posting one health/wellness related blog post at least once a week, so if you have any questions that you would like answered or any topics that you would like for me to discuss please feel free to ask in the comments, or ask me on Instagram or Twitter!

Happy Sunday Everyone! I hope you all have a healthy week ahead!

Joy xx.

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