Get a great understanding of what macronutrients are and how they can help you in your nutrition.
1 gram = 4 calories
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body and are divided into two groups: simple and complex. It is not the only source but it is used first for cellular processes. Carbohydrates have many functions including fuel for brain function and organs. Once carbs are consumed the digestive system breaks it down into glucose and sent through the bloodstream to skeletal muscle, the liver to store for later, or kept in the bloodstream for immediate use (blood sugar). Carbohydrates help with digestion as well with fiber. Fiber is technically an indigestible carbohydrate and will address that later.
Simple carbohydrates are made of one or two sugar molecules—monosaccharides or disaccharides—the main ones being glucose and fructose or sucrose, maltose, and lactose, respectively. Simple carbs are so vast and found in the majority of the North American diet, found in most processed foods, malted grains, syrups, and milk. Complex carbohydrates, or starches, are made up of many simple sugars joined by chemical bonds in chains or branches. The more chains or branches formed the more complex the molecule is which takes a longer time to digest and break down into glucose. This is better as it has a steadier increase in blood sugar, as opposed to a large spike created by simple carbs.
1 gram = 4 calories
Proteins are more than just a muscle junkie’s best friend. They are used in a vast amount of cellular processes. The simplest form of protein is amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids, meaning the body cannot naturally produce them and have to be ingested. Protein can be found in the ribosomes of cells, your hair and nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, DNA, and immune system. But this isn’t chemistry class so I’m going to focus on the importance of protein through nutrition. Protein helps to repair and build tissue and create or deliver enzymes and hormones throughout the whole body. Low protein intake can result in terrible consequences such as hormones and enzymes inhibiting, inadequate transportation of oxygenated blood, and low energy levels. Contrary to popular belief, too much protein can also be bad. Excess protein can be stressful on the kidneys and liver—two organs that help rid waste from the body. In fact, you can gain fat by excess protein since the body will be able to rely on amino acids as an energy source, which decreases the breakdown and use of fat for energy, thereby increasing fat mass.
1 gram = 9 calories
Fats, otherwise known as lipids, have a bad rep when it comes to nutrition. But in fact, fats are essential to your diet…with the right type of fat. The goal is to decrease your saturated fats, trans-fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), and omega-6 fats, while increasing your omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. Trans fat is bad for you and increases cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease, found in processed foods. Saturated fatty acids can be found in animal products such as cheese, butter, cream, and meat and can increase cholesterol levels. Unsaturated fatty acids are good for you and can lower cholesterol, often found in nuts and seeds and vegetable oils. Functions of healthy essential fat include formation of every cell membrane, vitamin A, D, E, K absorption, organ insulation for protection, energy, and brain and nerve conduction.
Technically fiber is not a macronutrient but is in fact a form of carbohydrate. Fiber cannot be digested by the body and comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can add size to your stool. Soluble fiber can help lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, nuts, and beans. Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water and helps push food through the digestive system therefore keeping you regular and relieving constipation. Insoluble foods include whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, legumes, or carrots. All fiber helps clean the digestive system and flush out toxins along the way. Other benefits of fiber are: increased satiety, increased production of short-chain fatty acids, increased stool weight, increased intestinal microflora, and decreased intestinal stool time.