Protein, Carbs and Fat – Your Essential Macronutrients for Health

Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are the three main macronutrients that food is made up of. Some foods contain mostly protein or fat, and some contain mostly carbohydrates. Others have a more even mix of all three.

Some diets and nutrition philosophies severely limit one or more macronutrient or food group. For example, there are a number of ‘low carb’ eating philosophies such as the ketogenic diet. There are other dietary regimes that limit or eliminate dietary fat.

The ideal mix of macronutrients will vary from person to person, and the best approach is always an individualized one. All three macronutrients play important roles in the body and problems can arise if one or more macronutrients are restricted too much.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of each macronutrient as well as everyday healthy foods that contain each one.

Protein

Protein is essential to help build and repair all the tissues in the body. It is important for strong muscles, bones, as well as healthy hair and nails. Your body can also use protein to make important enzymes and hormones.

Choose the following foods as healthy protein sources:

  • Egg whites (eat the yolks too because they’re a good source of healthy fats)
  • Lean meats and seafood
  • Beans and pulses. Consuming a range of these foods helps vegetarians and vegans to consume a diet with sufficient protein. Examples include chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, and black beans
  • Yogurt, milk kefir and cheese
  • Tempeh and tofu
  • Raw nuts and seeds, and nut or seed butter

Fats

Fat is given a hard time in some dietary circles. However, it is essential for optimal health. It plays an important role in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats help with body temperature regulation by providing insulation. They contain essential fatty acids, which are important for brain development, among other things.

Good sources of fats include:

  • Oils such as coconut oil, sesame oil, and olive oil
  • Avocadoes
  • Most of the foods listed under the protein heading. There are many foods that provide a great source of both protein and fat. For example, meats, seafood, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, eggs, and dairy

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are foods that are broken down into sugar in the body and are used to provide energy. They are the preferred source of fuel for the brain. As is the case with fats, carbohydrates are limited or almost completely avoided in some nutrition philosophies.

All of the body’s organs require carbohydrates to function well. Carbohydrates that are not immediately used for fuel will be stored in the muscle and liver for later use, or converted to fat if those stores are already full.

Good sources of carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, including starchy vegetables
  • Beans and pulses
  • Dairy products
  • Whole grains

An excess of any macronutrient can lead to issues such as weight gain. It’s important to realize that all of them play important roles in the body and problems usually arise when something is consumed in excess and things are out of balance within the body.

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