The Big 3 Macros: Carbs, Proteins, and Fat
Nutrients are needed for growth, metabolism, and for other vital functions. “Macro” means large, so macronutrients are needed in large amounts.
Macronutrients are needed for survival as they provide us with energy.
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram.
Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Carbohydrates are the macronutrient that we need in the largest amounts. 45% - 65% of the total number of calories you consume should come from carbohydrate. The National Academy of Medicine has determined that we need this amount of carbohydrate because carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose, the basic carbohydrate molecule, for energy.
Carbs are mainly found in starchy foods like grains and starchy vegetables (root vegetables and corn), fruits, and dairy. Other foods like non-starchy vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds also contain carbs, but in lesser amounts.
Most of us get plenty of protein and meet the 10% - 35% of total calories that is recommended. We need protein for growth, tissue repair, and immune function. Adequate protein intake also helps preserve lean muscle mass. When carbohydrate is not available, the body can use protein as a “last resort” fuel.
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, dairy, nuts/seeds, and beans/legumes. Starchy foods and vegetables also contain small amounts of protein.
Fat is essential for survival. Despite it's bad rap, we need 20% - 35% of our total calories to come from fat. It's all about choosing the healthy fats – poly- and monounsaturated over saturated and trans.
Saturated fat is found in meat, poultry, and milk products while the healthier fats are found in fish, seeds, nuts, and certain fruits and vegetables. Trans fats in processed food are the only type of fat that you should always avoid.
A little planning can go a long way with your nutrition. Make sure you're getting the proper proportions of your calories from each of the three macros.
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