- What they are
- How they impact your weight loss and weight maintenance goals
What They Are
The dictionary definition for macronutrient is
a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms, in particular.
The “substance” I will be focusing on is food. Macronutrients are the components that make up the food we eat, proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The protein I will focus on is animal protein. Vegetarians get their complete proteins by combining legumes like beans, lentils and peanuts with grains like wheat, rice and corn. This post is not about vegetarian protein.
Animal proteins are large molecules composed of long chains of amino acids.
A large portion of our cells, muscles and tissue is made up of amino acids, meaning they carry out many important bodily functions, such as giving cells their structure. They also play a key role in the transportation and the storage of nutrients. Amino acids have an influence on the function of organs, glands, tendons and arteries. They are furthermore essential for healing wounds and repairing tissue, especially in the muscles, bones, skin and hair as well as for the removal of all kinds of waste deposits produced in connection with the metabolism. (1)
Protein is essential, we must have adequate protein to keep the body functioning.
Fat is an essential part of our diet. There are many vitamins and micronutrients in the food that we eat that are fat-soluble. This means we are unable to absorb and process those nutrients if we don’t have fat in our diet. If you eat fruits and vegetables without fat you only absorb a fraction of the available nutrients. Include fat, like an avocado or full fat salad dressing with those fruits and veggies and the absorption of nutrients jumps tremendously. (2) Get rid of that fat-free or low-fat salad dressing and enjoy the deliciousness of a good fatty dressing!
I know, I might have just scared you with the idea of eating fat. Fat is good for you, fat is essential, your body needs fat. Way back in the 1970s a thing called the diet-heart hypothesis become very popular. This hypothesis pointed at fat, especially saturated fat at the big evil behind heart disease. The government even bought into this idea and in the late 70s presented the country with the first every dietary guidelines that told the American people to cut the consumption of fat in order to eliminate heart disease. I don’t know if any of you have been keeping up but that whole diet-heart hypothesis has been debunked. The American people did what they were told and cut their fats. This is exactly when the obesity epidemic really got started and heart disease continued to climb as the leading cause of death in both men and women.(3) Dietary fat, not even saturated fat is the bad guy. I could write an entire series on the health benefits of fat so I’m going to finish this off by saying, healthy fat is good for you and should be included (and enjoyed) as part of a well structured healthy eating and lifestyle plan.
This brings us to carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products. (4)
There is a lot of information out there telling you that carbohydrates are essential to life. The American Diabetes Association refers to carbohydrates as the body’s main source of energy. As noted above, carbohydrates are sugars. If the body runs on sugar then carbohydrates would be an important energy source. The body actually prefers to run on fat (as mentioned in an earlier post) but if sugar is available that is an easier and more readily available source of energy so naturally the body will use the sugar. It’s odd that the American Diabetes Association focuses on sugar as the body’s main source of energy. Diabetics need to be very careful about the sugar in their diet. It would seem that focusing on fat at the primary energy source and avoiding sugar would be a logical suggestion for those suffering with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes but o.k.
There are those that would argue that carbohydrates are not essential and that we as humans can live a very long and healthy life without any carbohydrates. I personally LOVE vegetables and even fruit so I do like to eat non-starchy veggies daily.
Above, when I noted that fats were unfairly demonized as the cause of heart disease what I didn’t mention was that carbohydrates or more accurately sugar was another hypothesis being kicked around by other scientists at the same time but sadly this idea was never fully recognized due to all the screaming about fat. Now that the dust has settled and we as a nation have spent the last 50 years getting fatter and sicker while avoiding “deadly” dietary fats people are finally starting to ask why or what else. 50 years is a long time to be going down the wrong road but right now is as good a time as any to make a course correction.
It all comes back to insulin. Macronutrients all have an affect on insulin secretion and this in turn affects how the body burns and stores fat. Understanding how your body responds to the food choices you make is the first step in taking control of your health and managing a healthy weight.
In my next post I’ll continue the discussion about macronutrients and the insulin response.
Remember, eat well so you feel good and can have fun!
Part 1 – Weight Gain, is it Calories or is it Hormones
Part 2 – Body Weight Set Point
part 3 – Insulin, your key to weight loss
Part 4 – The Problem with High Fasting Insulin
Part 6 – Not Enough Fat, Too Many Carbs
Part 7 – It’s the type of Calories that Count
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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