Macronutrient Basics


Macronutrients are the nutrients that are needed in large, “macro,” amounts for survival. Consisting of three categories: fats, proteins and carbohydrates, macronutrients provide calories and energy when consumed. Many different diets are structured around controlling or eliminating the consumption of one of the macronutrients, however, it is important to understand the basics of each before deciding on an appropriate dietary plan. Outlined below is the essential information about each macronutrient.

For each gram of protein, there are 4 associated calories. Protein is made up of amino acids, commonly referred to as “building blocks.” There are essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids. A common discussion is whether vegans are protein deficient due to the lack of “complete proteins,” a single food source with all 9 essential amino acids. Although any one plant based item may not be considered a complete protein, a diet including a variety of plant based protein sources will allow vegans to consume all of the essential amino acids in adequate amounts.

Carbohydrates also consist of 4 calories per gram. They are commonly classified into “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates, based on their molecular structure. Simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, are easily broken down into glucose. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato require a longer digestive process. Fiber is also a carbohydrate, however it cannot be used for energy and in turn aids in gastrointestinal health.

At 9 calories per gram, fats pack the biggest punch per volume in terms of calories. Fats are important because they aid in the digestion of fat-soluble vitamins, assist in cell membrane integrity, increase satiety and provide energy. Of course, not all fat is created equal. Unsaturated fats, such as the well known Omega 3 fatty acids, should be chosen over saturated fats while trans-fats should be avoided all together.

Looking for some additional reading? Here is an article from February 2014 discussing negative changes that have occurred in the modern diet.!JxOZP


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