Let’s talk about nutrition. We all know we should eat more of this and less of that, but when held to it, what do we really know? In today’s blog post I’ll be sharing the very basics of nutrition. Just facts here, no fad diets or super weight loss tips. Just knowledge.
Almost all the foods you eat can find a place in one of three categories. These categories are called our “macronutrients”: carbohydrates, protein and fat. (I say “most” because things like vitamins are considered “micronutrients,” which is a different conversation for a different day). Each of the macronutrients have a specific place in your diet, and do different things in your body.
Carbohydrates get a bad rep, but they’re a necessary part of your diet. In fact, unless you are on a specific restrictive diet, there’s no way you’re not eating at least some carbohydrates every day. Carbohydrates include our sweets and grains, but also fruits and vegetables.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple are your sugars, both natural and processed. Natural means fruit, dairy, and honey, as just a few examples, and processed- I’m sure we can all think of a few processed sweet treats (the sugar in cookies or an energy drink, for example!) This type of carbohydrate is broken down easily and increases your blood sugar quickly, but for a short time. Ever heard of a “sugar high” or seen a kid go absolutely insane after too many cookies, only to pass out a short while later? That's simple sugars for you! Complex carbohydrates take slightly longer to absorb and provide energy (although still faster than protein or fat) and are less likely to be converted to fat. These include starches, fiber, wheat, bread, pastas, potatoes, etc.
Protein is simplified as “the building blocks of muscle”. Without protein, we have no muscle growth. No other macronutrient can synthesize muscle. This is clearly a focus for the bodybuilders and strength builders amongst us, but did you know muscle growth is important for everyone, regardless of age, gender, hobbies etc? In fact, you know what group of people typically need to up their protein intake dramatically? Seniors! As we age it gets harder to hold onto our muscle which can upset our hormone balance, bone density, and many other carefully balanced things within our body. Eat up, seniors!
Protein can come from two forms: animal or plant. Animal proteins are easiest for our body to absorb and use, but we also absorb nutrients from plant proteins. Eating a diet without animal products can mean you will get enough protein, you’ll just have to be a little more conscious about what you eat. Protein is chemically more complex and therefore harder to break down. That means that they are not a quick energy source, but their effects last a long time.
Fat is our third and final macronutrient. Fat has many uses, but an important one here is that it is our body’s way of storing excess energy. Of course, we don’t need a huge amount of energy storage. But we do need some! It also helps protect our organs. It’s the slowest source of energy and the last the body will utilize, but the most energy efficient, which means it helps you stay fuller longer. My point here is, we need fat in our diets!
Each of these macronutrients has a specific need in our diet. My intention in explaining the role of each is to get you to lift an eyebrow any time you hear of a “Miracle Cure” diet that forces you to stop eating one of these macronutrients. Of course, dependent on our body type or specific health concern, it may be beneficial to limit one type, or choose the right types of food within that type (less cookies, more fruit, for example). But each of these macronutrients has an important role to play.
Please reach out with any questions! This is just the tip of the first iceberg when it comes to nutrition knowledge. Stay tuned on our blog to reach more about nutrition!