Macronutrients - protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber are the basic building bocks of healthy nutrition, read on to learn how to balance them into a healthy diet.
What is Protein?
gives us the energy to get up and go and keep going. Keep in mind that it is vital to eat healthy protein that is free of hormones and antibiotics. Also, the majority of people in the U.S. eat more protein than is necessary. So focus more on getting higher quality versus more quantity. Each person is individual and may need different amounts of protein depending on their body and activity level.
During digestion, protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the basic building blocks our bodies use to create its own protein. Our bodies need protein to maintain our cells, tissues and organs. A lack of protein in our diets can result in slow growth, reduced muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system.
A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids Examples are animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese.
An incomplete protein source is one that is low in one or more of the essential amino acids.
Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide ad equate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example, rice and dry beans. Similarly, dry beans each are incomplete proteins, but together, these two foods can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids your body needs. Do complementary proteins need to be eaten in the same meal?Research shows that your body can combine complementary proteins that are eaten within the same day.
Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Tofu: alternative sources for healthy proteins
Beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products are good sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Many of the foods in this group provide iron, which is better absorbed when a source of vitamin C is consumed with the meal.
Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, lentils, and other beans. Nuts like almonds, walnuts and
pecans. Soy products like tofu, soymilk, tempeh and veggie burgers. All of these are great sources of protein
Salted or sugary nuts; refried beans.
What is a Carbohydrate?
A carbohydrate is a food composed of some combination of starches, sugar and fiber - that provides the body with fuel it needs for physical activity by breaking down into glucose, a type of sugar our cells use as a universal energy source.
What are BAD carbs?
Foods that have been “stripped” of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. They have been processed in order to make cooking fast and easy. Examples are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. They digest so quickly that they cause dramatic elevations in blood sugar, which over time can lead to weight gain, hypoglycemia or even diabetes. Good carbs are digested more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar relatively stable.
What are GOOD carbs?
Foods that are digested more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising and falling too quickly, helping you get full quicker and feel fuller longer. Good sources of carbs include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, which also offer lots of additional health benefits, including heart disease and cancer prevention.
Choose Whole Grains for long-lasting, healthy carbohydrate energy.
In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart. Make whole grains an important part of every meal.
Make sure you're really getting WHOLE grains.
Focus on including grains that are in their whole form, such as whole grain brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley in your meals. When you want to eat healthy grains in the form of breads or cereals be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran, don’t necessarily mean that a product is whole grain. Look for the new Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council. If there is no stamp look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat,” and check the ingredients to make sure each grain listed is specified as whole grain. Some good sources are dark breads and toasted wheat cereals.
Refined grains such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.
What are Fats?
Fats are another vital part to a healthy diet. Good fats are needed to nourish your brain, heart, nerves, hormones and all your cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Fat also satisfies us and makes us feel full. It’s the type of fat that matters in addition to how much you consume.
• Saturated fats, primarily found in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products, raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). Substitute lean meats, skinless poultry, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish and nuts. Other saturated fat sources include vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and foods made with these oils.
• Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol that increases your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as lowering HDL, or good cholesterol. Trans fats are created by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. Primary sources of trans fat are vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
• Monounsaturated fats People following traditional Mediterranean diets, which are very high in foods containing monounsaturated fats like olive oil, tend to have lower risk of cardiovascular disease, Primary sources are plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Other good sources are avocados; nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans; and seeds such as pumpkin and sesame seeds.
• Polyunsaturated fats These includes the Omega-3 and Omega-6 groups of fatty acids which your body can’t make. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in very few foods Å| primarily cold water fatty fish and fish oils. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood and help prevent dementia. See below for more on Omega-3. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats are sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils, and walnuts. It is important to know that these oils become unhealthy when heated due to the formation of free radicals, which can lead to disease.
How much fat is too much?
It depends on your lifestyle, your weight, your age and most importantly the state of your health. Focus on including Monounsaturated fats and Polyunsaturated fats in your diet, decreasing Saturated fats, and avoiding Trans fats as much as possible. The USDA recommends that the average individual:
• Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
• Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories (200 calories for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit trans fats to 1% of calories (2 grams per day for a 2000 calorie diet)
• Limit cholesterol to 300 mg per day, less if you have diabetes.
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary Fiber is found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps support a healthy diet by:
• Helping you feel fuller faster and longer, which can help prevent overeating.
• Keeping blood sugar levels even, by slowing digestion and absorption so that glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream slowly and steadily.
• Maintaining a healthy colon the simple organic acids produced when fiber is broken down in the digestive process helps to nourish the lining of the colon.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble:
• Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and can also help to lower blood fats and maintain blood sugar. Primary sources are beans, fruit and oat products.
• Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water, so it passes directly through the digestive system. It’s found in whole grain products and vegetables. A healthy diet should contain approximately 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but most of us only get about half of that amount.