Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism and all other bodily functions. Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy and are needed in large quantities. There are three macronutrients:
- Proteins; and
While each of these macronutrients provide calories, the amount of calories they provide vary as follows:
- Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.
- Proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
- Fats provide 9 calories per gram.
- CARBOHYDRATES (Carbs)
Carbs are the macronutrients needed in the largest quantity. On digestion they are converted into glucose by the body, which is then used for energy. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, 45%-65% of your daily calorie intake should come from carbs.
Carbohydrates are classified into two categories:
- Simple carbohydrates: These are easily broken down and digested by the body. As a result, simple carbs lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar level. Also, since they are easily digested, chances are you will feel hungry again soon after consuming these. Simple carbs are sugars, such as the ones found in candy, cookies, table sugar (both white and brown) and baked goods such cakes. However, there are certain simple carbs that also contain a host of other nutrients. As such, these should be consumed as a part of a healthy diet. Examples are fruits and dairy products.
- Complex carbohydrates: The body takes time to break down complex carbs. They provide sustained energy as there is a steady rise in blood sugar level. Further, it is less likely that you will feel hungry soon after consuming these. Complex carbs are found in oats, nuts, beans, peas and wholegrain products such as brown bread, brown rice and brown pasta, among others.
Try and incorporate more complex carbs in your diet and limit your intake of simple carbs.
Proteins are the basic structure of all living cells. They are used by the body for growth, tissue repair and preserving lean muscle mass. About 10% to 35% of your daily calorie intake should come from proteins.
The building blocks of proteins are called amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids, which the body does not manufacture and one must therefore get these from their diet. Further, there are 11 non-essential amino acids and the body can itself manufactures these.
Proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids in adequate quantity are called complete proteins. Some sources of complete proteins are:
- For non vegetarians – meat, fish and poultry.
- For vegetarians – quinoa and soy products.
Cheese and milk products are other sources of complete proteins. Also, you can get your daily dose of essential amino acids by mixing and matching various sources of incomplete proteins.
Fats are required by the body for energy, absorbing vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K, and for normal growth and development. About 20-35% of your total daily calorie intake should come from fats.
Although all fats have the same amount of calories per gram, some fats are considered bad for you such as saturated fats and trans fats or hydrogenated fats and some are considered good and should be a part of your diet such as unsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Following are some sources of healthy fats, which should be consumed as part of a balanced diet:
- Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
- Olive oil, canola oil and safflower oil
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, trout