macro nutrients dietary confusion

This week’s blog focusses on macro nutrients and explains how each nutrient is important for the optimal function of the body.  A nutrient is simply a substance that is essential for the maintenance of life and growth.  There are of 3 macro nutrients; carbohydrates, fats and proteins and micro nutrients which are made up of vitamins and minerals.  Macro nutrients are required in larger doses and micro nutrients are required by the body in small doses.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body’s first port of call for fuel and the main fuels for the central nervous system and the muscles.  Unlike fat, the body has limited stores of carbohydrate therefore we need to keep topping it up.  Carbohydrates are starches and sugars and they can easily be broken down into fast release and slow release carbs.  Fast release carbs will spike your blood sugar levels, followed by a drop, in turn releasing stress hormones.  As a rule, most refined foods will be fast released carbs, foods that are also high in fat as well will accentuate that sugar spike further.

Slow release carb examples – grains(whole wheat, rye, oats, brown rice and pasta, barley, maize, quinoa, porridge oats, beans(kidney, lentils, soya etc), vegetables, buckwheat, some fruits (berries, cherries, apples, pears and citrus).

Fast release carb examples – refined grains (white flour, cakes, biscuits, pastries, instant porridge, white rice and pasts, white and brown sugar, glucose, honey, maple syrup, potatoes and sweet potatoes, bananas, dried fruit, grapes and fruit juice

Protein

Protein is the foundations for all cells, muscles, bones, hair, skin and nails and is important for growth and repair.  Therefore it is essential we ensure we get enough in a our daily diet to maintain muscle mass, not forgetting that muscles help shift any unwanted weight as they need energy (calories) to function.  You should try to include some protein in every meal and it’s a good idea if you have a piece of fruit or veg as a snack to accompany it with some protein.  This macro nutrient slows down the rate at which the stomach empties, keeping you fuller for longer and when combining with carbs, you slow the release down of carbohydrate.

Protein examples – oily fish, lean chicken, nuts, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, lean beef, beans, milk and eggs.

Fats

Fats do not make you fat, Trans and saturated fats are the fats you want to limit to under 10% of your daily calorie intake..  These fats are not good for your health as they increase the risk of heart disease, strokes and many other heath issues.  They also increase the risk of insulin resistance leading to pre diabetes and diabetes.  However, the worst combination, as I touched upon earlier, is putting them together with sugar (donuts, take away burgers for example).  These will increase cholesterol and fats in the bloods (triglycerides) putting you at risk of heart related illnesses.

When good fats are added to a carbohydrate they have the same effect as a protein and they actually slow down the absorption of the carb; so by adding fat to a carb you improve it’s value to your diet.  Something as simple as having nuts on your porridge or almond butter with an apple.  Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are essential in the diet to help you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K  and for your heart  and skin health.

Trans and Saturated Fat Examples –  biscuits, cakes, chocolates, beef, bacon, sausages, ice cream, cream, cheese and butter.

Unsaturated Fat Examples – avocados, olives, nuts, oily fish, good quality olive oil, rapeseed oil, eggs, seeds and dark chocolate.

The important fact to remember is that we should not label foods as ‘bad’ or ‘good’ foods but as ‘less nutritious’ or more nutritious’ foods.  We should consume everything in moderation and maintain a healthy, varied diet.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, read my previous blog here Understanding Hunger Pains and Satiety | Emma Wheeler Fitness.

Sign up for the FITMumPlan here FITMum Plan | Emma Wheeler Fitness for daily workouts, stretches, tips and recipes.