Apr 9, 2020
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Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats

There are 3 macronutrients that we all require in our diets:  carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  These macronutrients are important for growth and maintenance throughout the lifecycle.

Carbohydrates are one of the main nutrients in our diets and help provide energy for our bodies.  All starches and sugars are broken down by the body to glucose or blood sugar to be used as energy.  There are 3 main types of carbohydrates needed to properly function:  1) naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruits and milk and milk products, 2) starches such as canned or dried beans, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and barley, and 3) fiber which is a part of food that is not digested by the body.  There are 2 types of fiber – insoluble and soluble.  Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool for regularity, and soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol level and improve blood glucose control.  High fiber foods include whole grains, whole grain breads and cereals, beans and legumes, vegetables such as brussels sprouts and broccoli, and fruits such as raspberries, pears, and apples. There are foods which have added sugars i.e. packaged and refined foods such as candy, cookies, pastries, regular soda pop and juices, and heavy syrup added to canned fruit.  These foods which contain added sugar need to be limited in our daily diets.

Proteins perform many functions in the body.  An adequate dietary protein intake is important for building, maintaining, and repairing body tissues.  Skin, muscles, bones, and organs are made up in large part from protein.  Proteins also provide B vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and riboflavin.  They are also used for wound healing/skin breakdown.  Proteins can be found in meat, fish and seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds.  Most Americans get plenty of protein from their diets.  Individuals just need to make lower fat selections from the protein group such as lean meat and poultry.  The amount of protein one needs depends on age, sex, and level of activity.  For example, women 51 years and older need 5 ounces of protein daily.  Men 51 years and older need 5 ½ ounces of protein daily.

Fats are essential nutrients for our bodies.  Certain fats in foods can help keep your body healthy.  Fats provide energy and aid with the absorption of certain nutrients and maintain core body temperature.  Fats carry fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E & K into the body and help with the absorption of vitamins.  Fats also produce essential hormones and provides insulation for the body.  Good fats to consume are olive oil, olives, avocado, oily fish such as salmon, nuts and seeds, nut butters, hummus, and lean meat.  Fatty foods to limit include fried foods, ice cream, cake-type desserts, butter, fatty meats such as bacon, cream-based toppings, high fat cheese products, and cream-based dips and dressings.  There are 3 classes of fats: monounsaturated such as olive oil and safflower oil, polyunsaturated such as corn oil and flaxseed oil, and saturated such as red meat and coconut and palm oils.  Trans fats are found in solid fats such as stick margarine and vegetable shortening.  These fats are solid at room temperature.  Trans fats can increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and decrease the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol.  They can also cause inflammation which is linked to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.  You should choose fats that are liquid at room temperature such as olive and corn oil.

An individual who needs more information about getting enough carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in his or her diet should consult a Registered Dietitian.

 

References:

American Heart Association, Dietary Fats, www.heart.org

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 eighth edition.

Nutrition411.com Fats Found in Foods, January 11, 2017.