Macronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in large amounts. They include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water.
- Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. They are found in foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes.
- Proteins are needed for the growth and repair of tissues. They are found in foods such as meat, fish, beans, and nuts.
- Fats provide energy and help to absorb vitamins. They are found in foods such as butter, margarine, oils, and cheese.
- Water is essential for the body to function properly. It is found in food and drinks such as soup, fruit juice, and milk.
There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are also called sugars and include monosaccharides (such as glucose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar). Complex carbohydrates are also called starches and include oligosaccharides (such as starch) and polysaccharides (such as glycogen).
The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates varies depending on age, gender, activity level, and other factors; however,. most experts recommend that 45-65% of total daily calories come from carbohydrate-containing foods.1 This means that if you consume 2000 calories per day, you would need to consume 900-1300 calories from carbs, or approximately 225-325 grams per day.
There are three types of fats: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are found in animal products such as meat and dairy. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can be found in plant-based oils such as olive oil. Trans fats are artificially created during the process of hydrogenation (adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to make them more solid) and can be found in processed foods such as margarine.
Health professionals recommend that people consume mostly unsaturated fats because they have been linked with lower rates of heart disease. However, all three types of fat have benefits and should be included in a balanced diet.
Saturated fats provide energy and help the body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. They also help cushion organs and protect against cell damage. Unsaturated fats lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation throughout the body; they can also improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. Trans fats have no known health benefits and may actually increase the risk of heart disease by raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while simultaneously lowering HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. For these reasons, it is important to limit your intake of trans fat.
“You are what you eat.”
Alcohol is a macronutrient found in beer, wine, and liquor. It contains calories but no nutrients. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver and can cause liver damage. Drinking alcohol can also lead to weight gain.