The Importance of Eating Balanced MealsJun 27, 2022
Do a Google search of “macros,” and you’ll find over 2 million results for macro diets, macro calculators, and beginner guides.
Macros is an acronym for macronutrients or nutrients we need most in our diet for fuel and health. Micronutrients are just as essential, but we need less of them.
The Three Macronutrients: Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates.
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. Protein provides structure in the body, creating the framework for our immune system, digestive system, and neurotransmitters for the brain. In addition, protein, through the formation of enzymes, controls every chemical reaction in our body.
From a dietary perspective, protein serves as a slow fuel energy source. Plants and animals are both sources of protein. They’re both made up of the same amino acids. The difference resides in the types of amino acids each one contains. We’re most concerned about the nine essential amino acids our bodies don’t make; we have to get these nutrients through our diet. Animal protein contains all nine amino acids. Getting these nine amino acids from plants requires eating various fruits and vegetables. The exceptions for vegetable proteins are quinoa and soy, “complete” plant proteins.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Determining an individual’s protein intake requirements or needs is based on several variables. It will change based on factors like age, health status, pregnancy and breastfeeding, activity level, and fitness goals.
There are a variety of protein sources you can eat daily. However, whether you are vegetarian or not, you’ll need to make sure you are getting protein with each meal for a balanced, healthy diet. Good sources of protein you can eat daily include Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Beef, Wild game, Pork, Legumes, Grains, Soy, and Vegetables.
Should I Eat Fat?
During the ’80s, it was believed by health professionals that eating any type of fat was unhealthy. We know that fat is an essential nutrient we need for proper brain and nerve function. You can find fat sources in olives and olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, Coconut products, nuts and seeds, meat, and dairy. However, these foods can be categorized into different types of fat - fats that aren’t as healthy and good for you!
We use fat that we eat for energy, protection, and hormone production, which are critical components we need to balance and live a healthy lifestyle. Healthy fat is good and necessary! Fat is vital for these reasons:
- Surrounds and protects all the cells in the body
- Source of slow energy
- Helps you feel full longer
- Is essential for hormone production
What Types of Fat Can I Eat?
There are two types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. The difference between these is the type of bond the fat forms. Each fat has a different chemical structure of a chain of fatty acids. Saturated fats don’t have any double bonds. In contrast, unsaturated fats can have one or more, and these bonds change the physical characteristics of the fat. For example, saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
Generally, saturated fats are from animal sources such as meat, butter, and lard. Although coconut oil also has some saturated fat, most vegetable fats fall into the healthier unsaturated fat category: olive oil, flaxseed, avocado oil, and sesame oil.
How Can Fat Reduce Inflammation?
Did you know that eating fat can reduce inflammation? We want to consume more Omega-3 fatty acids unsaturated fats, as these are anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 sources, saturated fats, are inflammatory and can lead to an unhealthy body.
Sources of Omega-3 fats include fish, pasture-raised meat, flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, hemp seeds. In addition, you can find Omega-6 saturated fats in conventionally raised meat, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oils.
Carbohydrates The Macronutrient for Energy
If there is a macronutrient Americans are familiar with, it’s carbohydrates! Think of the last time you ate pasta, bread, cereal, chips, popcorn, rice, fruit juice, soda, beer, wine, or an energy drink. Sources of carbohydrate foods include Starchy vegetables, Non-starchy vegetables, Grains, Pasta, Breads, Honey, Maple Syrup, Dates, Sugar. These are all examples of carbohydrates, some healthier than others.
Carbohydrates have numerous benefits in the body, including:
- Energy for the brain from glucose
- Fuel storage in the form of glycogen
- Food sources of phytonutrients
- Satiety, balanced cholesterol, and regulation of bowel movements from the fiber
Understanding and consuming healthier kinds of carbohydrates is essential for weight management, preventing insulin resistance, cavities, heart disease, controlling inflammation and the immune system.
There are simple carbohydrates like sugar, fruit juice, and white bread. They provide quick energy, and eating an excess of these foods can lead to disease. Conversely, complex carbohydrates like legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables, whole fruits, and whole grains. These foods provide slow energy, which will sustain you over time. The fiber in these foods also helps remove waste. Excess cholesterol increases the full feeling and provides fuel for gut bacteria.
Balancing Your MacroNutrients
Balancing your protein, fat, and carbohydrates in all your meals and snacks is essential to your health. So why do you need to understand this nutrition concept of macronutrients? Eating the correct balance of nutrients is vital to regulating your blood sugar.
Our blood sugar rises and falls depending on what we eat. Research shows that the best way to regulate your blood sugar and balance is to include protein, fat, and fiber in every meal and snack daily. All three of these components are converted into sugar more slowly and slow the rate of digestion, which causes a more gradual and lower rise in blood sugar. Balancing our blood sugar is essential to prevent or control diabetes, prevent heart disease, and maintain a healthy weight.
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