FEATURE – In today’s society, many of our macronutrients get a bad rap and they are regularly put through the ringer by every new fad diet on the market. Yet, these fundamental nutrients are essential for optimal performance.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy for all bodily functions. They also play an important role in the creation and release of serotonin. This is the reason why our mood and energy levels plummet when we eliminate carbohydrates from our diet. This is also why we gravitate to cookies, cakes and alcohol when we are feeling stressed or blue.
Carbohydrates come in two forms: complex and simple.
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, brown rice, beans, veggies and lentils, take the body longer to break down. This makes them a more sustainable source for energy expenditure. They also contain fiber, which adds bulk to our diet, slows stomach emptying and increases intestinal motility.
Simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, syrups, candy and soda, are the equivalent of a Ferrari on the autobahn. They’re fast and they’re attractive; we all want them, but when there are too many on the road, you’re bound to have a collision, aka the sugar crash.
Protein are the major source of building material for muscles, blood, skin, hair, nail, and internal organs; and they are also needed for the formation of hormones and neurotransmitters. Although protein can be a source of energy, they are normally spared when a diet has sufficient carbohydrate and fat resources.
Just like carbohydrates, proteins have two forms: complete and incomplete.
Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Complete proteins are those derived from animal sources such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs and milk.
Incomplete proteins, such as vegetables, beans, grains, seeds and nuts, do not have all of the essential amino acids. However, you can get all your essential amino acids by combining two or more incomplete proteins. For example, eating rice and beans or broccoli and tofu.
Fats/lipids help build and maintain cell membrane structure and function. They are also the precursors to hormone release and they help regulate and excrete nutrients in the cells. Fats play an important role in satiety or fullness. They do this by prolonging digestion and initiating the release of CCK, the hormone that tells your body you are full. This is why you are always hungery on a fat-free diet.
Again, there are different types of fats/lipids: saturated, unsaturated and trans fats.
Saturated fats are those lipids that are found in lamb, beef, poultry, pork and products made with whole milk. Typically, a saturated fat is solid at room temperature and raises LDL, bad cholesterol.
Unsaturated fats, like olive oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, avocado, almonds, walnuts, flax seed and fish, raise HDL, good cholesterol, and most are liquid at room temperature.
Trans fats do not typically occur in nature with the exception of trace amounts in certain meats and cheeses. They are most commonly derived from adding a hydrogen molecule to an unsaturated fat in order to make it a solid such as margarine or shortening. Trans fats, aka partially hydrogenated oils, lower HDL, good cholesterol, while raising LDL, bad cholesterol.
While all the macronutrients are important except trans fats, there are changes that can be made to one’s diet to ensure proper nutrition.
- Take steps to reduce or eliminate consumption of processed or prepackaged foods.
- Eat your fruit, rather than drink it. The fiber in fresh fruit will help fill you up.
- Make plenty of room for veggies and complex carbs on your plate.
- Drink one full glass of water before each meal and snack.
- Avoid skipping meals; otherwise you might over-indulge at the next one.
- Choose low-fat options, skim or 2 percent for milks and cheese, rather than whole or nonfat versions.
- Be on the lookout for partially hydrogenated oils.
- Get creative: Try out a new healthy recipe once a week. If you are cooking for a family, trade off and let each family member pick the new featured dish.
Written by Kyler Galford for St. George Health and Wellness and St. George News.
Kyler Galford has worked in the wellness industry for more than eight years as a certified personal trainer. She is finishing her master’s degree in family therapy with an emphasis in medical family therapy. Currently, she is a “Whole Fit” wellness coach and program coordinator; she works with individuals, couples and families to help them reach their full potential in physical, emotional and relational dimensions. Recently, St. George opened up their first branch of Whole Fit outside of Houston, TX. For more information, visit www.wholefitstgeorge.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org; Telephone: 435-319-0392.
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