Every food we eat has a different ratio of macronutrients within it, and we refer to a particular food type by the dominant macronutrient within it. For example we call butter fat, rice carbs, and chicken protein. The ration of these macros, along with the other micronutrients within these foods are the determining factors behind how healthy these foods are.
Many people are now becoming more aware of the micronutrients in which they are deficient in, such as potassium for muscle cramps, zinc for improved immunity and vitamin D for improved bone health to name a few.
It is great that more people are becoming aware of how these micronutrient deficiencies can affect their health, however we seem to be neglecting how important macronutrients are to our health. No one likes counting calories or keeping a food dairy, but both of these can help you get a better picture of what your diet really consists of.
Why Are Macronutrients Important?
Proteins, fat and carbohydrates are the three macronutrients we get from our diet each being uniquely important. Proteins are important because they provide us with amino acids, with are essentially building blocks that the body uses to create other proteins to perform various functions.
Fats provide the most energy per gram out of the three, however contrary to popular belief eating fats isn’t bad for you, in fact they are essential. Healthy fats protect membranes of our cells and our tissues, help to maintain proper immune function, and hormonal regulation as well.
Carbohydrates are important in that they are what the body favors as far as energy sources are concerned. Foods rich in carbs can be broken down in to glucose, some of which can be stored in the muscles in liver for later use.
All three of these macronutrients are important in maintaining our best health, however most people get plenty of carbohydrates and bad fats in their diet, where the protein and good fats are really lacking.
What Foods Should I Be Eating to Balance My Macronutrients?
As mentioned prior, protein is where most people are lacking. To give yourself a rough estimate of how much protein you should be getting a day, you should take your bodyweight and half it. You should be eating at least 50% of your body weight in grams of protein per day, just to maintain your muscle mass. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should be getting at least 75 grams of protein a day.
The sources of protein that have the most protein per weight are going to be foods like chicken breast, egg whites, low fat Greek yogurt, fish and lean grass fed beef. If need be you can further supplement your diet with whey protein powder for more protein.
Most people eat too many carbohydrates and in bad forms as well. You want to be sticking to whole foods, eating foods in their natural form as opposed to highly processed foods which are less nutrient dense.
Instead of eating breads, bagels, waffles, pancakes and other foods that probably processed, get your carbs from other foods. Oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, squash, and other root vegetables are great sources of healthy carbohydrates.
Not only do these whole foods provide us with an excellent source of carbohydrates, they are healthy for us in that they contain plenty of fiber as well. This prevents blood sugar spikes which can lead to diabetes and other serious health problems.
Most people do either one or two things when it comes to fats in their diet. They either are complete terrified of them and completely cut them out of their diet, or do the complete opposite and gorge on unhealthy bad fats- the ones you typically find in fast food.
Fat has a bad reputation among many people however fats are essential to our health, and we need them from our diet. Good sources of fats are out there, we just need to know where to look. Nuts and seeds are arguably the best choices in that they provide plenty of these healthy fats along with fiber and micronutrients, making them a well rounded food.
Other good sources of fats are extra virgin olive oil, sesame seed oil and other unprocessed plant based oils which can be used for cooking or as a dressing for salads or other dishes. Other good sources of fats include fatty fish such as mackerel, and grass fed beef.