Understanding major nutrients

The word diet actually means “a daily food allowance”, so diet plans should really be offering a sensible approach to weight loss and healthy eating. Do you want to lose weight temporarily? A diet should not just be something temporary, instead we need to focus on long-term healthy eating to nourish our body.

All macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate), and also the vitamins and minerals, assist as cofactors in the body’s metabolic reactions. All food groups work together to maintain homeostasis and properly nourish the body.

Carbohydrate (glucose) is a primary energy source for the human body. The brain and nervous system use glucose, but the entire body benefits from vitamins, minerals and fiber when we eat whole grain carbohydrates. A diet that avoids carbohydrates forces the body to use protein as an energy source, and under these stressful conditions the body will break down vital amino acids for use in tissue building and repair. There are exceptions to this, for example if you condition your body to use fat as a fuel source instead of carbohydrates — this causes your body to produce naturally occurring ketones, also known as the 4th macronutrient.

Proteins (amino acids) are made up of important building blocks, amino acids. Some of these amino acids are essential, which means that we must get them through our food, as the body is not able to produce them on its own. Choosing a diet with a variety of protein sources provides the essential amino acids, and the body has the building blocks that it needs for tissue building, repair and growth. The production of glucose should be considered a secondary function for amino acids.

Fats (lipids) are essential to a healthy body, for the production of steroid hormones and cell membranes, and for so many more vital roles. Excess fatty acid consumption is stored as fat in the body. Also, the body needs fat for bioavailability of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which are vital for the body.

Our body requires all of the macronutrients and micronutrients to work together to maintain homeostasis. It is not just one food group that causes obesity, it is generally the quantity of the food group that becomes a problem. As individuals we need to give more attention to food quality, and make sure that we are getting enough of the nutrients that our body needs.

Exactly what balance of these macronutrients you need of course depends your body composition and your goals, for example whether you are trying to maintain a healthy weight, or if you need to lose or gain weight. If you are overweight, or even have type 2 diabetes, then you may find it beneficial to increase your fat intake and decrease the carbohydrates in your diet. If you want to maintain your weight then it’s often a good idea to eat more protein. And if you need to gain weight then it’s often beneficial to eat more carbohydrates, with moderate protein and fat intake. The correct diet is really not a secret, it is just something that we have ignored for a long time!

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