by Claudia Kent
Protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and fats – these are the macronutrients that you need to consume on a daily basis for optimal health and well-being. Each of these plays a vital role in maintaining various bodily functions, from energy production to muscle growth to disease prevention. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can ensure that you’re getting enough of each of these essential macronutrients.
Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for the body, providing energy for physical activity and brain function. The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates is 130 grams, but this may vary based on your activity level. You should opt for complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber to support a healthy gut microbiome and assist with satiety, cravings and energy levels. Examples of complex carbs include sweet potato, quinoa, pumpkin, beans, which also contain their natural dietary fibers (such as the skin, seeds and husk) and starches, helping maintain a healthy digestive system. Try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread and sugary drinks, as they can raise blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain. Try to spread out your carbohydrate intake throughout the day, otherwise you may notice a drop in energy levels resulting in fatigue, mood changes and lethargy from the carbs converting to glucose (sugar) when broken down.
Protein is essential for our body as it repairs and builds tissues, aids in producing essential hormones and are fundamental for the digestive system and immunity enzymes.The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, but this may vary based on your age, sex, physical activity level, disease states, trauma and stress levels. To meet your daily recommended intake, you can consume protein-rich foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. The quality and bioavailability of the protein change from food to food, generally with animal-based protein containing more complete and bioavailable protein than plant-based proteins. However, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you can opt for plant-based protein sources such as tofu, tempeh, quinoa, and lentils. It’s important to spread your protein intake throughout the day (i.e eggs for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch, and grass fed steak for dinner) to keep you satiated and stabilize your blood sugar levels!
Fats play a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. They are important for absorbing and storing essential vitamins and minerals, providing energy, and maintaining healthy skin and hair. Research suggests that total fat intake is 20-35% of total daily energy intake, depending on age and physical activity. It further recommends that fats come predominantly from mono and polyunsaturated food sources, hence opting for unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and oily fish (mackerel, salmon which are packed full of omega 3 fatty acids), as they can reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. You should limit your intake of saturated and trans fats found in meat, butter, and processed foods, as they can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Fats help to insulate the body, support cell growth, and absorb important nutrients, so don't cut them out of your diet - just remember to opt for the right kind of fats!
How to build a plate with your macronutrient needs
If you want to keep it simple, my general rule which I follow is to fill about half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with high fiber carbs like fruit or whole grains, and the last quarter with a source of protein. Think about eating the rainbow, incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into your meal, which also provides your body with essential vitamins and minerals. Depending on your fitness goals, you may need to adjust your macronutrient intake accordingly. For example, those looking to build muscle may need more protein, while endurance athletes will require more carbohydrates. Sample meals are a great way to visualize the perfect balance of macronutrients. For a well-rounded breakfast, try 3 scrambled eggs (protein) with organic sourdough toast (carbs), avocado & a sprinkle of hemp seeds (healthy fats), and dark leafy greens such as spinach (fibrous vegetables). For lunch, grilled chicken breast (protein) with sweet potato (starchy complex carb), with pumpkin seeds & olive oil (healthy fats) and sautéed greens is an excellent option. And for dinner, salmon with quinoa and roasted vegetables hits the spot. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to balancing your plate with carbs, protein, and fats. It's crucial to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. And of course, don't be too hard on yourself - we all should enjoy a big pizza and glass of wine from time to time!
To sum it all up, macronutrients are essential for maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle. It's important to determine how much of each macronutrient your body needs, based on your activity level and goals, and then eat foods that will provide you with those nutrients. Remember - everyone's needs are different, so it's always a good idea to work with a professional to ensure that you're consuming the right amounts of each macronutrient for your individual body. And lastly, don't get too bogged down in the details. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to just eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole, nutritious foods. So, plate up your food mindfully and keep your body happy!