Let’s start of with the basic question first – what are macronutrients? Well the simplest answer would be – Macronutrients are the components which organisms consume in larger quantities for body functions, growth and energy. The other types of nutrients required by our body are called – Micronutrients, but we do not need these in larger quantities as Macronutrients, hence they are called Micronutrients. There are three basic Macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats while micronutrients are essentially vitamins and minerals and are large in number but required lesser in quantity by our body. Let’s discuss the importance of each macronutrient in our body:
- Protein: It is recommended that protein should comprise approximately 10 to 35 % of our diet and even more if you are an athlete. The main functions of protein in our body are – preservation of muscle, muscle growth, harmone and enzyme production, repairing body tissues and providing energy in the absence of carbs. Protein is comprised of amino acids which are linked together to form a chain like structure and constitute the properties of protein. There are 20 amino acids some of which are produced by the body and others have to be consumed from outside sources. The main sources of protein are animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. Among the plant based sources soy contains largest amount of protein.
- Fat: There is a lot of misconception about fat. First of all, fat is not bad for you at all and a healthy diet should consist of about 20-30% of fat daily. The main functions of fats in our body are
a) aid in absorption of essential vitamins and minerals
b) maintaining cell membranes and vital organs by providing protective layer
c) protect hear and improve brain function
d) provide a more concentrated form of energy (1 gm of fat provides 9 calories compared to 4 calories provided by proteins and carbs)
The main sources of ‘good’ fats are olive and coconut oil, fish, almonds and nuts, nut butters and fruits like avacados.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate is the preferred source of energy for our bodies. When digested, carbohydrates break into a compound called ‘glycogen’ which is then absorbed by our bodies for energy. A normal human diet should comprise of 45-60 % of carbohydrates. The main function of carbohydrate is to provide energy as fuel, aiding bodily functions at optimal levels, stores glycogen in liver for future use, fiber in carbs also helps in digestive health. The main sources of carbs are vegetables, rice, wheat products etc.
All these nutrients together constitute macronutrients and a right balance of these nutrients if important and should be incorporated in a balanced diet.