I am sure we have all heard someone say to us, “Eat all the food on your plate, or you’ll never grow up to be big and strong.” While there are definite issues with this thought, the idea that food is there to help us grow and develop has always been with us. Our bodies need energy to grow, fight pathogens, heal after an injury, and all other bodily processes. With energy being such a massive need for life, where does it actually come from?
Our bodies get energy from the macronutrients that we eat. There are only 3, and they are carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids/fats. Our beautiful bodies need all of these macronutrients for different functions. I just want to give a short overview of the macronutrients here. A more detailed post on each will follow.
Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source. They readily break down in the body and are easily used. It is suggested to eat the majority of your calories from this macronutrient. Sources say anywhere from 60-80% of your diet can be carbohydrates. This will include whole grains like rice, millet, quinoa; vegetables like squash, sweet potato, and corn; and fruit. All of the food examples assume the food is whole and unprocessed and ideally made at home. Bread, pastries, cereal, etc. are also examples of carbohydrates, but they are processed and refined versions, and I would suggest limiting these foods greatly.
All of us need protein for making enzymes, hormones, antibodies, hemoglobin, and many other functions. As a source of energy though, our bodies will choose this last. Protein is needed for any type of building. For example, growing children, pregnant women, someone who is healing from an injury or an illness all need more protein to help their bodies grow and heal. It seems that at this moment, our protein requirements are lower than what we believe them to be. The percentage for protein can be anywhere from 10 to 20%, but it does seem that the best results come from lower quantities. Plant-based options are tempeh, seitan, beans, lentils, and sprouts.
Fats are the third macronutrient, and I think one of the most feared. Has anyone not heard ‘fat makes you fat’? This statement makes me so sad because so many people believe this and avoid fats altogether doing their body a great disservice. These are used as an energy source second to carbohydrates. Fats are a part of every cell membrane, necessary to keep them strong and to allow the proper materials in and out of the cell. Fats are needed for the manufacture of steroid and sex hormones, as well as necessary for nervous system function. Like the other two macronutrients, we need to eat good quality fats. These would include nuts, seeds, avocado, and cold-pressed oils. Recommended quantities for fat intake is 20-25%. The key here is knowing that fat has just over double the calories as carbohydrates and proteins per gram.
It all comes down to balance. We need all 3 of the macronutrients to make us feel great and alive. In the end, each of our bodies are unique and special, and our diet should reflect that. Some people may know the proportions that make them feel the best. Others, who may be just beginning their journey, have no idea what feels good to them. What a great time to experiment! What a great time to pull out some yummy whole foods, and start listening to your body’s reactions – whether good or bad.
I want to hear about your journey and any questions that you have. I am so happy to listen and help. Have a great day!