Your car needs energy in order to operate. It gets that energy from the gasoline you so lovingly pump every week. With the gas, your car can drive you forward, reverse backward and get you to your destination. Without it, your car would sit in your driveway all day and do nothing. The human body is much like a car in that it needs fuel (or energy) in order to operate and get you where you need to go. For a human, pumping gas into the body is not a solution to the need for fuel, but macronutrients are.

What is a Macronutrient?
Macronutrients are calorie filled nutrients. Calories act as the gasoline for your body and give you energy to move. Calories also give your organs the energy to function properly. Now, the important thing to remember about macronutrients is that they are calorie filled nutrients—not just calorie filled foods. Sugar is filled with calories but is not a macronutrient because there is no nutritional benefit to eating sugar and you do not need to eat sugar in order to be alive.

The food world is made up of both macronutrients and micronutrients. They may sound the same or similar to each other, but they are not. When thinking about the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients, it is important to remember the prefix macro. The prefix macro is used to discuss something that we need in abundance, because macro means large. A macronutrient then would be a nutritious food that we must eat a lot of on a daily basis. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are each considered to be macronutrients because they are the basic building blocks of your diet. Micronutrients are nutrients that we need but in a small, or micro, amount. Micronutrients include things like vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are imperative to health—but only in small quantities.

Types of Macronutrients
The main forms of macronutrients are: Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates. These macronutrient categories can be further broken down.

Fat: Like protein, the concept of fat as a macronutrient can be broken down into five distinct types of fat, each with its own components. Generally, fats are broken down into Saturated Fats, Monounsaturated Fats, Polyunsaturated Fats and Fatty Acids (both essential and non-essential).

Saturated fats should be eaten in small quantities. This may be confusing because fat is a macronutrient, but there are forms of fat that are healthier than saturated fats. Those healthier fats should make up the majority of your fat consumption. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are the healthier choices since they can lower LDL or at least not contribute to its increase. Omega 3 fatty acids are another form of fat that is healthier than saturated fat. As a matter of fact, Omega 3 fats are encouraged in patients with heart disease.

Protein: Amino acids are the molecules that, together, form proteins. But amino acids aren’t as simple as all that. There are actually many different types of amino acids. Only twenty of them are the proteinogenic acids that create protein. This list of twenty includes:

  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Lysine
  • Glutamic acid

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are pretty simple. They are made up of either sugars or starches. Starches are generally healthy and plant based carbohydrates that will make up a large portion of most people’s diets. Sugars are less healthy, and some are less healthy than others. Sucrose, for instance, is a form of sugar that carries no nutritional value. Fructose, however, is fruit or plant based and may have some nutritional components. Lactose, an offshoot sugar of milk, is not unhealthy, although it has no real value to recommend it nutritionally.

Last updated on Nov 30th, 2009 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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