Nutrition Quick-Hits: Protein, Fat, & Carbs
April 2, 2021
Fats: Eating Fats (Mostly) Won’t Make You Fat
Fats are one of the 3 major macronutrients that supply the body with critical energy that enables you to function at an optimum level. They have a higher caloric density at 9 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram for both proteins and carbs. Fats are essential for many different systems within the body, and although should be consumed in moderation, like any other nutrient, should not be completely avoided either.
Some of the major bodily functions that rely on fats to function properly include:
- Fats assist neurons in the brain to transmit signals through the nervous system by providing a protective coating around the nerves. When these nerves are well insulated, it allows the signals to be transmitted at a faster rate.
- Fats are essential in hormone regulation. Bodily hormones control important body functions such as reproduction, digestion, body temperature, muscle function, sleep, and cell growth.
There are few different kinds of healthy fats. Each fat helps the body in different areas:
- Omega-3 & Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids – These are referred to as essential due to the fact the body cannot naturally produce them. They must be consumed via a food source or supplement. These fatty acids are major contributors to brain function, vision, cardiac health, and fighting inflammation. They can be consumed through fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, or nuts and seeds.
- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids – These fatty acids help maintain a high level of cell health and also helps to keep your cholesterol levels healthy. High cholesterol often contributes to heart disease. You can find this in foods such as peanut butter, avocados, olive oil, and nuts!
- Polyunsaturated Fats – This is primarily found in plant-based foods and can help lower cholesterol levels!
Harmful fats include saturated fats and trans fats. These can be found in foods such as red meat, poultry, dairy, fried or processed foods, and vegetable oils
Carbs: Quality > Quantity!
Similar to fats, carbs can often get a bad reputation as a macronutrient that we should avoid. However, consuming carbs from healthy sources is essential to providing the body with ample energy and can help improve your gains if you consider yourself a training athlete!
Carbs are broken down into three major categories:
- Sugars – This is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Your body will break down most nutrients we consume into the form of sugar to be used for energy. The most common being glucose. Other forms include fructose (Fruit Sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (Milk sugar).
- Fiber – This is a more complex form of carbohydrates that comes in soluble and insoluble forms. Both forms are great for improving cardiac and digestive health.
- Starches – These are also complex carbs, meaning many sugar molecules bonded together. They take longer to digest and absorb into the bloodstream.
Let’s break down some examples of ‘healthy carbs’ & ‘unhealthy carbs.’
- Healthy: Whole grains, veggies, fruits, brown rice, wild rice, sweet potatoes, beets, and some dairy like cottage cheese and yogurt.
- Unhealthy: White bread, pastries, desserts, sodas, candy, and even sports drinks! They should be avoided or consumed on occasion at most.
Protein is the foundation and building block for gaining muscle. It is essential for cell repair and cell growth. However, protein plays a far bigger role other than building stronger muscles, joints, and tissues. It is also vital for healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, cartilage, and blood. Unlike the other two macronutrients discussed above, our body does not store protein and we need to get our protein sources through food intake.
Here are some examples of high-quality proteins that you should be looking to incorporate into your diet.
- Fish/Seafood: Salmon, Tuna, swordfish, halibut, clams, shrimp, octopus, scallops, etc…
- Animal Meats: Pork, Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Turkey, etc…
- Dairy: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese, eggs, etc…
- Plant Sources: Beans, Nuts, Soy, and lentils
Many proteins also include other dietary aspects like fat and fiber. When selecting your choice of protein, it is always important to try to choose the high quality that is affordable for you. It will result in the most quality nutrients delivered to your body.
Understanding the basic elements is very important if you are looking to make healthy dietary changes! What we consume on a daily basis has a profound effect on how our bodies feel.
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