Macronutrients are the main components of our food. These most essential macronutrients help our body in proper functioning, growth and development. We mostly eat these macronutrients rich food throughout our day which provides us required energy and other essential nutrients as well.
But how do you know which type of food nutrients is good for you and which is not? Which food nutrients can make your diet healthy and which can be seriously harmful based on your health condition such as: diabetes, obesity, heart diseases etc? These are the real questions you must find answers of!
So, Let’s dig deep and learn more about macronutrients and their types:
Carbohydrates or carbs are one of the three macronutrients which we consume in large quantity through our food. These carbohydrates are then converted into glucose by our metabolism system which serves as energy to our body cells.
Carbohydrates are actually certain organic compounds which contains single or multiple sugar units. There are three types of carbohydrates exist in our food based on their simple and complex structure:
Sugars are simple and short chain carbohydrates. These are fast acting soluble compounds such as: Crystal sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, milk, juices etc.
These sugars further can be divided into categories.
a) Natural Sugars: Natural sugars are which we get from nature as they are originally produced without any additional artificial processing such as milk, fruits, juices, honey etc.
b) Added Sugars: Added sugars are made by additional processing of raw or natural sugars such as: table sugar, canned fruits or syrups etc. All products which uses “added sugar” are required to mentioned this on the packaging of the product. This helps you understand how much added sugar is in the product.
These type of sugars come from different products with different names which you see on the nutrition facts of ingredients label of products you buy from market such as: table sugar (sucrose), crystal sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, sugar cane syrup, agave nectar etc.
These all added sugar are artificially processed to make more sweeter and heavy which makes these very unhealthy comparatively to natural sugars, especially to diabetes patients.
Starches are complex long chain carbohydrates which includes thousands of sugar units. And that why these have a starchy taste. These comes from variety of natural foods mostly vegetables and grains.
Sources of Starch:
In vegetables such as: potatoes, peas, black eyed peas, split peas, corn, dried beans, kidney bean, pinto beans, lentils etc.
In grains such as: rice, oats, barley, wheat etc. Most of the daily food products are made by wheat flour which includes breads, pasta, cereals etc. These grains contain a variety of healthy nutrients in their different parts.
A single grain can be divided into 3 parts:
a) Bran: bran is the hard outer shell of the grain which provides the most fiber and contains Vitamins B and other minerals as well.
b) Germ: germ is the next segment after bran of the grain which contains valuable Vitamin E and fatty acids.
C) Endosperm: endosperm is the central soft part of the grain which contains the actual starch.
That’s why eating a ‘whole grain’ food products are most healthy because it contains bran and germ part as well rather than just starchy central endosperm part. Refined or white food products of the grain like white bread etc. losses its essential vitamins and minerals during refining process which is stored in outer bran and germ part of the grain.
Fibers are complex carbohydrates which cannot be digested by humans but it helps our digestive system by bulking and make you feel full after eating. It also encourages growth of healthy bacteria in our digestive system to help digest and make other required acid nutrients.
It solely comes from plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and grains. Non-vegetarian or animal produced food such as: meat, eggs, poultry, fish, milk etc. do not contain fiber.
Generally we can divide fiber sources in two categories based on fiber amount per serving: Rich fiber and Good fiber.
Rich fiber sources are those fruits and vegetables which contain around 5 grams or more fiber per serving such as: Apple, lentils, black berries, raspberries, pear, pinto beans, pigeon beans, lima beans, pink beans, small white beans, winged beans spinach etc.
Good fiber sources are those fruits and vegetables which contain around more than 2.5 grams fiber per serving such as: banana, broccoli, oranges, guavas, sweet potato, chickpeas, green beans, white beans, onions, brussels sprout, dates, blueberries, artichoke, peas, plums, kiwifruit, figs etc.
Protein is the second macronutrient after carbohydrate which we consume more. So our body can do repairing and create new cells and tissues as required. In simple words, proteins are the primary essential building blocks of our body which creates cells, tissues, organs, ligaments, glands etc. Proteins are basically synthesized amino acids and our body requires around 22 amino acids to form proteins. There are two types of amino acids based on our body requirement; Essential and non-essential amino acids.
Essential amino acids are those which cannot be created by our body and that’s why it is very important that we obtain these essential amino acids from healthy food and supplements for proper growth and development.
However, Non-Essential amino acids are created by our body itself, so these are self replenished as required.
Based on essential amino acids presence, proteins can be divided into two categories:
a) Complete Proteins:
These proteins contain all the essential amino acids required to be synthesized to form protein for our body. These proteins mostly come from fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
b) Incomplete Proteins:
These proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids required by our body. And we need additional supplements as well to obtain those missing amino acids. These incomplete proteins mostly come from plants produce such as grains, vegetables and fruits.
Now, we know from where we can get our complete proteins so we can get plentiful of all the essential amino acids. But, in today’s time where everything is industrialized and have cut throat competition, getting best protein produces isn’t that simple. in fact, your nearest market’s protein can be more harmful than the essential amino acids it contains.
Yes, I know it can be a shocking fact but in a second you will understand why i am saying this. And how in our today’s busy fast life we never even realize it.
Let’s take a look, how a good protein gets turned into bad protein without you even realizing it.
‘Bad Proteins’ mostly are the result of industrialization of agriculture and tricks to make more produce at less cost.
Meat: Overcrowded livestock, unhealthy environment, unnatural feeding, hormones and antibiotics injections for maximizing productivity can seriously damage health of the livestock which results into poor quality protein produce and in some cases, these unhealthy protein produces can have unwanted infection viruses and diseases as well.
Poultry: Same as bad meat, bad poultry is a serious issue. Due to putting chickens in overcrowded cages without natural free roam diet, those can be unhealthy with lots of diseases like bird flu and other infections as well which can result in bad quality produce.
Fish: Fishes which contains high levels of mercury are seriously harmful to our health. Fishes which are farm raised, can be of lower quality as well because of unnatural feeding of land based diet which contains very little to almost no omega-3 essential fatty acids comparatively to a wild fish. These fishes can also be contaminated by PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls).
Heavily Processed: Heavily processed proteins can be seriously harmful. These processed proteins contain a lot of harmful chemical preservatives to increase their shelf life.
Dietary fat is the third macronutrient our body needs very much, from structural work to making protective layers around our organs. Whenever we talk about dieting or weight loss, fat becomes the main culprit of all the weight, cholesterol and heart problems. That is a common way of describing fat and these health issues. But it is not completely right.
There are some fats those are the main culprit of overweight, blocked arteries and heart problems. But there are some fat as well which are essential for our body functions. They play a vital role in keeping you mentally, emotionally in control as well as help controlling your weight too, such as Omega-3 fats.
So, it’s more of a matter of making wrong choice of fat products in food where fat is the concern. If you can just replace the bad fats in your meals with good healthy fats, you will achieve desired results 10 times faster.
These dietary fats can be divided into four categories which come from both plants and animals.
1. Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs):
Mono-un-saturated fats, in a more simplified name. These are simply the ‘good fats’. They remain in liquid form at normal room temperature but turn to solid as soon as chilled. Monounsaturated fats does not just benefits in diabetes only, rather these have many benefits in other health conditions such as: reducing cholesterol levels, belly fat, stroke, heart disease, weight loss, rheumatoid arthritis and reducing breast cancer risks as well.
Olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts like almonds, cashews, macadamia, hazelnuts, peanuts or pure peanut butter with only a little salt, pecans are some great sources of monounsaturated fats.
2. Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs):
Poly-un-saturated fatty acids or fats are ‘good fats’ as well, in moderate ratio along with monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential for our body cells growth and brain functioning. Our body does not produce essential fatty acids itself that’s why these are very essential to obtain from PUFA rich products.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help in reducing risk of abnormal heartbeat condition called arrhythmia, reducing triglycerides fat in blood, reducing clogging in arteries and lowering blood pressure.
Omega-6 fatty acids may help in lowering blood pressure as well. It controls blood sugar levels which reduces risks of diabetes significantly.
These good healthy polyunsaturated fats comes from both plants and animal foods. Vegetable oils, walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds, kale, algae, soy milk, tofu and wild fishes like salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines, herring, anchovies are some of the best sources of polyunsaturated fats(PUFA).
3. Trans fats:
Trans fats are trans-unsaturated fatty acids or you can simply call them ‘Bad fats’. These are commonly produced via industrial process of adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils so they can be made more solid. This process increases the shelf life of the products and reduces the refrigeration requirement as well. This process can be described as partially hydrogenated by companies to promote but that’s just a trick to make you believe that it’s less unhealthy but it’s not.
Even the products that list as “No trans fat or zero trans fat” can also have trans fat up to 0.5 grams per serving. So, it’s just a marketing trick which is better to avoid those products as well as much as you can. These are mostly used in making fast foods, fried foods, packaged snacks, baked products, shortenings, margarine etc.
Trans fat simply increases bad cholesterol levels and reduces good cholesterol levels. These trans fats are the main culprit of all the bad cholesterol, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and heart problems. Trans fats also increase the risk significantly of type 2 diabetes as well.
Cakes, pies, doughnuts, frozen pizza, biscuits, cookies, crackers, crusts, stick margarines, spreads, french fries etc. contain a lot of these bad trans fats.
4. Saturated fats:
Saturated fats are the fatty acids, made of long chains of carbon atoms which only have single bonds between the molecules. This makes them saturated with hydrogen molecules. These saturated fats are mostly remain solid at room temperature.
Hydrogenated oils, butter, lard, creams heavy and whipped, ice creams, cheese, pastries, cakes, pies, dairy desserts, full fat milk, chocolates and sweets, pizza, fatty beef, beef fat, pork, poultry with skin, lamb, processed meats like pepperoni, sausages etc. contain a lot of these saturated fats.
There are various mix of opinions on health risks due to saturated fats. But It is very clear that hydrogenated oils, heavy creams and cheese, heavy spreads and processed and fatty meats are seriously harmful to our health when it comes to high cholesterol levels.
Saturated fats increases LDL(low density lipoprotein) bad cholesterol levels and decreases HDL(high density lipoprotein) good cholesterol. This results in high cholesterol levels, clogged arteries, heart problems, dyslipidemia and other cardiovascular diseases as well.
Choosing the right type of these macronutrients is very improtant. And to make healthy meals, especially if you want to make a better diabetes diet plan.