Nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats

protein-carbs-fats

I thought l would share with you an explanation of the three major nutrients in the body as it is very important to understand food composition if we are to have a healthy diet and understand its influence on our well being.

Food is defined as any substance, solid or liquid which provides materials for growth and repair of the body, energy production and regulation of the body processes. The chemical components of food which have these functions are called nutrients and the three major nutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins with most foods being a complex mix of each nutrient.

Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are a type of sugar found in a variety of foods including cereals and vegetables, and are the human body’s primary energy source.

The body breaks down carbohydrates to make glucose which is the fuel that provides the body with energy and helps keep everything working. There are complex and simple carbohydrates and it is the complex ones which are the most beneficial to good health as they release energy slowly into our bodies. When energy is released slowly you feel fuller for longer, have lasting energy and your body feels more balanced as you maintain steady blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds are rich in nutrients and therefore have additional health benefits for the body such as essential vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre. Because they are not highly processed and usually in their original form they are easily digested and good carbohydrates such as beans, grains (I do not recommend any gluten containing grains) and vegetables contribute to the efficient running of our bodies and need to be eaten regularly to maintain good health. They do not have added refined sugar as they have naturally occurring sugars that the body can easily and slowly metabolize for balanced brain function, mood, attitude and useful energy.

 Proteins

Proteins are organic molecules composed of amino acids which are required by the body for growth and development.

There are two types of proteins which are complete and incomplete proteins, with complete proteins having all of the essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are required to be obtained through dietary sources and complete proteins include eggs, milk, cheese, poultry, meat and fish. Incomplete proteins have some of the amino acids and include grains and legumes. There are positive health benefits for both complete and incomplete proteins with these foods providing essential nutrients to help the body function efficiently.  The nutrients provided to the body such as B vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium help to support the maintenance of bones, muscles, skin and blood. Proteins are a source of energy for the body, support the nervous system and tissue building. Iron from foods such as red meat aids in the formation of red blood cells and to carry oxygen in the blood, while magnesium helps to release energy from cells and zinc is an important contributor to a healthy immune system. To promote good health it is advised to vary protein sources and try foods such as quinoa, buckwheat, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables and sprouted seeds which are an alternative to meat, are a good source of protein and easier for the body to digest than meat proteins. Food combining can also increase the nutritional value of plant sources of proteins which are not complete proteins. As they do not have all of the amino acids and different plants have different amino acids, the nutritional value can be improved by food combining different foods such as grains with legumes.

 Fats

Fats are used as an energy source by the body, are essential for normal bodily function and include Trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.

Dietary fat plays a major role in cholesterol levels within the body, in providing a source of energy, in maintaining body temperature and for the absorption of vitamins. They are important for proper growth, development and in maintaining a healthy body. Fat also provides taste to foods and helps you feel full after a meal and are an important source of calories and nutrients for infants and toddlers. There are different types of fats and the ones that contribute to good health are mainly the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are essential for bodily function. These good fats are easy to metabolize and are low in cholesterol and supply the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy brain function such as memory and moods. They reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis and some kinds of cancer. Dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna, oils such as flaxseed oil and olive oil and seeds such as chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. Omega 6 fatty acids work with omega 3 fatty acids when in the correct ratio and help promote healthy skin, hair, bone health, help regulate metabolism and support a healthy reproductive system. Omega 6 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation in the body can be found in the form of gamma-linolenic acid and can be found in oils such as Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil. Essential Fatty Acids cannot be made by the body but are crucial to cell function, especially brain cells. Food sources of good essential fatty acids include avocado, sea vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. They aid weight reduction by speeding up the metabolism, lower cholesterol, improve immunity and nourish body parts such as hair, skin and bone tissue.

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