Macronutrients, commonly referred to as ‘macros’, are energy providing chemical substances that are required in large amounts in our diet. Each and every food item that we consume contains a proportion of different macronutrients. There are three primary macronutrients required by the human body – carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Besides these 3 essential macronutrients, some nutritionists also include alcohol in the same bracket due to the high amount of energy it provides.
Let’s find out more details about the 4 types of macronutrients and their importance for the survival and proper functioning of our metabolism system.
Carbohydrates comprise of starches, sugars, and fibers. They are abundantly present in grains, pulses, and beans.
Carbohydrates should ideally contribute around 45%-65% of our daily intake. On an average, carbohydrates contain 4 calories of energy per gram. It is used as the body’s main fuel source. Our brain, kidneys, muscles, and heart all need carbohydrates to function properly. Our body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is easily metabolized into energy or gets stored in muscles for later use.
Like carbs, proteins also provides 4 calories of energy per gram. Protein is basically made of amino acid, which is commonly called “the building blocks of the body.”
There are 9 different amino acids that are considered essential for our survival. The human body doesn’t have the capability of producing amino acid on its own, so we must consume protein-rich food to complement the amino acid requirements. Common sources of protein include eggs, yogurt, meat, beans, and fish. An adult human being should ideally get 10%-35% of their daily calorie intake from proteins.
Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, improving the immune function and providing energy for our brain to function properly. It also helps in building the foundation of vital organs including our hearts, lungs, livers, and blood. Protein deficiency can cause weakness, nausea, mood changes and even lead to heart-related ailments. Protein plays an important role during our growth and development stages to build body weight and muscle mass.
Fats are the most energy-dense macronutrient – providing us 9 calories of energy per gram. It’s a misconception that fats make us bulky. They are an important source of energy and play a vital role in protecting our organs, controlling our appetite, regulating hormone production, allowing for proper absorption of vitamins, managing body temperature, protecting from depression and many other metabolic functions. Fats are also capable of helping with weight management and disease prevention.
Fats can be classified into different categories. Monounsaturated fats can be derived from olive oil and avocados. Fish, nuts, and seeds are the main source of polyunsaturated fats, while saturated fats can be obtained from milk and dairy products. Fats should account for around 2%5-35% of our daily calories.
In addition to the three primary macronutrients discussed above, new-age nutritionists also consider alcohol as a macronutrient. It can provide up to 7 calories of energy per gram – putting it above protein and carbohydrate in terms of energy gains. Alcoholic beverages primarily contain ethanol, which is usually produced by the fermentation of grains and fruits.