How to understand protein carbs and fats. A valuable macronutrient guide

Updated: Apr 5

Macronutrients have been front-page news for a while now. Great advice can be found almost everywhere on eating less or more, losing weight by keeping track of carbs, eating more fat, and getting enough protein…

What does it all mean?

Let’s break down the Macronutrients into what they are and how they work within the body for a healthier you.


What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a diverse group of compounds produced mainly by plants that are dietary fiber, starches, and simple sugars.

Complex carbohydrates provide riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, folate, iron, protein, magnesium, and fiber. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are examples of Carbohydrates.

Your diet should include 45-65% of carbohydrates daily for a balanced diet.

Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and our brain needs the glucose they provide. Glucose, also called “blood sugar”, is the most abundant carbohydrate in the body. The primary function of glucose is to provide energy to cells.

What type of Carbohydrates to eat?

Not all carbohydrates have the same effect on blood glucose levels. Some foods cause blood glucose levels to rise quickly and remain elevated while others do not. The glycemic index is the rating system for the magnitude and duration of the rise in blood glucose. The reference is set at 100, reflecting a rapid and large rise in blood glucose after consumption.

Foods with glycemic indices greater than 70 (e.g. bagels, are considered high GI foods. Using the GI food reference can help make healthier carbohydrate choices. Eating many high GI foods can be detrimental to your health because it pushes the body to extremes. Foods with lower GI’s are associated with lower risk of developing diseases developing diseases. This is especially true for people who are overweight and sedentary. Eating mainly low GI carbohydrates that slowly filter glucose into your blood stream keeps your energy levels balanced allowing you to feel fuller for longer between meals.

Other benefits of eating low GI foods include: helping in losing and managing weight; increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin; improving diabetes management; reducing the risk of heart disease; improving blood cholesterol levels; prolonging physical endurance; and, and helping to refuel carbohydrate stores after exercise.

The high end of GI – Fruit drinks, bagels, white bread, Sugar, White rice, Milk 2%, deli meats

Generally high sugar and high-fat foods. (simple carbohydrates)

The lower end of GI – Beans, Skim milk, Oat bran, almonds


Proteins perform four major functions in the body: they serve as a structural material in muscle, tissue, organs, and blood; they serve as the component for enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals; they maintain and repair tissues, and they serve as an energy source.

Nearly half of the protein in the body is in the muscle – the rest is present in organs. Protein is continually broken down and rebuilt.

Food sources of high-quality protein include animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs. Other good sources are beans, grains, and nuts.

The average intake of protein in the U.S. is 75 grams per day which exceeds the recommended amount of 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women daily. High protein consumption is usually due to the way the media portrays fitness and building muscle with high protein intakes.

Recommended daily intake is 10 to 35% of calories from protein.


Fats known as lipids are required for every physiological system in the body. Lipids provide energy and transfer fat-soluble vitamins plus other healthy processes within the body. Although we associate fat with an unhealthy diet, getting enough of the right kind of fat is just as essential as cutting back on bad fats. Cutting back on meat, especially red meat can help reduce our fat intake. Being mindful of products that are high in saturated fat and have a high total fat count allows you to avoid an increase in calories from fat.

The recommended amount of calories per day from fat is 20 to 35%. Since almost all foods contain some fat, the average diet provides sufficient amounts of essential fat. Cutting back on trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol will help decrease fat intake without worrying about getting enough of the essentials.

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