Our bodies require 3 essential macronutrients for proper function and development. These 3 macronutrients are Protein, Fat, and Carbs. Each serves a specific function for your body.
These macronutrient breakdowns can be found on Nutrition Facts labels, on food packages. Knowing your caloric break down will help you make sense of these labels. Counting your macronutrient intake is more effective than simply tracking calories.
Focusing on these specific nutrients puts emphasis on nutrient dense caloric intake, rather than ingesting empty calories. You can find your specific recommendations using a free online calorie calculator. FREE macronutrient calculator HERE!
Knowing your specific macronutrient intake ratio can improve satiety, decrease calorie intake and improve overall health. The Nutrition Facts label (food label) is an excellent tool for macronutrient analysis. Understanding how to use the food label can be both informative and beneficial to health goal success.
Once you have a general understanding of the food label, you are more prepared to make healthy choices within these groups. These healthier choices can decrease added sugar and saturated fat intake, and help you focus on effective calorie consumption.
Carbohydrates can be broken down into "whole grains" and "refined grains". Grains provide your body with energy. They supply your body with glucose (your bodies main source of fuel). Whole grains are the healthier of the two, as they contain the whole grain, in its natural form. Refined grains go through extensive processing treatments resulting in a significant decrease of fiber, and nutrient content. The USDA recommends getting 1/2 of your daily grains from whole grain sources. Sources include: 100% whole breads and pastas, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, and brown rice.
Fat gets a bad rap. When in fact it is essential and beneficial to all body development. Fat provides proper protection and support for cell growth. It also is essential for absorption of vital nutrients, such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Too much fat leads to unfavorable outcomes, including Type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Many types are included in this category. Common types include: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Saturated fat (like butter, margarine, and lard) are our less healthy options. They are solid at room temperature and in excess can lead to clogged arteries. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and are considered beneficial fats because they improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation as well as many other beneficial roles. Foods like nuts, seeds, olive oil, canola oil and avocados are high in these healthy fats. Trans fats are genetically modified saturated fats and provide no nutritional benefit. Moderation is key in fat intake. Aim for food products with less than 5% fat. This information can be assessed on the food label on all packaged products.
Protein is another macronutrient worth mentioning. This complex group supports many essential processes in the body, and more than 10,000 types exist in your body at any given time! Protein is made from amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of life and are needed for growth and maintenance of your organ tissues, bones, muscles, and so much more.
For adequate intake, aim for foods with 20% or more protein content. The USDA recommends focusing on lean protein options. These include: poultry, fish, seafood, nuts/seeds and beans. These options provide your body with ample protein and lower cholesterol and saturated fat content, which are linked to those less lean options.
Being able to identify "good" food choices on a food label is important. There are many ways to assess this information, a good rule of thumb is the 5/20 rule. This rule is generally accurate, and makes decisions fast and simple. For foods essential in low quantities, like fat, sugar and sodium; aim for 5% or less(per serving). Under 5% typically constitutes a lower quantity. Foods of higher importance like fiber and protein, aim 20% or higher. 20% and above indicates a high content. So steer clear of foods with high readings in those less favorable categories.
Making an effort to intake nutrient dense calories will improve your results and avoid the lurking sensation of hunger that can accompany weight loss goals.