Finding Balance in Macronutrients
If you've ever tried your hand at baking anything, you know that just one wrong ingredient has the potential to throw off an entire recipe. Too much or too little of something can be the difference between flat, lifeless bread, or a delicious bread that has risen.
The same can be said about macronutrients, an important component to health. If the amount or type you consume is slightly off, you won’t be able to find a healthy balance in your diet.
Take, for example, carbohydrates— a widely misunderstood food group. Sometimes people looking to get healthy remove them from their diet completely, while others on the opposite end of the spectrum max out on carbs nonstop without knowing any better. But which is better for you?
As with most things in life, it's all about moderation. But the first step to knowing how much to consume is actually knowing what they are. Carbs are more than just bread and pasta—in fact, carbs are also found in fruits, vegetables, and even dairy. Carbs are important in every diet because they give you energy. To get the most nutrients out of your carbs, look for starchy carbs like brown rice, millet, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Refined carbs (like white bread, pasta, cake, and cookies) are what many people tend to over-indulge on, and should be eaten with caution.
Protein is another macronutrient that is important to your well-being. Protein keeps your hunger satiated throughout the day, and is essential for healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, and for building muscle. A big bowl of pasta might taste good now, but won't keep you satisfied long-term, which is where protein comes in. The more you workout, the more important it is to get protein (and if you rarely workout, it's better to eat protein in moderation). Healthy vegetarians and vegans can still get adequate protein without eating meat, but it takes more mindfulness. To stave off hunger and keep your body nourished, try to incorporate healthy proteins like nuts, seeds, and grass-fed lean meat into your diet. Avoid excess protein that is heavy and processed.
Finally for our last macronutrient—fat. Many people are scared of fat, but I'm happy to tell you that fat is your friend! In fact, a third or more of our diets should come from healthy fats. Fat, similar to protein, keeps us satisfied longer. It also keeps us looking good by keeping our skin from becoming dry and wrinkly. Fat is also important for our brain health, and insulates and protect our organs. Our bodies also can't absorb most vitamins without fat.
But which fats are healthy fats, and which should we avoid? Let's start with the good guys. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are best, like omega-3s, an essential fatty acid. Essential fatty acids are fats that we need to receive from food because our bodies can't produce them on their own. Omega 3s are important for brain aging—so if you want to stay sharp, eat foods rich in omega 3s like wild salmon, flax, chia, omega 3 fortified eggs, and nuts.
Saturated fat, like the kind found in coconut oil, is another example of a healthy fat, but it should be consumed in smaller quantities than mono or polyunsaturated fats. And as for the less healthy fats, steer clear of dangerous hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats. These fats, found in products like margarin, are the least favorable fats and can cause inflammation and lead to increased risk of diseases.
The best way to stay on top of your intake of macronutrients is to remain mindful, and eat with intention. Pay close attention to the ingredients that go into all of your meals, and remember that the key to well-being is all about finding a healthy balance of nutrients that works best for your body.