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Body of excellence: The value of macronutrients in your diet

By: Christine Hendren Special to The Gazette
September 12, 2017 Updated: September 12, 2017 at 4:10 am
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A previous column addressed whole foods being things that once lived and can reproduce or grow from the earth, such as wheat, olive oil and chicken. Each of these also is an example of a macronutrient: carbohydrate, fat or a protein.

Carbohydrates provide most of the energy we need. They are in almost all food but are most dense in grains, potatoes, legumes and fruit. Examples of grains are wheat, corn, rice, quinoa, bulgar, barley and oat. Potatoes and legumes are carbohydrate-dense and provide valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber. Vegetables usually have fewer carbohydrates per serving but are highly nutritious and have lots of fiber, so they fill you and provide valuable ingredients that benefit the gastrointestinal tract, where most of your food is absorbed.

Fruit often contains sugar, the most simple form of carbohydrate, and is great for quick energy and vitamins. Sometimes carbohydrates get a bad rap. That's not because they're inherently bad, but rather because many have been over-processed, and we consume too much of them. Examples of processed carbs are cereals, pasta and crackers. Instead, eat carbohydrates that are whole grains and whole foods, such as potatoes, legumes, vegetables and fruit to improve your nutrition profile.

Fat is also an important part of our diet. As the most energy-dense macronutrient, it helps make and balance hormones; forms our cell membranes, brains and nervous system; and transports some vitamins. The negativity about fat was unfounded, recent research has shown. We need all three kinds of fat in our diet: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated. What we want to avoid are fats that have been hydrogenated and made into trans fats. Look on the nutrition label to make sure the product does not contain anything that says "hydrogenated." Don't worry about eating some saturated fats. Almost all food that contains fat will have some saturated fats. The key is balance. Our body has evolved eating a varied and seasonal diet, and the best is a mix of approximately equally balanced fats.

Protein is the third macronutrient. It is the building block of our body and unusual in that we cannot store it as we do carbohydrates and fats. That is why faddish high-protein diets have been popular at times. Warning: Too much protein for too long might cause health problems. Proteins are found in meats, fish, eggs, legumes, soybeans, dairy products, nuts, rye berries and black rice, to name a few. We need from 0.4 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, depending on your activity level and whether you are recovering from an injury.

Finally, take a holistic approach to eating. Each meal should contain all three macronutrients and a variety of colors. Eat slowly and mindfully. Enjoy your meal. It is much more than mere food.

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Contact Hendren at Chris@ChrisHendrenTraining.com

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