I am sure you are familiar with various diet trends – no carb, low carb, no fat, high protein – the stream of new and revisited diets is endless. Unfortunately it is not as simple as calories in/calories out. Our body uses the food and beverages we ingest in many different ways. While some of the diets may be beneficial over a short period of time the truth is that your body needs everything all of the time.
Carbohydrates, fats, proteins are classified as macronutrients and your body needs them – along with water – on a daily basis to function properly.
Carbohydrates could be considered the most important of the macronutrients as they used as the body’s main energy source. They provide vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes. The three main constituents of carbohydrates are sugar, starch and fiber and are found in fruits, vegetables and grains. Dairy products and legumes also contain carbohydrates as does simple sugar and other sweeteners.
Protein is the most abundant macronutrient in our body. It is used for building and repair of our muscles, tendons, and ligaments; as well as providing the building blocks for enzymes, hormones and tissue production. Protein is be found in meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs, dairy, and protein supplements.
Fat is crucial to our survival. It allows our cells to maintain healthy membranes, insulates our body, allows us to absorb fat soluble vitamins, provides energy if needed, aids in the maintenance of our hair and skin, and gives us a satisfied feeling after eating. Fat supplies the much needed essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our body cannot make.
Sure our body can function in the short term when one or two of these are missing but that is not efficient and can have detrimental effects. Low carbohydrate diets may cause the body to use fat or protein for energy. High protein diets generally come with an excess of fat and a deficit of vitamins, minerals and fiber. No fat diets keep your body from efficiently using the fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D and K), can cause hormone disruption and even increase the risk of heart disease – yes, if you have an no fat diet you are missing out on the heart healthy EFAs. On the flip side if we consume more protein or carbohydrates than our body can use they could be converted to fat and stored for future use. Generally we do not use this fat and so we keep it and add to it year after year.
So in short, your body needs everything all of the time. A mantra to ensure that you are doing this and in a balanced proportion is to remember what Michael Pollen said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And add to this that cooking your own food can bring numerous benefits from better taste and nutrition to satisfaction and pride to improved quality of life and family time.