Does the word carbs conjure up images of pasta, pastries and pizza? Maybe protein draws your mind’s eye to steak and tofu. After initial impulse to think about the fat on your body, dietary fat probably makes you think of oil and butter. Though sometimes villianized (carbs and fat) or treated as dietary god (protein), all three macronutrients are important (despite our own prejudices). A balanced diet contains approximately 45 to 65% carbohydrates, 20 to 35% fat, and 10 to 35% protein. Macronutrients provide energy—calories—to you . They also play a variety of roles in the structure and function of your healthy body. Let’s dive deeper into the importance of each macronutrient.
Carbohydrates and Your Body
Think plant-based and you might think of a diet rich in carbohydrates. This is completely factual because carbohydrates are found exclusively in plants. From grains to root vegetables to fruit, the plant kingdom has many carbohydrates to choose from. If you’re choosing nutrient dense whole foods, you’re getting the best type of carbohydrates—minimally refined with a lower glycemic index than their more refined counterparts.
Sugar, starch and fiber are all types of carbohydrates. Depending on the amount of sugar, carbohydrates either provide instant or more sustained energy. Fruit provides instant bursts of energy, while whole grains provide more even energy. Fiber helps to lower the glycemic index of a food, while improving digestive health. It’s recommended that you eat at least 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories in your diet. So if you eat an average of 2000 calories, your goals should be 28 grams of fiber each day. Vega One provides 6 grams of fiber, and you can easily reach 28 with whole grains, fruit and vegetables.
Fat in Your Body
Dietary fat is very energy rich. Our bodies are well equipped to store extra fat in adipose cells throughout our body—just in case we end up starving for several weeks. Even if you are trying to reduce the amount of adipose tissue in your body, you still need to consume dietary fat, since it is a key component of hormone function as well as digestion and absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).
There are both animal and plant-based sources of dietary fat. Plant-based sources are richer in heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Nuts, avocados, seeds and cold-pressed oils (like Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil) are great sources of unsaturated fat. Another important type of fat is the essential Omega oils. Omega-3 in particular has benefits to both your brain and cardiovascular system. Because it is essential and can not be synthesized by your body, you must consume it through food. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts are good sources of Omega-3s.
Protein in Your Body
While meat, dairy and eggs form the foundation of most North American plates, plant-based sources are beginning to gain momentum. Protein (specifically, the amino acids it delivers) plays many structural roles in your body, for all cells and enzymes, beyond just being the building blocks of muscle. Drop your fear of not getting complete protein. While not all plant-based sources of protein contain all essential amino acids, if you eat a variety of foods, rest assured that you are getting enough protein and amino acids. Look for sprouted organic soy (tofu or tempeh), beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If you’re looking to boost your protein intake, supplement with Vega One, Protein Smoothie or Vega Sport Performance Protein for a complete multisource plant-based protein.
Stay tuned as we move from macronutrients into micronutrients next week!
- Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. (2008). Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy. Saunders Elsevier. 12th ed.
- Institute of Medicine (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Retrieved from: http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/DRI_Macronutrients.pdf