Recently, I have noticed several individuals struggle with the basic knowledge of nutrition, which is understandable as this is not taught at school nor does the internet help. So, I thought this month’s newsletter should go through the basics of nutrition.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the science of how food, specifically nutrients in your food, work in your body. There are macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat and micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Let’s focus on the three macronutrients.
The cells in the body are made of protein. The body contains an estimated 30,000 differentkinds of protein. Protein is the building blocks of your hair, skin and nails.
Protein is made up of amino acids – amino acids are either essential or non-essential. The essential amino acids are those types that we need to eat every day. The non-essential amino acids are made in our bodies. If you do not eat enough protein every day the body searches in your body to break down tissue to provide these amino acids.
Where is protein found? Protein is found in meat and meat alternatives and dairy foods. There is some protein (~1g in fruit, some vegetables and varying levels in whole grains). Meat foods include: beef, chicken, pork, duck, turkey, fish and lamb. Meat alternatives include: eggs, tofu, nuts, chickpeas, lentils and beans. Dairy foods include: milk, yoghurt, cheese and dairy alternatives – such as calcium fortified soy milk. Primarily high protein dairy foods come from animals such as cows, goats and sheep. Nut milks such as: almond/macadamia/hazelnut or coconut milk are not good protein sources.
How much protein do I need? Protein requirements change depending on the person, which are largely determined by certain health conditions, age, lifestyle and activity levels. The average adult needs 0.8-1g/kg of body weight.
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation for causing weight gain. This can be true, particularly if you’re eating the wrong type of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates is a term used to describe molecules of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen (carb-o-hydr-ate) or simply refer to them as sugar. We have simple and complex carbohydrates in our food supply. Simple sugars are easily digested in the body.
Complex carbohydrates refer to sugars that have multiple (more than two) chains of glucose linked together – termed polysaccharides. There are three polysaccharides important in nutrition – glycogen, starches and fibres. These types of carbohydrates aremore difficult for the body to break down, which refer to the better or ‘good’ carbohydrates. Research articles highlight that wholegrain or complex carbohydrates can improve bowel health, cardiovascular health, promote energy levels and are an essential source of vitamins and minerals.
Where are carbohydrates found? Carbohydrates are found in all foods except meat, hard cheese and fat. So this includes: grain and grain products, starch vegetables, non-starch vegetables, fruit, some dairy – milk, yoghurt, custard, ice cream and alternatives, legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils) and ‘discretionary’ or ‘treat’ foods.
How many carbohydrates do I need? Carbohydrate requirements change depending on the person, which are largely determined by certain health conditions, age, lifestyle and activity levels. As per the Australian Dietary Guidelines, carbohydrate intake varies is between 45-55% of your daily diet.
Fat refers to the group of nutrients known as lipids. Fats have a role in providing energy for the body, providing insulation for body cells, helping fat soluble vitamins absorb and making hormones. Not consuming enough fat can be detrimental to health. Usually 25-35% of a normal diet is derived from fats.
Where are fats found? Fats are found in: oil, butter, avocado, meat and dairy products. There are different kinds of fats – such as saturated fat, trans fat and unsaturated fats. These affect your cholesterol.
How many fats do I need? Fat requirements change depending on the person, which are largely determined by certain health conditions, age, lifestyle and activity levels. An average adult needs 25-35% of their diet from fats.
An Accredited Practising Dietitian can provide you with your protein, carbohydrate and fat goals for the day. If you'd like more information, please contact me for a consult.