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What Are Macronutrients?

By Kathy R
Updated May 16, 2024
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Nutrients are the substances the body needs to function and grow properly. Macronutrients are simply the nutrients that people need in the highest amounts in order to have enough energy for their bodies to operate on a day-to-day basis. These would be, generally speaking, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

The body uses calories to create energy. On average, both proteins and carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, while 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories. Alcohol also provides calories, but it is not a nutrient because the body does not need it.

Carbohydrates are easiest for the body to convert to energy because of their simple makeup. These are found in abundance in foods considered starches, such as potatoes and whole grains. People can also get adequate carbohydrate intake from fruit, yogurt, and nuts. Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate that is indigestible. It can help to promote weight loss because it leaves a person feeling full and aids in cleansing the digestive system.

Many think of protein as a nutrient found mostly in meat, but this is not always the case. While meat is definitely a good protein source, it is also found in red and brown beans, soy products, nuts, and seeds. These foods contain macronutrients important for energy when the body has exhausted its supply of carbohydrates. Protein also aids the immune system, preserves muscle mass, and promotes growth.

A lot of people try to avoid eating fats, especially in countries with high rates of obesity. It is important to note, however, that people actually need a certain amount of fat in their diets. It is essential for absorption of vitamins K, E, D, and A, and provides the body with a layer of cushioning below the skin. This is needed to protect the internal organs.

It is best to eat unsaturated fats, which can be found in nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Trans fats and saturated fats can contribute to heart disease, especially for those with a family history. When healthy fats are eaten as part of a well-balanced diet, weight gain does not need to be a huge concern.

The other nutrients the body needs, but in smaller quantities, are known as micronutrients. In addition, people need a substantial amount of water to survive. The recommended amount is six to eight 8-ounce (237 ml) glasses every day. Water in food, such as water-rich fruits, can go toward fulfilling this requirement.

If you're in Miami and seeking to understand and optimize your macronutrient intake, consulting with Miami dietitians can be a valuable step. Macronutrients, including fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, are essential for providing the energy needed for day-to-day bodily functions.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By wander — On Jun 09, 2011

Has anyone had success with the popular low carbohydrate diets that have been splashed about?

I am curious to know how flipping my body’s energy source percentages on its head will impact my body. On average the high protein diets expect you to drastically cut carbohydrates and intake much more fat. I know we need all of these macronutrients, but finding a good balance is tough.

The diet I am currently looking at is recommending only 10% of my energy from carbohydrates, and the rest protein and fat. Do you think that this would be safe and work?

I am concerned that I may feel ill if I make such a drastic change.

By popcorn — On Jun 09, 2011

When considering what macronutrients you need in your daily diet there is a lot of conflicting research shown to those who are trying to be healthier and lose weight.

In the case of the fat, carbohydrate, and protein divide, people have a lot of trouble agreeing on what percentage of each you should be eating.

Cutting out one group completely is a recipe for disaster, as your body needs all of these things to function. In general the old rule was 50% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 20% protein.

A good idea is to try different percentages for a week or so and see how you feel and if you have made any weight loss progress.

By EdRick — On Jun 08, 2011

@Jennythelib - I read that article, too. Now I try not to eat so much dairy, but when I do, I eat more that's whole milk instead of fat-free.

I want to emphasize that when you're thinking about macronutrients, refined carbohydrates aren't the way to go. More and more evidence is piling up that refined carbs, like sugar and white flour, are responsible for a lot of health problems. Read the ingredients and look for the word "whole." "Enriched" flour, "wheat" flour, etc. are refined carbs. Often, when you see a products labeled "multigrain," the first "grain" is actually refined flour! Not exactly a health food.

By jennythelib — On Jun 08, 2011

I hope this article helps people see that low fat and low carb diets are unnatural! If you control your intake of calories and get exercise, you'll lose weight. The human body requires plenty of fat and plenty of carbohydrates to run.

Trans fats are definitely horrible, but it's not clear that saturated fat is as bad as it was once thought to be. There's even some indication that the right kinds may be healthful. For instance, Newsweek had a big article a few years back about the connection between foods and fertility. It turns out that eating whole-milk dairy helped women get pregnant--which suggests that the saturated fat in dairy products is doing something right for the body!

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