Nutrition can be really complicated, but here we are going to keep it simple. One main caveat- today's post is information only. Read it and reread it and let it sink in. Tomorrow I will talk more about each component and how to use them in your diet.
There are six main classes of dietary components which I will break out into two main pieces: the micronutrients and macronutrients. They are named micro and macro because of the amount your body requires. Micro= small and Macro= large. See, easy right?
Let's tackle the calorie before we dive right in. The amount of energy in food is expressed as kilocalories (kcal) which is the measure of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 liter of water 1 degree C. It is commonly referred to as a calorie. Technical, but good to know.
Now to the macronutrients which contain 4 classes. They are: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and water. I'm only going to talk about the first three today because they are the energy suppliers. Water is included here, but only because you need it in large amounts.
Proteins are your builders. You need them to build and repair important body structures (bone, muscle, blood, enzymes, etc.). They supply 4 calories of energy per gram. This means for every gram of protein you eat, you will get 4 calories of energy. Protein sources include: meat, dairy, fish, poultry, soy, etc. Not all protein is the same. There are complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins supply all of the amino acids needed by your body (only present in animal products and soy). Incomplete proteins do not.
Carbohydrates are your body's ideal energy source. They are used primarily to supply energy for your body's cells. Like protein, they supply 4 calories of energy per gram. Carbohydrate sources include: all vegetables, fruits, grains, sugars, etc. They are further categorized as simple and complex carbohydrates. This simply refers to how quickly they are broken down and get in the blood stream. Complex carbohydrates take longer and thus provide a slower release of energy whereas simple carbohydrates digest quickly and provide a quick release of energy (and they are not the devil, but more on that later:)
And finally, fats (also, not the devil) are the body's most concentrated energy source. They supply 9 calories of energy per gram. Fats help insulate your body, support and cushion your organs, and help you absorb certain vitamins. There are different types of fats based on structure (more on that later).
It is important to mention that although not an essential component, alcohol supplies energy at 7 calories per gram.
So what now?? The take home message here is calorie= energy. Different types of foods supply different amounts of energy and all are useful for different activities. You need ALL of the macronutrients- thus the term macro.
Tomorrow we will start with protein and dig in a little deeper. We will talk about general energy requirements and exactly how much protein you need.