Nutrition Guide 101: Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates

Use this nutrition guide to start understanding the macronutrients.

Macronutrients: the nutrients that provide calories or energy needed for growth, development, metabolism and all body functions. Macro means large therefore macronutrients are the nutrients we need in the largest amounts.

The 3 main macronutrients are:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrate

    Calories: Each macronutrient provides different calories

  • Protein = 4 calorie/gram
  • Carbohydrate = 4 calorie/gram
  • Fat = 9 calorie/gram

    Alcohol provides 7 calories/gram but it is not considered a macronutrient because it is not needed for survival.


  • Needed in largest amount (50-60% of daily calories)
  • Basic form of carbohydrate used by the body is glucose (blood sugar)
  • Glucose is stored by the body in the form of glycogen
  • Carbohydrates are found in plant foods only with the exception of lactose (sugar in milk)
  • Carbohydrates make up all fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Used by the body for energy
  • Fiber is a form of carbohydrate but is not digested or absorbed by the body. Instead it is used to keep our digestive track healthy by forming and eliminating waste from the body

    Whole grain vs. refined

  • Whole grains are foods that have not been significantly altered from their state they occur in nature. i.e white rice versus brown rice.
  • Refined grain have most of the nutritional parts removed and are therefore enriched, or re-fortified

    Simple versus complex

  • Simple sugars are those that have 2 or less molecules of glucose linked together. Simple sugars include:
    o Glucose – blood sugar o Fructose – sugar in fruit and honey o Galactose o Maltose o Sucrose – table sugar o Lactose – milk sugar
  • Complex sugars have more than 2 molecules of glucose linked together. Complex carbohydrates include:
    o Starches – potatoes, cereals, grains, corn, peas
    o Fiber – legumes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, etc

    Foods such as fruit contain both simple and complex carbohydrates. They contain fructose which is the simple sugar that cause them to taste sweet and they contain complex carbohydrates, the fiber, that gives them peels and form/structure.

    Fiber is the structural part of the plant that we cannot digest. We need fiber for:

  • Promote healthy gut flora (healthy bacteria in the large intestine)
  • Facilitate elimination
  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Reduce risk of colon cancer
  • Help maintain healthy body weight
  • Control blood sugar

    Diets low in Fiber have a risk for:

  • Constipation
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Diverticulosis
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes

    Soluble versus insoluble

    Soluble fiber (fruit/oats) is soluble in water meaning in absorbs water as it goes through the digestive track. This adds bulk to your stool.

    Insoluble fiber (vegetables/grains) is insoluble in water meaning it does not absorb water as it goes through the digestive track. This speeds elimination time through the system.

    Fiber recommendations: 35gms/day


    Fats are the second macronutrient in this nutrition guide.Needs: 20-30% of daily caloric intake

    Fat is needed by the body for:

  • Normal growth and development
  • Energy
  • Absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
  • Provides cushioning for organs
  • Maintains cell membranes
  • Insulates the body and protects it from shock
  • Used to make hormones
  • Stored by the body as adipose tissue

    Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, dairy, tropical fruits, butter/margarine, oils, lard, fish, and grains.

    3 forms of fat:

  • Saturated – found mostly in animal products, solid at room temperature (butter, skin on meats, beef fat)
  • Unsaturated – found mostly in plant products (oils)
  • Trans-fats – unsaturated fats that have been hydrogenated to turn them into a form more similar to saturated (i.e margarine)

    Over consumption of fat leads to:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Elevated cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Some cancers
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease


    Protein finishes the macronutrients for this nutrition guide.

    Needs: 10-15% of daily caloric intake

    Needed by the body for:

  • Growth (especially children, pregnant women)
  • Tissue repair
  • Immune function
  • Making of hormones and enzymes
  • Regulate fluid balance and pH balance
  • Collagen formation
  • Energy when carbohydrate is not available
  • Preserving lean muscle mass

    Animal versus plant protein

    Animal protein provides:
  • B vitamins, especially B12
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Does not contain fiber
  • Can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol

    Plant protein provides:

  • Iron but a less digestible form than animal
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Phytochemicals
  • Antioxidants
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Does not contain B12
  • Plant protein comes from nuts, beans, legumes, soy, and whole grains

    Use this nutrition guide and you will be on your way to better health and aging.

    © Integrative Nutrition11/09

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