Health & Education Resources

Understanding Proteins, Fats, & Carbohydrates

Most calories from food come from 3 macronutrients:
Proteins, Fats, and Carbohydrates. Their main purpose is to provide energy. Certain conditions may require adjustments with calorie intake or limitations to particular macronutrients.

Proteins provide amino acids essential for maintenance, growth, functioning, and repair of cells, muscles, and tissues. It is the basis for the formation of enzymes, hormones, and blood-clotting factors. They are found in various animal and plant foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, milk, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products. It provides an energy value of 4 calories (kcal) per gram.

Fat is a concentrated source of calorie. It provides an energy value of 9 calories (kcal) per gram. It helps with the production of bile acids, hormones, and essential fatty acids for brain and nervous system functioning. It also adds flavor and prolongs shelf life of food items. They are found in meat, poultry, fish, oils, dressings, dairy products, snacks, and desserts. Types of fat include poly-unsaturated (e.g., omega-3-fatty acid) and mono-unsaturated (e.g., flax seeds or sesame oil) help improve cholesterol levels; while saturated and trans fat can increase LDL levels.

Carbohydrates provide an energy value of 4 calories (kcal) per gram. They are classified as simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, can provide an instant boost of energy but they are high in calories and low in nutrients. Complex carbohydrates typically found in fiber, cereals, fruits, and vegetables are low in calories and can be high in nutrients.