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Macro-Nutrients

Proteins

Proteins are large complex molecules which play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Protein allows the body to grow, build, and repair tissues, and protects lean body mass. It's composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks.

 

Amino Acids are organic compounds which determine the quality of dietary protein. When foods with amino acids are consumed, they turn food into proteins which are a source of energy. There are 20 standard amino acids, nine of which are  essential (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine).

 

Because the body can't produce these nine amino acids, they need to be eaten in foods like legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Fruits and vegetables with higher concentrations of amino acids are cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sweet corn, berries, cherries, and nectarines. Furthermore, quinoa, soy, and buckwheat are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids the body can't make on its own.

Currently, the average American is consuming too much protein per day. The Center for Nutrition Studies recommends 8%-15% per day, depending on several factors. Studies have shown that too much protein, particularly animal protein and casein (the protein in dairy milk), are a primary cause of heart disease. 

 

Even too much plant-based protein can increase the risk of disease. Just about every plant on the planet contains protein - watermelon, celery, lentils, and broccoli (which has more protein per calorie than steak). A balanced whole plant foods diet contains enough protein for optimal health. Protein-deficiency is not an epidemic.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and are essential for fueling the brain, kidneys, heart muscles, and central nervous system. An example is fiber - a carbohydrate that aids in digestion - which helps us feel full so we don’t overeat. Fiber also keeps blood cholesterol levels in check. Humans need approximately 70% - 80% daily calorie intake of healthy carbs to maintain optimal health.

The body needs to make glucose (sugar) from proteins in the body called gluconeogenesis. Beyond being the main source of crucial energy, carbohydrates also help synthesize some amino acids (building blocks of protein) and help support healthy and regular poop. Carbs are not all created equal and come in three forms: simple, complex, and refined (aka processed).

Simple carbs contain one or two sugar molecules and are found in sweet foods such as honey, refined sugar, syrups, agave, molasses, dairy, and fruits. Unlike most simple carbohydrates, whole fruits also contain vital vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, phytochemicals, fiber, and water, and have shown to promote health.

Complex carbs are long strands of sugar molecules strung together, contain fiber, and have a savory taste. They take more time for the body to break down, which allow glucose spikes to be more regulated. Complex carbs are found in starches and whole grains such as brown rice and hulled barley, whole wheat pasta, whole grain sprouted bread, starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn) and non-starchy foods (beans, nuts, seeds).

Refined carbs which are considered harmful, have had most of their nutritious values stripped due to being processed. They're in foods such as potato chips, white bread, white rice, pearl barley, and pasta. Although they are not sweet, they release glucose more quickly like some simple carbs. 

Dietary Fats

Dietary Fats are essential to give the body energy and support cell growth. They help protect organs, keep the body warm, absorb nutrients, and produce hormones. Fat also allows the body to store energy, cushion organs, and helps with cell membrane integrity. There are three types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

Trans fat comes from adding hydrogen molecules to unsaturated fats which produces hydrogenated oil. This dangerous substance is found in margarine, shortening, baked goods, doughs, and fried foods. Trans fat is also found in meat and dairy products.

Saturated fat does not have any bends in the molecules caused by double bonds, because it's saturated in hydrogen molecules. Too much saturated fat is known to increase LDL cholesterol levels and can increase the risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is mostly found in animal-based foods including meats, fish, lard, cream, butter, dairy, and cheese, and is also in vegetable-based oils. 

Unsaturated fat has at least one double bond causing bends in the molecule. These are harder to stack and, therefore, are usually found in a liquid state at room temperature. The number of double bonds corresponds to how unsaturated fats are named. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond, and polyunsaturated fats have multiple or many bonds.

 

Unsaturated fats are known as a healthier fat and in small amounts, may decrease risk for heart disease. These fats originate from whole plant sources such as avocados, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and olives. Depending on our age, gender, and fitness level, these fats are not as damaging, too. The human body can process approximately 10% - 15% of fat daily in the form of unsaturated fats (and tiny amounts of saturated fat) from WPF sources. 

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