Macronutrients are the dietary nutrients that supply energy, including fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions. Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts.
Fats have four forms: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and essential fatty acids. Carbohydrates contain both starches and sugars. Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butter, margarine, oils, lard, fish, grain products, and salad dressings. Many people correlate fat intake with weight gain, but fats are essential for survival. We need fat for energy, growth, cushioning for organs, and maintaining cell membranes.
Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (e.g. grain and potatoes), milk, yogurt, and fruits. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel and are easily used for energy in our bodies. Carbohydrates are also stored in the muscles for later use.
Protein is made up of amino acids. Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables. Protein is essential for growth, tissue repair, making hormones and enzymes, and immune function. Some amino acids are essential (meaning we need to obtain them from our diets) and others and nonessential (meaning the body can make them). Protein from animal sources contain all the essential amino acids we need. However, plant sources do not contain all the essential amino acids.