Food contains substances necessary for the healthy growth and development of the human body. The two basic categories of nutrients are macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include the substances the human body requires in large amounts. Micronutrients include the substances the human body requires in relatively small amounts. The five basic macronutrients are sugar (aka carbohydrate), fat, protein, water, and fiber. These five ingredients make up the bulk of the food we consume and are each essential in varying amounts for healthy growth and body functioning.
A lack of basic nutrition education in primary school all the way through medical school has been a boon for the milk and dairy industries who swooped in to fill the void. These companies have spent large sums to convince people to buy their products. One of the main tactics these industries have used is to create the illusion that their products are healthy. Meat and dairy are associated with the macronutrient “protein” despite the fact that protein comes from plants first and is macronutrient present to some amount in almost all food. Contrary to the industry’s message that meat and dairy are healthy foods, the high levels of protein in animal products have been linked with development of numerous degenerative diseases and ailments. Doctors and people who have done the research advise people to get their fat and protein from plants. The chart below shows the macronutrient ratio of common foods and demonstrates that, despite common misconceptions, fat and protein are also found in plants.
Macronutrient Ratio of Common Foods
|Sunflower Seed (kernels)||14%||74%||12%|
|Chocolate Chip Cookie||53%||43%||4%|
Macronutrient Ratio Matters
While counting calories or focusing on eliminating certain foods has been the recent craze in managing ones diet, a more effective method would be to pay attention to macronutrients. Paying attention to the big parts of food – the sugar, fat, protein, fiber, and water content – is a more common sense approach to managing health. Consuming foods hi in fat over time leads to a buildup of extra fat. Consuming foods hi in carbohydrates will reduce the digestive workload and provide the most easily accessible energy for physically and mentally active people. Consuming whole fresh raw plant foods can help keep your body hydrated. Cooked and processed foods require you to consume more water to not be dehydrated. My own experience with a whole foods plant based diet is that I never have felt the need to count calories, always eat as much as I want when I am hungry, and have maintained a stable healthy weight without getting sick. I focus on the macronutrients – I make sure I get plenty of fresh fruit, raw foods, include a small amount of fat-rich seeds, nuts, and fruits, and minimize any processed foods.
A New Macro View of Food
Paying attention to the macronutrient ratio of food is not necessarily new, but understanding what macronutrients are in foods and how these affect the body is a subject that has been noticeably missing from nutrition education. Many people have no idea that fruit contains protein, for example. Many people also don’t know every cell in the brain runs on sugar and that the body has to work extra hard to create energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Also, it’s not useful to associate particular foods with one macronutrient. For example, brownies and cakes are generally labeled as “sugar” foods and “junk foods,” when most commercially sold baked goods are equally hi in fat and a host of other ingredients. Eggs are associated as a “protein” food even though they are high in fat and all foods contain some protein. And while generally brownies and cakes may be classified as “junk” food, a creative and knowledgable chef can make low-fat cakes from fruit and other whole foods that provide protein, fiber, and nutrients making their creation a healthy food.
Thinking Outside of the Cereal Box
Food is a a centerpiece to the lives of many people and as such it can be hard to imagine different types of diets for some. Many Americans consider “meat and potatoes” a full meal with many not consuming any fresh fruits and vegetables. But, these fatty junk foods cause buildup of cholesterol and fat in body leading to a host of killer ailments like heart disease, the leading killer of men and women today.
On the flip side, some people consume diets very high in fruits and vegetables. Some people enjoy monomeals, meals comprised of a single food, which are said to be easy on digestion. Even a meal comprised entirely of fruit will contain measurable levels of protein and fat in addition to the sugar, fiber, and water in the fruit.
Just looking up the simple basic nutrition facts, what’s in a piece of fruit, can dismantle an entire mythology of food, nutrition, and health. Human beings have ten toes and ten fingers for a reason. We are designed perfectly as tree climbers, fruit pickers, and foragers. Research into diet and disease is helping reveal the hidden secret to human health and thrivation. A diet rich in a variety of plant foods contain all the macronutrients and micronutrients necessary for a healthy body.
Quantity of Fruits for 1,000 Calorie Mononmeal and
|Fruit||Grams protein per pieces of fruit||Grams fat per pieces of fruit||Calories per piece of fruit||Quantity per 1000 calorie meal||Protein per meal||Fat per meal|
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