Weighing In: Proteins, cabohydrates, fats - how much do we need?

Heather Reese Health Guide October 05, 2008
  • Question: I've found many tables with estimated calorie requirements, but nothing about proteins, cabohydrates and fats requirements. 55% carbohydrates, 15% fats and 30% proteins are ok? (I am a girl and I have 17 years old). Can you help me, please?

    Heather: This is a really great question. And I’m very glad to hear you ask about carbohydrates, protein and fat because all are part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

    Carbohydrates
    Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source, they are responsible for making sure the body has enough energy to breath, maintain body temperature and contract and relax the heart and other muscles. We also need carbohydrates for physical activity, for these reasons carbohydrates should make up the bulk of our diet accounting for 55-65 percent of our daily calories. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex.


    Simple carbohydrates are found in starchy foods, fruit, honey and table sugar. White bread and pasta, cake, cookies and candy are simple carbohydrates.

    Complex carbohydrates are found in plant foods, grains, legumes and starchy vegetables. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grain bread and rice, legumes and vegetables can help prevent many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The majority of carbohydrates in your diet should come from complex carbohydrate sources.

    Protein

    Protein is needed for normal growth and development and it is also broken down by the body and used as energy. Protein should provide about 10 to 15 percent of your daily calories and it can be found in both plant and animal sources.

    Meat, bean and dairy products provide the most protein. These foods include: chicken, cottage cheese, dry beans, eggs, hard cheeses, milk, peanut butter, steak and yogurt.

    Fat
    While fat is often portrayed as a villain, it actually plays an important role in the body. In fact, eating the right kinds of fat, in the right amounts, is actually healthy.

    Fat helps maintain healthy skin, normal growth and immune function. It also aids in the prevention of many age-related chronic diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Fat should provide about 30 percent of your daily calories, with only 10 percent of those calories come from saturated fat.

    There are four kinds of dietary fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat and transfat.

    The bulk of your fat calories should come from mono and poly unsaturated fats. These fats help reduce total cholesterol levels and can be found in vegetable oils like canola, olive, corn and safflower oils.

    Saturated fats are found in meat, poultry, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils. These fats can increase both your total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels. As I mentioned above, limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories.

    Transfat is not a naturally occurring substance. It is created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to create a solid. Recent research has shown that transfat can increase cholesterol levels and it has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Transfat is found in foods such as vegetable shortening, some margarines and many process foods. The new food labeling laws mandate that manufacturers must now list transfat on the food facts label.

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