Energy and Nutrients From Food
By Pierre Mouchette | Bits-n-Pieces
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans offer guidance on a balanced diet. These recommendations are based on the latest scientific research on nutrition. Guidelines are updated every five years because our understanding of what is healthy continues to grow. Scientists are now working to learn more about how different nutrients affect the body and better ways to personalize nutritional recommendations.
Finding Nutritious Foods
Macronutrients make up the bulk of the calories you eat each day. They provide the nutrients your body needs to make energy and give your cells the essential building blocks for their different functions, such as fighting diseases. Your body needs only a small amount of each micronutrient, which is critical for healthy development and disease prevention.
Experts advise adults to stay within their recommended calorie limits while choosing food and drinks rich in nutrients. The guidelines suggest getting 10% to 35% of your calories from protein, 25% to 35% from fat, and 45% to 65% from carbohydrates. Look at the Nutrition Facts label to find the amounts of different nutrients in a food.
Meeting Your Body’s Needs
Your body can still function when it is not getting enough of the different macronutrients, but that does not mean it is optimal. Proteins are needed for the cells to perform critical functions within the body. Your body breaks them down into amino acids, which the cells use to build muscle, skin, and organs, break down toxins, and perform many other critical jobs. The proteins can also be used for energy.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source because they provide energy immediately. Your body turns carbohydrates into glucose, a type of sugar. Nearly every cell in your body uses glucose as its primary fuel source.
There are three different types of carbohydrates: simple carbohydrates (sugars), complex carbohydrates (starches), and fiber.
Foods rich in fiber are essential for gut health. They can also lower the amount of fat and cholesterol (a waxy, fat-like substance) in your blood. Fat and cholesterol buildup can lead to heart disease and stroke. High-fiber foods may help protect you against these and other health conditions like diabetes. Although too much fat can cause trouble, you still need some in your diet. Fats are broken down into fatty acids. Your body uses these to make energy, build specific cell structures, absorb certain vitamins, and protect your organs. Some organs, like your heart, prefer to use fat as fuel.
Experts recommend limiting a particular type of fat called saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily calories. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, such as the fats in red meats, lard, and full-fat milk and dairy products. Meanwhile, fats in nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and fatty fish benefit heart health. Healthy fats have a place in the diet, but within reasonable calorie limits. Fats have more than twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrates, so that they can add extra calories to your day. Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain. Excess weight and obesity can increase your risk for many serious diseases.
Our genetic makeup interacts with our diet and may affect how each person’s body breaks down food. Scientists are now digging deeper to understand these differences better. These researchers hope to learn how to tailor a diet based on your genes, culture, and environment to improve your health.
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