Balance is key: why the three macronutrients are so important

 

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

If you’re interested in weight loss, chances are you’re familiar with the hundreds of detoxes, cleanses and fad diets permeating our society. With their bold promises and dramatic (but short-lived) results, these quick-fix gimmicks are often irresistible for those looking to lose weight. Unfortunately, they don’t work.

What they offer in appeal, they lack in long-term results. That’s because they emphasize restriction while shying away from balance. To achieve lasting weight loss you must eat a balanced diet that includes the three macronutrients: complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats.

Your success with weight loss will come from adopting a balanced style of eating that is sustainable for life, not from following a laundry list of rules set forth by the latest diet craze. This concept, that balanced eating leads to lasting weight loss and maintenance, is not just a matter of opinion. This idea is backed by research and influenced by the sound recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Just what is a balanced diet? It’s one that includes a balance of the three macronutrients: complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats. And why is this balance so important? Each one provides the body with unique nutrients. The key to healthy for life eating is including all three in the appropriate ratios, which ensures you get all of the nutrients you need.


According to the National Academy of Sciences, current recommendations for healthy adults suggest a diet with 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat, and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates.

Restricting one macronutrient, such as carbohydrates, means missing out on the vital benefits they provide for the body. Similarly, going overboard on another macronutrient, such as protein, results in unwanted side effects. The body functions best on a nutritionally complete diet of complex carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, current recommendations for healthy adults suggest a diet with 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat, and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates.

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Take a second to imagine this distribution by visualizing a healthy plate. At least half of the plate should be made up of carbohydrates, with one quarter of the plate filled with lean protein and another quarter or less occupied by healthy fats.

Let’s break that down a bit more, because not all carbs, proteins and fats are created equal.

  • Carbs: When choosing carbs to fill up half of your plate, look for complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. The more color, the better! These types of carbs are filled with fiber to keep you feeling full and satisfied, unlike refined grains, white breads and pastries that have almost no fiber. Fiber also plays a role in improving digestion, regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol.
  • Proteins: When choosing proteins, aim for lean options, such as fish, skinless poultry and legumes. Protein promotes satiety, preserves lean muscle mass and stabilizes blood sugar.
  • Fats: Finally, look for healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, avocado, and olive oils, to make up the last sliver of your plate. These fats will not only keep you full, but will also help you absorb nutrients.

This type of eating may not be new and flashy, but it is established, effective and backed by years of research. And it’s the approach used by Healthy For Life Meals.


Note from Healthy For Life Meals: Our mission is to take the the work — and guesswork — out of healthy eating. We understand that your busy lifestyle makes it challenging to put together balanced meals. That’s why all of the meals we make for you are nutritionally complete and designed not only to promote weight loss but also to provide this optimal distribution of macronutrients.

 

 
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