The critical importance of portioning macronutrients for overall health
Macronutrients – or “macros” for short – are the three critical energy sources in our food: carbohydrates, fat, and proteins. These three energy sources are digested and expended differently in our bodies, and understanding how to leverage the proper portions of these nutrients is critical to dietary success.
A macro that gets a very bad rap is fat. Some people believe that eating fat will make them fat; a logical conclusion given the name! Fortunately eating fat does not directly make you fat, and in fact it is critical for certain body processes, like brain development, hair, skin, and nail health, blood clotting, and inflammation prevention.
To determine the appropriate amount of fat for you, you should take stock of your overall caloric intake goals, as well as your activity level. A good guideline is 20 grams of fat per meal – or about 60 grams of fat per day. To make sure you’re getting the proper amount, use your thumb. For men, we recommend two thumb-sized portions of fat at each meal, and for women we recommend one thumb-sized portion per meal.
The most important thing to remember when consuming fats is what type of fat you’re eating. Fat, like carbohydrates, has some forms that are better than others. Non-animal fats are healthy, like olive or vegetable oil, soybeans, hummus, nuts, and seeds and are recommended for at least two of your fat portions daily. Another very beneficial fat comes from fatty fish – like salmon – and fish oil supplementation. It is important to limit your consumption of animal fats, particularly those in red meats, and saturated fat, like the fats found in lard, butter, cream, whole milk, cheese, and ice cream, as these fats can increase your risk for heart disease when consumed in excess.