In 1827, scientist William Prout first introduced the world to the concept of macronutrients. All food items could be grouped under one of the three macronutrients; fats, proteins and carbohydrates. The consumption of macronutrients could be directly related to one’s health and well being. Ever since dieticians, public health experts, nutritionists, etc. have used this concept as a base to publish studies, create diets and promote certain super foods.
Each macronutrient can be further divided into categories that help us understand what they do for us. One way to understand fats is to divide them into good fats; those that increase our levels of good cholesterol (LDL), and bad fats; those that increase our levels of bad cholesterol (HDL). A more common way is into; 1) Saturated Fats (solid at room temperature), 2) Unsaturated Fats (liquid at room temperature) & 3) Trans Fats (weak chemical bonds; can move from solid to liquid easily).
The human body requires around 200 different types of amino acids to function. Of this 9 are essential because they cannot be produced by the body and so are derived from either plant or animal based protein. Certain food items like eggs and fish contain all the essential amino acids and are often referred to as complete foods. Unlike them, plant based proteins cannot individually provide all the essential amino acids and so are always taken in a combination to derive maximum benefit.
The third macronutrient is carbohydrates. They can be divided into simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are those that have high levels of glucose, fructose and sometimes sucrose. Whereas complex carbohydrates have starch, digestible and indigestible fibre along with glucose and fructose. Simple carbohydrates have a high glycemic index*, resulting in an instant insulin spike, while complex carbohydrates have a low glycemic index.
All macronutrients are digested by our body to become one of two things; either they are converted to energy (ATS) or stored for later use as adipose tissue. In reality food is extremely complex and difficult to reduce to just one category. An Avocado should not be defined only by its high levels of good fat but should also be recognised for the other essential nutrients it provides. When we focus too much on only one quality of a food item we put ourselves at a higher risk of storing more adipose tissue than necessary and depriving our bodies of other micronutrients that certain foods provide. The key is to find a balance and view food in a more wholesome than singular manner to achieve optimum health.
*Glycemic Index is the speed at which glucose is released once the nutrient is digested.