As we have discussed in this space before, mindfulness is one of the most important components of a complete wellness program. Being mindful of one’s thoughts, emotions and activities regarding one’s health sounds simple, but it can be challenging given the mountains of information that bombard us every day. Following is a very simple basic concept that we all know, but tend to sometimes confuse thanks to the nutritional misinformation that shows up in our inboxes and on our screens constantly.
Let us take a moment to consider “macronutrients” and the purpose they serve in our bodies. What we refer to as macronutrients are CARBOHYDRATES, FATS and PROTEINS. Carbohydrates are made up of simple and complex sugars connected by covalent bonds which, when broken, produce energy. They are the primary energy source for the human body. One gram of carbohydrate produces 4 calories of energy. What we don’t “burn” as energy, we store in the liver as glycogen, which can then be converted to fatty acids by insulin and stored as fat in adipose tissue. Fat, when utilized as energy, creates 9 calories of heat energy. Protein is considered the “building blocks” of the body and is made up of amino acids (organic molecules that contains nitrogen). Amino acid and protein structure is determined by our DNA and forms all the tissues and organs of the human body. Protein is a very inefficient energy source, and is only utilized as energy when the body has used up all available carbohydrate and fat stores (the basic principle behind low carbohydrate/high protein diets). When burned as energy, it creates 4 calories per gram.
As we approach the dietary component of our health program, it is wise to try to understand and be aware of the macronutrient breakdown of what we eat. As we shop for, prepare and ingest the food we so enjoy, think about its macronutrient makeup and what it is doing for our bodies. Ask yourself this, each time you eat: How much of this food is being used for energy and how much energy will be required during the upcoming day? How much is fat, thus creating twice as many calories of energy? Lastly, how much is protein, which when combined with a useful amount of carbohydrates and fats, will go to building new tissue and restoring damaged tissues, organs and systems? Deconstructing your meals mentally like this will not lessen your enjoyment of them. On the contrary, it will make you more mindful and focused and actually deepen your dining experience!
Stay tuned to this space in the next few weeks for more fundamental nutritional information.
Dr. John Monaco