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What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the cornerstones of your diet. Learn more about where to get them, how much of them you need and what sources to avoid.
Many eating plans focus on changing the amount of carbohydrate, fat or protein in your diet.
That’s because manipulating how much of them you eat can have a big impact on your body.
Carbohydrates, fat and protein are called macronutrients. They are the nutrients you use in the largest amounts.
“Macronutrients are the nutritive components of food that the body needs for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems,” says MD Anderson Wellness Dietitian Lindsey Wohlford.
No healthy diet should exclude or seriously restrict any macronutrient. Here is how much of each you should eat as part of a healthy diet, and the best sources.
Carbohydrates – or carbs – are the body’s primary fuel. They provide energy for your muscles and the central nervous system during movement and exercise.
Wohlford says 45-65% of calories per day should come from carbohydrates. The amount depends on an individual’s health goals and medical conditions.
Protein is essential to many processes in the body. It provides structure to the tissue. That includes cell membranes, organs, muscle, hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments and blood plasma.
Proteins are involved in metabolic, hormonal and enzyme systems and help maintain acid-base balance in our bodies.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a person who weighs 150 pounds, that adds up to around 54 grams of protein per day.
Individual needs will vary depending on age, activity level, medical conditions and health goals.
Fat is vital for the body as an energy reserve, for insulation and protection of your organs, and for absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins.
About 20-35% of your total daily calories should come from fat, with less than 10% of total daily calories from saturated fat.
How to plan your diet
It can be hard to visualize the recommended daily amounts of macronutrients as meals. One way to do this and make sure you get a good variety of foods is to follow a plant-based diet.
Fill two-thirds of your plate with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Make the remaining one-third lean protein like chicken and fish or plant proteins like beans, quinoa or tofu.