2.01 Basic Concepts of Nutrition

What is it that we are looking for in a well balanced diet? Well…in general there are two different types of nutrients that our body’s need to survive: Macronutrients and micronutrients.

There are three macronutrients. Macro means big. These molecules are large and complex. They are carbohydrates, fat and proteins. Each has their own page dedicated to them, but here is a brief intro:

Carbohydrates (a.k.a. “carbs”) are the main fuel source for the body and are basically many sugar molecules strung together. “Simple carbohydrates” are actually just one isolated simple sugar molecule such as glucose, sucrose or galactose. “Complex carbohydrates” are many sugar molecules linked together. Not all carbohydrates are considered equal as you will see in the dedicated Carbohydrate section. A high carbohydrate diet from only good sources such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains NOT from processed refined foods is the recommendation.

Fat is not always bad, but its intake should be quite low to protect your heart from heart disease. While fat from animal sources will carry with it large amounts of the deadly fat cholesterol and harmful saturated fat, when you get fat from plant sources it will cholesterol free and mostly unsaturated. Certain fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients, but only small amounts are needed in the diet. Knowing where to get the right type fat and amount of fat in your diet can make all the difference in being heart healthy or having a heart attack.

Protein is a chain of “amino acids” put together in a complex way to perform one specific molecular task. All amino acids originate from plant sources initially. Humans are not able to make new amino acids, but can convert one to another. When you eat protein, you digest the protein down into its basic amino acids. Like carbohydrates and fats, not all protein was created equal from a health perspective. Hint: Plant protein is the healthiest.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are important for good health. There are thousands of bioactive nutrients in every whole plant food you eat, many in very large amounts.

As a part of the Healthy Eating section in the HeartStrong.com program, carbohydrates, fat, protein and micronutrients each have their own dedicated page to help you make the proper food choices that will promote heart health.

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