Food Groups

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a macromolecule that are necessary to sustain human life. There are simple carbohydrates, sugars, and complex carbohydrates, starches.

Simple carbohydrates are found in refined sugars, Most candies are mostly composed of refined sugar. You can also find simple carbohydrates in nutritional foods like fruits and milk. It’s much healthier to get your daily sugars in through foods that naturally have sugars in them, instead of processed sweets.

Complex carbohydrates can be found in grain products, like bread, crackers, pasta, and rice. There are some complex carbohydrates that are better for you than others. Refined grains like white four and rice, have been through extensive processing, stripping some nutritional benefits and fiber. Less refined carbohydrates have a higher nutritional content and are easier on the digestive system. Fiber can also help you feel fuller, reducing the likelihood that a person will overeat.

When we consume carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into simple sugars, which can be absorbed into the bloodstream and, through insulin-mediated processes, delivered to tissues that can use the sugar as an energy source.

Fats/Lipids

Fats are a wide area of molecules that include saturated and unsaturated fats.

Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. A large intake of saturated fats raise cholesterol levels, increasing the chance of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The highest levels of saturated fats can be found in meat products, dairy products and processed foods. Some examples of saturated fats are coconut oil, palm, oil, and cocoa butter. A healthy diet should include less than 10% of its calories from saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats are derived from plant oils, primarily.

Monounsaturated fats lower low-density lipoprotein/LDL (known as bad cholesterol) levels, while raising high-density lipoprotein/HDL (known as good cholesterol) levels. The Mediterranean diet is full of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can be found in high levels in olives, olive oil, peanut butter, and avocados.

Some nutritionists believe that polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 and omega-6, are good for you, but conflicting evidence with longitudinal studies points out that there’s little to no clinical evidence that omega 3 supplementation does anything to affect overall health. These can be found in high levels in oily fish (sardines,  mackerel, trout, salmon, and herring), safflower, grapeseed, soybean, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, and pasteurized eggs.

Trans fats, sometimes called partially hydrogenated oils, are not naturally occurring. They are produced by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable fats to make them more solid. Consuming trans fats increases LDL cholesterol levels and lowers levels of HDL cholesterol. Trans fats increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke about 3 times higher than other fats. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with trans fat intake, and scientists believe that it may be the cause of 50,000 cardiac arrest deaths annually. Trans fat is commonly found in fried food, packaged foods, and some processed baked foods.

 
 

Protein

Proteins are large, complex molecules that play an important role in the human body. They do the majority of work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. A protein is a chain of linked amino acids that are folded specifically to perform a specific task. We consume proteins, but the body endogenously produces protein.

The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get 10-35% of their daily intake of calories from protein. It’s not always important the amount of protein consumed, but the total protein “package,” i.e. if your protein source also has a ton of fat attached to it, especially in animal-based protein sources. For example, a 4-ounce broiled sirloin steak is a great source of protein with about 33 grams of protein, but it contains 5 grams of saturated fat, while a cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber and no saturated fat.