WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARBOHYDRATE, PROTEIN, FAT AND FIBRE
Carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre (also water) are called the “macronutrients.” We need carbohydrates to fuel our bodies, we need protein to keep all our muscles and glands healthy, and we need fats for hormone production and for a healthy nervous system.
Carbohydrates include sugars like table sugar or fruit sugar, starches like potatoes or bread, and also something called fibre. We need fibre for a healthy digestive system, to help slow down blood sugar metabolism, and to keep our cholesterol levels normal.
Proteins come primarily from meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fish, other vegetables have some protein too. Each source of protein contains different amounts of fat and or carbohydrates in addition to containing protein.
Fats come from the oils in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and from the fat in animals. Fats are needed in our diet for several reasons. Fats give us a sensation of satiety, they are helpful with reducing inflammation and there are several studies out that have shown eating a good ratio of good fat will reduce your risk for several different disease states. Most animal fat is not very good for us, except for fish, so nuts, seeds, and vegetables are usually the best sources of healthy fats. Choosing lean animal protein is important to avoid the meats’ saturated fat content.
For each meal, your protein source should be about the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. For example, this would be approximately 2 to 4 ounces of chicken breast, fish or another lean meat. The amount of carbohydrate that should be included with your meal depends upon the type of carbohydrate. A serving of a starchy carbohydrates like pasta should be equal to the size of one tight fist.
A serving of lower starch vegetables, i.e. the green ones, can be equal to two loosely held fists. Fat should be added with 3 - 4 olives, or 10 to 12 nuts like almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts. You can also use a couple of teaspoons of oils from flax seeds, pumpkin seeds or walnuts. If your protein source is high in fat, or you prefer a lower-fat ratio, skip the extra oils for that meal.
*These are all approximate serving sizes and would be adjusted for people who are more active, everyone has their unique needs.
While protein sources and fat sources are pretty straight forward, it is a bit more difficult to know how to choose carbohydrates. You will be able to eat more volume if you choose the low-starch vegetables and the low-sugar fruits. Junk foods like soft drinks, candy, cookies, and other sweets should be enjoyed only as occasional treats.
Here is a list of fruits and vegetables grouped into high starch and low starch. You can use this list to balance your menus. Remember that pastas, breads, and grains have a higher starch content than the green and coloured vegetables. A serving of pasta or potatoes should only be about one-half cup, while a serving of low starch vegetables is equal to about 2 full cups.
Low Starch Vegetables
Asparagus, Bean Sprouts, Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Swiss Chard, Cucumber, Endive, Lettuce, Radishes, Spinach, Watercress, String Beans, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Chives, Eggplant, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Okra, Onions, Parsley, Peppers, Pumpkin, Rutabagas, Turnips
High Starch Vegetables
Artichokes, Parsnips, Peas, Squash, Carrots, Dried Beans, Lima Beans, Corn, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Yams
Low Carbohydrate Fruit
Cantaloupe, Rhubarb, Berries, Watermelon, Melons, Tomatoes, Apricots, Grapefruit, Guava, Lemons, Limes, Oranges, Papayas, Peaches, Plums, Raspberries, Tangerines, Kiwis
High Carbohydrate Fruit
Apples, Cherries, Grapes, Loganberries, Kumquats, Mangoes, Pears, Pineapple, Pomegranates, Bananas, Figs, Prunes, Dried Fruits
Food sources of insoluble fibre
Vegetables - especially dark green leafy ones, root vegetable skins, fruit skins, whole wheat products, wheat bran, corn bran, nuts, and seeds.
Food sources of soluble fibre
Kidney beans, pinto beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, courgettes, apples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, prunes, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread.