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There are hundreds, if not thousands of diets out there. Try listing how many you’ve tried. Many of them require the dieter to eliminate a major food group. Sugar? It’s evil. Fat? It’s the killer. Protein? You’re eating too much, stop it. Carbs? DON’T YOU DARE EAT THOSE CARBS! No wonder we’re all so confused.

What if I told you that all three macronutrients; carbs, fat and protein, are essential to a healthy, balanced diet? Let’s start at the beginning. What IS a macronutrient? It’s simply defined as a type of food (carbs, fats and proteins) required in large amounts in the human diet. It says it right there in the definition: required in large amounts. There are micronutrients too, but we’ll get into those another time.

Carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive system and released into the body as glucose. Glucose is your brain and central nervous system’s preferred fuel source. A steady supply of carbohydrates ensures that your body and brain are running optimally throughout the day. The more you move and think, the more carbohydrates your body will require. Common carbohydrate sources include fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, honey and other sweeteners.

Proteins are comprised of amino acids, and are essential building blocks for the human body. Proteins contribute to our body’s structure, our hormones, and enzymes. If you are trying to build muscle mass or change your body composition, proteins should be an essential part of your diet. Protein is mostly found in meat, dairy, eggs, beans and legumes, and in supplement form like protein powders.

Dietary fat has six major roles: It provides an energy source (in fact, it’s the most energy dense macronutrient), it helps manufacture and balance hormones, it forms our cell membranes, it forms our brains and nervous systems, it helps transport the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and it provides two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make: linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid), and linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid). (1) The most common sources of dietary fat include eggs, avocado, nuts, coconut, olives and animal sources like butter and dairy.

All three of these macronutrients are essential to healthy, balanced diet. When we include all three at meal and snack times we ensure optimal digestion and prevent a drastic rise in blood sugar and insulin. Be weary of any diet that asks you to eliminate one or more of these macros. It may produce a temporary result like weight loss, but may also cause more metabolic damage in the long run.

While building better eating and lifestyle habits tend to be more productive than traditional dieting, if you are going to choose a diet to follow avoid any diets that require that you eliminate an entire macronutrient. Even though some of these diets may produce short-term weight loss, many of them cause more problems later down the line. Choose mindfully.

(1) Precision Nutrition Encyclopedia of Food