Carbohydrates are the most effective way to get everything you need. Carbohydrates are produced by plants through photosynthesis, and carbon, hydrogen and oxygen compounds are called sugars or sugars. These simple sugars are linked together to form long branching chains known as complex carbohydrates. These large carbohydrates are often called starches.
When eaten, enzymes break down the chains into simple sugars. These simple sugars then pass easily through the intestinal wall into all the cells in your body. The metabolic process converts these simple sugars into energy.
Dietary fiber is even a longer complex carbohydrate chain – so complex that it can’t be fully digested. Most fibers eventually form a stool in the colon. Many people believe that fiber is only the shell of grains and long fiber in fruits and vegetables, while dietary fiber is found in all plant tissues. For example, even peeled potatoes contain a lot of fiber.
Fat is also a complex molecule of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Although not as easy to digest as sugar, fat is still an important nutrient and source of energy. There are two types of fat: saturated fats (solid at room temperature), most commonly found in animal tissues, and unsaturated fats (liquids) most commonly found in plants. Our bodies can make most of our fat from carbohydrates. It is said that these are “unnecessary” fats because we don’t need to get them from food. Only a few unsaturated fats, we need to be healthy, our bodies can’t do it by ourselves. To get these “essential” fats, we must eat them.
Proteins provide raw materials for most of our body’s functions and structural components. Only as a last resort can they be used as energy. All proteins are composed of the same 22 relatively simple molecules called amino acids. Imagine that amino acids are like letters in an alphabet, forming a complete dictionary of different meanings. Those “different words” are all different proteins found in nature. All foods contain protein, including plants and animals, and our bodies can make most of the food from scratch. Only eight of the 22 amino acids are required. Just like the unsaturated fat above, we must get these eight essential amino acids from our food so that we can enjoy our health.
Water also makes up a large part of our food. Although it does not produce energy, water is an indispensable element in life. This is not just a passive solvent of salts, compounds and gases. Water actively participates in the building blocks of cells, the environment in which cells live. About 60% of your body is water!
Because these four nutrients make up the bulk of the weight of all foods, they are often called macronutrients. Our food also contains two micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – which account for only a fraction of the weight of our food.