Casual dining and fast food portions have worked with various fad diets to distort our understanding of what we should eat and in what portion sizes. There can be dangerous consequences from radically reducing or increasing our carb protein fat ratio over an extended period of time. Still, many people focused on their diets focus on a proper carb protein fat ratio. People disagree on what the proper ratio is, but most agree it is 40-45% carbohydrates or carbs, 25-30% protein and 30-35% fat each day. Each macronutrient is important so let’s look at why.
Carbs, short for carbohydrates, are a ready and easy supply of energy since they break down quickly. Most carbs will digest completely in about two hours. With that in mind, you should eat carbs that are high in fiber to slow the rush of sugar to the blood stream.
Simple carbs, like low and no fat chips, cookies, and snacks are usually high in calories, but low in nutrients like fiber. If eaten in excess, simple carbs will be stored as fat in the body. This is where carbs get their bad reputation.
Carbs supply much needed energy to the heart, brain and kidneys which is why they play a prominent role in the healthy carb protein fat ratio. A severe lack of carbs will cause our bodies to take additional measures to get the energy it needs. Our bodies will attempt to remove the carbs from our muscles, causing muscle loss.
Proteins should be eaten in portions about the size of a deck of cards. Three to four of these portions will provide 60-80 grams (2.1 to 2.8 ounces) of the protein needed each day. If you’re trying to build muscle, it’s a good idea to add a few more grams of protein each day to promote muscle growth. Children should also take in a little more protein.
Fats break down into the good, the bad and the ugly. The really horrible fats are trans-fats which should be avoided entirely. They promote an increase in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the bad kind) and reduce high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the good kind). When looking to add fats to your diet be on the look out for the ingredients. Don't just rely on a label that says no trans-fat because foods with half a gram (0.02 ounce) of trans-fats or less are labeled as trans-fat free. Trans-fats include anything that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
Saturated fats are not as heart healthy as mono-unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, but they are important and as much as 10% of your fat intake can come from saturated fats. You’ll find that a lot of animal fats, including fat from dairy products, are saturated fats.
Finally, there’s the good. Extra virgin olive oil is good for our hearts in moderation. Most nut, canola, grape seed, and avocado oils are also good sources of fat. The usual rule of thumb for fats is you don’t get a lot of them, so make them count.
Whenever we examine what we should be eating we should be looking for a healthy carb protein fat ratio. Your plate should be about one half healthy carbs such as a vegetable or salad, one-fourth lean protein like chicken, and finally, one fourth should be a starchy food like bread, potatoes, or brown rice.