The purpose of healthy meal prep is to ensure that you get proper nutrition from your diet. This is especially important for children as they require a balanced diet while growing up. Due to these reasons, you must know about the different types of nutrients that must be part of your diet. The purpose of this article is to give you a better understanding of nutrition from plant-based foods. Shared below are details about three macronutrients in a plant-based diet.
The Major Nutrients In Plant-Based Food
Nutrients are components of any food that provides nourishment and helps us to survive. For example, carbohydrates provide energy, proteins are necessary for building and maintaining biological structures, vitamins are required for the proper functioning of various physiological processes, and so on. The functions of macronutrients are explained in detail below.
Protein: It is a macronutrient that is an indispensable part of any diet because they are used as the building blocks of biological structures in our body. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and different proteins have different amino acid profiles. Living beings require 21 amino acids and we human beings cannot produce 9 of them. These are called essential amino acids.
The 9 essential amino acids are the following:
These 9 essential amino acids are found in animal-based proteins, and hence they are called complete proteins. But plant-based proteins are not complete proteins because they do not include some of the essential amino acids. So, to get all above mentioned 9 amino acids, you must eat a wide variety of plant-based food.
Listed below are the plant-based foods that are the main sources of protein:
- Soy products like tofu, tempeh, etc.
- Legumes like kidney beans, white beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Nut butter like peanut butter, almond butter, pistachio butter, etc.
- Seeds of squash, pumpkin, and sunflower.
- Nuts like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, and pistachios.
When consuming nuts as a protein source, you must limit their consumption to avoid overconsuming fats. This is because nuts are a good source of healthy fats, however, overconsuming any nutrient is bad for health.
Carbohydrate is the main source of energy in all diets, and because of this, it is a macronutrient like protein. Also, foods that are good sources of it are used as a staple food across the globe. They provide our bodies with starch, sugar, and fiber. Starch is mainly found in plant-based food like peas, potatoes, grains, and beans. Sugar is mainly obtained through fruits and certain vegetables. Fiber helps with digestion and reducing bad cholesterol levels; it is found in cereals, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
There are mainly two types of carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in plant-based food like cereal, rice, fruits, vegetables, pasta, and bread. Simple carbohydrates are found in sugar, sweeteners, syrups, etc and are bad for health because they lack nutritional value. Our body metabolizes starches and sugars to provide energy. The extra carbohydrate that we consume is converted into fat and used later for meeting extra energy requirements. A diet that has excess amounts of carbohydrates leads to obesity.
Listed below are plant-based foods that are good sources of carbohydrates:
- Breakfast cereals
Fat is the third macronutrient along with carbohydrates and proteins, and it is required for various biological functions. For example, it is an essential part of cell membranes, used for insulating and protecting the body, It is also required for the nervous system and brain function, and for carrying certain nutrients. The amount of fat that we consume in our diet must be limited, as excessive amounts of fats are bad for health. High fat intake leads to obesity, complications like high blood cholesterol levels, coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attacks. It is found in oils, margarine, and salad dressing.
There are mainly three types of fats: monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are found in olive oil and canola oil; physicians recommend using canola oil for patients with high blood cholesterol levels. omega-3 fatty acids also belong to the category of polyunsaturated fats. Coconut oil and peanut oil belongs to the category of saturated fats, and they are a less healthy option compared to the previous two. Because of this, you must use them in limited quantities during healthy meal prep.
Listed below are the main sources of fat in a plant-based diet:
- Nuts and seeds
- Salad dressing
- Peanut butter
On a final note, a healthy combination of macronutrients along with micronutrients like vitamins and minerals makes a balanced diet.