Nutrition basics

July 06 2023 – Melissa Alvarez

Básicos de nutrición
Básicos de nutrición

We can say that food is the central basis of our life; Our health and well-being depend on it. Being sick can sometimes mean that we do not eat well and have some deficiency of nutrients in our body, but on the contrary, being well is completely linked to the good diet we have every day.

According to the criteria established by the World Health Organization, a healthy diet must provide the necessary amounts of energy through carbohydrates, lipids and proteins; as well as vitamins and minerals to meet the requirements for growth, development and proper functioning of all organs.


All the foods we consume daily have all the macronutrients in different percentages; There are 3 main proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. All of these are essential to carry out our daily activities, basically it is what keeps us functioning day to day. Each person needs different amounts of macros; They vary depending on weight, height, lifestyle, goals, among others. PROTEINS. Proteins provide us with 4 kcal per gram; they have enzymatic, regulatory, structural, defensive, transporting, and receptor functions. Likewise, they are essential for optimal fat loss and muscle gain, repair of muscle tissue, development of lean mass, and are a great ally of the immune system, keeping it healthy and strong. Proteins are made up of amino acids that are released and absorbed in the intestine after digestion. Some amino acids are synthesized by our body from other amino acids, carbohydrates and fats. Those that the body is not able to synthesize are the so-called “essential amino acids” (tryptophan, lysine, methionine, threonine, phenylalanine, leucine, isoleucine, valine and histidine). Proteins can be of animal origin when they come from meat, fish, milk and eggs, as well as meat derivatives (sausages) and dairy derivatives (yogurt and cheese); These contain essential amino acids. There are also proteins of plant origin, and they come from cereals, legumes, nuts and soybeans; These do not contain essential amino acids. Although the combination of legumes and cereals provide a protein of high biological value, that is, with essential amino acids. An equivalent is approximately 30 to 40 grams, but remember that an equivalent is not the appropriate portion, to know your appropriate portion it is necessary to see a nutritionist.


Carbohydrates are the main source of energy and come mainly from vegetables. They provide 4 kcal per gram. These are responsible for keeping our brain and body active. They are an important source of fiber, which prevents diseases and keeps us healthy. They are divided into monosaccharides, oligosaccharides and polysaccharides. The first two are quickly absorbed in the intestine. The best-known disaccharides are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (from starch). On the other hand, polysaccharides are absorbed more slowly in the intestine, among the main ones we find starch (in vegetables such as cereals, tubers and legumes). Carbohydrates are found mainly in the following food groups: Cereals, milk, fruits, and in lesser quantities: vegetables. We must remember that cereals are bread, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tortillas, pasta, rice, couscous, quinoa, etc. Carbohydrates also appear in milk and yogurt, as well as in fruits and vegetables (jicama, carrots, cucumber, broccoli, pumpkin, etc.)


They are the energy nutrient par excellence. This group is made up of triglycerides, phospholipids and cholesterol. They provide 9 kcal per gram. Most of the fats we consume are triglycerides, which once digested, release fatty acids that are classified based on:

The length of the carbons:

Short chain (4-6 carbon atoms)

Medium chain (8-10 carbon atoms)

Long chain (more than 12 carbon atoms).

Most fatty acids in the diet are long chain. Medium chain ones are absorbed more quickly.

The presence of the double bond:

  • SATURATED fatty acids: do not contain any bonds. They are found in animal fats (meat and derivatives, dairy products and eggs) and in vegetable fats (tropical oils).
  • UNSATURATED fatty acids:

MONOUNSATURATED AG: they have a double bond. They are mainly in olive oil, also in olives, nuts in general and avocado.

POLYUNSATURATED AG: have more than one double bond. If the first double bond is located in position 6, it is called ac. Omega 6 fatty acid. They are mainly found in seed oils. The representative of this group is linoleic acid (18:6), which is an essential fatty acid. On the other hand, Omega 3 fatty acids are also found in this group, so called when the first double bond is in position 3. Their main source is oily fish. These fatty acids allow triglyceride levels to be reduced.

Saturated fats increase blood cholesterol concentrations and promote the development of arteriosclerosis. Monounsaturated fats have great protective properties: antioxidant effect against free radicals, improves blood coagulation, and is associated with a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer (breast, endometrium, colon, prostate) or dementia . Within the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, present in fish, shellfish and nuts, reduce blood viscosity and improve blood coagulation, which is why they are associated with protection against cardiovascular events, better control of blood pressure and lower incidence of sudden death.

The double bond configuration:

CIS configuration: the double bond is in the same plane. It is in most fats in foods.

TRANS configuration: the double link is on a different plane.

Most of these fatty acids are due to a chemical process that consists of transforming a liquid oil into a fat; They are also found naturally in milk and its derivatives and in ruminants. The intake of trans fatty acids leads to an increase in blood cholesterol, with an increase in LDL ("bad") cholesterol and a decrease in HDL ("good") cholesterol with a high risk of suffering from cardiovascular events. Cholesterol is a fat found exclusively in foods of animal origin. Excess cholesterol in the diet leads, like saturated and TRANS fatty acids, to an increase in LDL cholesterol and a decrease in HDL cholesterol, with a high cardiovascular risk.

We need to have an adequate balance between the three macronutrients to achieve a healthy life and reach our goals.