Week 7 Lesson
[learn_more caption=”Protein Fat Carbs (click the arrow for more details)”]
Protein, Fat and Carbs
Food can be broken down into 3 main macronutrients categories: protein, fat and carbohydrates. I am sure you are very familiar with these – especially when it comes to diets & losing weight.
There’s the low fat diet, low carb diet, high protein diet. And there are a bazillion books and opinions on what is the best diet. But, as you know, there is no one specific formula that will work for everyone. We are all unique individuals with different nutritional requirements.
Let’s look at these three macronutrients individually and get the basics down. From there you can start to figure out what combination is ideal for you.
- % Fat + % Carbohydrates + % Protein = Total Calories
(This is a long one, but don’t worry. There will be no test at the end. It starts to get complicated in the middle of the lesson, but I promise, we make it super simple again, so just hang in there.)
Fat has been probably been one of the most demonized macronutrients. Back in the early 80’s, we all went on the Low Fat Diet. Obesity was on the rise and we thought it was because of too much fat in our diets. As a result, the food industry started creating all kinds of low-fat foods.
What happened as a result of our low-fat focus? Well, we got fat and sick. We are fatter and sicker today than we were before we went on this low fat diet. This is because we reduced the total fat in our diet, but simultaneously increased the carbohydrates in our diet (see formula above).
As it turns out, fat is not bad. We need fat in our diet to be healthy. The key is that the types of fat we consume need to be well balanced and in the SAD (Standard American Diet) that is not the case.
There are basically three types of fats – unsaturated fat, saturated fats and trans fats.
Unsaturated fats (better known as the good fat) can improve our blood cholesterol levels. There are 2 types of unsaturated fats: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated.
- Monounsaturated fats can be found in things like olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
- Polyunsaturated fats – can be found in things like sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oils, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and fish.The famous Omega-3 fat is a polyunsaturated that the body cannot produce. It can be found in things like fish, walnuts, flax seed, and chia seed.Omega-6 is also a polyunsaturated fat and is required through food. Omega-6 can be found in things like corn oil, canola oil, soy oil, hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) fats, margarine, shortening.. these oils and fats are commonly found in our processed foods.In the SAD (Standard American Diet), we over-consume Omega-6 fat in relation to Omega-3. I have read everywhere from 11-50 Omega-6 to 1 Omega-3. Most experts say the ideal would be a 1-1 (or even 5-1) ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
Saturated fats (better known as the bad fat) can be found in higher concentrations in butter, animal fats, and tropical oils.
There is a lot of controversy over the role of saturated fat in cardiovascular disease. I think you can find science that argues both sides of this controversy. However, I think all science will agree that most health problems cannot be traced back to a singular nutrient, but rather nutrition as a whole.
Having said that, most of the research I have read agrees that the SAD (Standard American Diet) is out of balance. It is heavy in saturated fats (and refined carbohydrates, which we will talk about in the next section) and low in unsaturated fats (with the exception of the Omega-6, which is way high compared to the Omega-3). The general theme now is NOT to strictly lower saturated fats in the diet, but to replace them with unsaturated fats to create a better balance in our total fat profile.
Trans fats (who need no introduction) I think we are all aware that we should stay away from these. Trans fats are created by heating vegetable oil with hydrogen and a catalyst. This is called hydrogenation. It makes the oil very stable and less likely to spoil. Trans fats are bad because they increase our bad cholesterol and lower our good. This is the exact opposite of what we want our cholesterol to do.
Partially hydrogenated oils can be found in commercially prepared baked goods, margarines, snack foods, processed foods, french fries, and other fried foods prepared in restaurants. So read your labels and make sure it does not contain any “partially hydrogenated oils”.
The bottomline on fats….
- Get your fats in better balance
- Start choosing more foods with healthy fats & less foods with unhealthy fats
- Avoid the trans fats
Carbs are another macronutrient that has gotten a bad rap. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers in our diet. Just like not all fat is bad, neither are all carbohydrates. When you restrict all carbohydrates from your diet, you are also eliminating the good ones your body needs.
Having said that, there are some bad carbohydrates that should NO ONE should be eating. Those are the refined carbohydrates (or easy digestible carbs). These are things like:
- white bread
- white rice
- white pasta
- white flour
- and things along these lines
In fact, most all diet plans limit these types of foods. This is because these are a problem for our bodies. The more we process a carb, the more it should be avoided. We are finding out now that these may, in fact, be the bigger culprit in the obesity epidemic and not so much the fats in our diet. The struggle is that these are the types of foods we love and can be addicted to, which is one of the reasons it is a challenge to avoid them.
A better choice of carbohydrates is whole grains (whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, whole oats, bulgur), whole vegetables, fruits, and legumes. These types of carbohydrates are closer to their original form in nature (meaning less processed) and, because of this, our body will handle them much better and they will provide much more nutrition to our bodies.
Managing blood sugar and insulin levels is an important way to improve body composition and health. The goal is to keep your blood sugar in a very narrow and constant range throughout the day. This will help keep your energy levels constant by providing your body with a more even flow of fuel throughout your day.
The reason carbohydrates get picked on is because they (specifically the refined carbohydrates) can spike blood sugars very quickly causing insulin production. Not only does insulin stimulate fat storage, but over-exposure to insulin on a regular basis can cause insulin resistance and a host of problems for your body — the obvious being Type 2 diabetes and then the related suite of issues called the Metabolic Syndrome.
Again another very confusing topic. We are always worried about getting enough protein. But, the SAD (Standard American Diet) is hardly lacking in protein. In fact, we are probably over-consuming protein.
Dietary protein is made up of amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids cannot be made by our bodies. These are known as the “essential” amino acids. There are about 8 essential amino acids, which we have to get from our food.
A protein source that contains all of the essential amino acids is considered a complete protein. Animal foods like meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are considered complete protein sources. Other foods, such as amaranth, buckwheat, hempseed, soybeans, quinoa, and spirulina also are considered complete protein foods.
A protein source that is lacking one (or more) of the essential amino acids is considered an incomplete protein. Two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids are considered complementary proteins. According to the ADA (American Dietetic Association), complementary proteins do not need to be consumed at the same meal (but rather over the course of the day).
So how much protein do we need?
It depends on the individual and your goals. The general rule of thumb is .8 grams per kilogram of body mass. So 1 kilogram = about 2.2 lbs The formula would be something along the lines of this:
- (YOUR WEIGHT / 2.2) x .8 = daily grams of protein required
For most of us that will be between 40 – 70 grams per day. Now, depending on your individual situation and goals, this may vary, but at least you have a ballpark idea.
Most people think the only place you can get protein is from meat, dairy and eggs. However, there is protein in a lot of plant foods as well. In fact, calorie per calorie, there is as much protein in spinach as an egg. Of course, you would have to eat a lot of spinach, but the point is that you can get all the protein you need from a variety of foods and not solely meat, dairy and eggs.
When considering your protein sources it is important to consider what your protein comes packaged with. For example, protein can come packaged with healthful fiber and micronutrients as it does with beans, nuts, and whole grains. Or protein can come packaged with unhealthy fat, like marbled beef or whole milk.
The general recommendation is to eat a variety of protein sources each day, including beans, peas, nuts, seeds (and, of course, whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables). For meat eaters, fish and poultry are the best choices.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
So now we know all of this stuff on a high level about fats, carbs and protein. Now what?
I told you I was going to simplify it in the end…and, here’s my advice:
Now that you know all of this – just forget about it!
What? Forget it about? Why? Well, because we eat food, not nutrients.
When I first started working with clients, I sat them down and talked about % of carbs, fat and protein. This was very confusing for people and a very difficult thing to try and manage.
I am not a big fan of complicated rules. So, let’s just forget about all that stuff for now. (Now, I do not really want you to forget about it, just don’t worry about it.)
Let’s step back a minute and look at the big picture and make some more easy to follow, bigger picture concepts we can live with.
Check out this week’s focuses below.
Only need to think about 3 things this week:
Doing all three of the following things will give you huge results. If you would like to take it slower, you can take one at a time and try each of them separately. You should start with #1 as that is the most important. The other two you should mostly be doing already.
[learn_more caption=”1) PROTEIN – Meat and Dairy Free for 1 week (click the arrow for more details)”]
For one week, skip the animal products and see how your feel (this includes all meat, fish, eggs, cheese… any animal product).
Most people go their whole lives eating meat and dairy and have no idea how their body feels without it. Each of us are different and thrive on different types of food. Some people need some meat in their diet to feel good and some people do better without it.
The goal of this exercise it to experiment and see how your body responds. From working with lots of different people, we’ve found most people are consuming more animal products than is ideal for their body.
Make sure you are eating a variety of protein foods and think about your protein packaging and what else you are consuming with your protein and how much your body actually needs.
If you eat more protein than your body needs, it will be stored as fat.
Good choices include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, (and, of course, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables). For meat eaters fish and poultry are the best choices. But mix it up with a variety of sources. Each source has it own set of nutritional values that will help your overall balance of not only protein, but fats as well.
The ultimate goal is to find the right balance of meat in your diet. For some people, once a week is fine. For me, it is about once ever couple of months. Some of my clients eat it once per day. By clearing your system for a week, you should be able to see how your body responds to no meat. If you feel like you have less energy, slowly start adding it back into your diet. until you find the right balance.
IMPORTANT: If your body does like limited meat and you choose to restrict it from your diet, it is a good idea to take B-12 supplement.
A Note on Dairy
Ask anyone what they think the benefit of milk is and they will most likely say calcium or strong bones. That is not surprising based on how much the whole “Got Milk?” campaign has been drilled into our heads.
It is true, milk is a good source of calcium. But is it the best source of calcium for our health? Where did we get our calcium before milk? Elephants have good sized bones. I have never seen an elephant with one of those milk mustaches. Where do they get their calcium?
We are the only species that drinks milk from another species. Cow’s milk is designed to turn a baby calf into a cow. (I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to look like a cow. 🙂 ) My biggest concern today with dairy is the growth hormones and antibiotics in our dairy products, but that is a topic for another day!
It amazes me how little we really know about our foods. For example, did you know a cup skim milk has about 306mg of calcium and a cup of collard greens has 357mg of calcium? Other great non-dairy sources of calcium are broccoli, beans, black-eyed peas, green peas, tofu and almonds.
Here is an interesting article on the whole calcium issue called Calcium and Milk from the Harvard School of Public Health. It is a worthwhile read. Here are some of the highlights:
“….It’s not clear, though, that we need as much calcium as is generally recommended, and it’s also not clear that dairy products are really the best source of calcium for most people.
While calcium and dairy can lower the risk of osteoporosis and colon cancer, high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.
Plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones.”
Oops, so it can actually do the opposite of what we want (to build strong bones) and we still get the added benefit of increasing our risk of prostate and ovarian cancer. That does not sound good.
So what are some other alternatives?
“For individuals who are unable to digest—or who dislike—dairy products and for those who simply prefer not to consume large amounts of such foods, other options are available. Calcium can also be found in dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale and collard greens, as well as in dried beans and legumes.”
So get out of the dairy aisle and explore the leafy greens of the produce isle! Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise and take your newly toned body out in the sun a little.
- Here is what a meat and dairy free week might look like:
- The trick is making sure you get enough food. Enjoy some of the hearty meat free meals.
- This is an experiment to see how you feel so pay attention and make notes. Most people have more energy after they eat this type of food compared to feeling bloated and sluggish when they eat meat with their meal.
[learn_more caption=”2) FAT – Minimize Oils for 1 week (click the arrow for more details)”]
For one week minimize oils (in cooking and pre-made foods)
Become more aware of where your fat is coming from. Is it coming from the healthy or unhealthy fats? Remember, most of us are out of balance, heavy on the omega-6 (found in things like corn oil, canola oil, soy oil, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, margarine, shortening). Watch for these things in your ingredients list, particularly in prepared foods and snacks and avoid trans fats – “partially hydrogenated oils”.
- Select dishes that do not call for olive oil.
- When cooking, try skipping the use of oils when you saute.
- Read your labels and watch out for the added vegetable oils.
- If you eat whole foods, you should be safe from added oils.
[learn_more caption=”3) CARBS – Simple Carb Free for 1 week (click the arrow for more details)”]
Avoid simple processed carbs for one week
Avoid processed carbohydrates whenever possible. The worst carbohydrate is sugar. Pay particular attention to any baked carbohydrates (crackers, muffins, cookies, pastries, cereals, breads). If you are eating these things, it is important that they are made with the whole grain. The more the grain has been processed, the faster it will spike the fat storage hormone insulin. We don’t want any of that going on!
As much as possible try and stick with the whole grains (whole sprouted grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, whole oats, bulgur), whole vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
- If you have bread or tortillas, make sure it is sprouted grain (Ezekiel brand)
- Making your meals from whole foods will reduce your simple carb intake
Uprooting the Leading Cause of Death
This is probably one of the most important lectures to watch. Death in America is largely a foodborne illness. Focusing on studies published over the last year in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals, Michael Greger, M.D., offers practical advice on how best to feed ourselves and our families to prevent, treat, and even reverse many of the top 15 killers in the United States.
The Diet Wars – John McDougall, MD
This lecture by Dr. John McDougall, MD discusses and compares the popular diet plans on the market today and their impact on long-term health.
1) Forks Over Knives – Rent the documentary Forks Over Knives. You can rent it or watch it free on hulu.*
* The only reason this is in the extra credit section is there was too much already assigned. You should really watch the movie!