Nutrition: Protein, Fat, & Carbs

Hello! This blog post is not about trying to convince anyone of anything. This post is instead about some realizations I have had after reading multiple books on nutrition and health, especially related to chronic autoimmune disorders, since that effects me personally. I thought since I have had so many "ah-ha moments" that I would share them via my blog. Some of the those books include: Wheat Belly by Dr. Davis, Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, Food Over Medicine by Pamela Popper, Glen Merzer, & Del Sroufe, Dr. Neil Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes without Drugs by Neil Barnard, and lastly Proteinaholic by Dr Garth Davis. 

Also, being in Weight Watchers and being a leader is another piece of my background that influences this discussion. Some of the things that have made the most sense to me, come from my own education background (Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, & Nutrition) as well as my own personal experience. Here goes!

1. There are 3 macro-nutrients that we get from food: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. Nearly all foods are made up of these 3. Then we have micro-nutrients which is where our vitamins and minerals come from. Plants are the foods that have the most variety of micro-nutrients in it.

2. Hence why plants should be consumed liberally. Multivitamins have these nutrients in them but it is better to eat the plants themselves. Here's why:
          a. Many multivitamins are not regulated. This in and of itself should make one leery of them.
          b. Often the amounts of the vitamins is more than what your body needs. In the words of Sheldon Cooper in Big Bang Theory "That's just expensive urine."
          c. Your body only absorbs what it needs at any given time. The body is VERY efficient so as long as your diet includes plants and is diverse, you do not need supplements.

3. Your muscles are made up of protein. When this was discovered, scientists believed you need to eat protein to build protein. Well what has a lot of protein? Animal muscle. So they thought humans would benefit from eating more animal meat*. But this logically does not make a ton of sense. All of the animals that we eat primarily get either most or 100% of their food from plants. Think of the largest mammals on the planet: elephants, gorillas, cows... all live 100% on plants. So in order to build muscle, you do not need to eat animal meat. 

*I prefer to not associate animal meat as a "protein". Many chefs do it and it is not accurate because animal meat is made up of more than protein. Also, nearly all other foods have protein in it. So animal meat is no synonymous with protein. 

Animal meat is also more difficult for our bodies to digest. Our intestines require fiber to digest food. Fiber does not exist in animal protein. Most Americans eat way less than the recommended amount of 25G of fiber per day. I fell into the trap of then eating Fiber One bars, which is silly. Eat some veggies!

Also, eating a diet of 100% animal meat and dairy will kill you. Our bodies require plants. Remember hearing about scurvy in school? We cannot make vitamin C so we have to consume it. That is where humans are very different from the feline animal group. Cats (big and small) are obligate carnivores, meaning they have to eat meat in order to survive. Humans are not. We are omnivores but can survive (and thrive) as herbivores too. We will, however, die as carnivores. 

4. Fat. Nearly all foods have fat it in. Most natural foods do not have a significant amount of fat in it. The foods that do, like nuts for example, in nature are difficult to eat a lot of (because they have a shell that requires breaking open). You cannot find nut butter in nature. Our bodies are super great at holding on to fat. It is designed to do so to protect itself from times of famine. In the US, the majority of the population does not live in famine. Therefore, fat is not a macro-nutrient we need a lot of. 

Also there have been research studies that show how addictive foods high in fat are. Because high fat foods have higher calories and stay with us awhile, our bodies are designed to LOVE those foods. It makes sense that people like dessert. However, due to the fact that we have high fat foods readily available to us, we do have to be cognizant of how much we partake. It's okay to indulge but for me, it helps me to recognize it and make sure it's for a special occasion. And this is where portion control is huge.

Also the higher the fat content in your diet (FYI animal meat and dairy are high in fat) the higher likelihood of diabetes. Presently the message is to decrease your carbohydrate intake to stave off diabetes. So if that is the message, why are more Americans being diagnosed with diabetes every day when many of us are "avoiding carbs"?

5. Carbs. This is where I think there is a lot of confusion. So here are some facts about carbs and the body:
        a. In digestion, carbs, specifically simple sugars, when eaten, begin to be immediately broken down via the enzymes in our saliva. This then allows the sugar to be introduced into our bloodstream rather quickly. This is super beneficial and I think you will understand why shortly.
        b. Our brains only functions on carbs. In order for this organ to fully function, it needs carbohydrates. 
        c.  When someone is hypoglycemic it is generally advised to get them something with simple sugars in it, orange juice is usually a great option. 
        d. Throughout history, humans have lived well on diets high in carbohydrates. Many Asian countries have thrived with rice being their main staple, the Western Hemisphere has survived well on corn, Europe thrived on potatoes. For example, Asia has traditionally had the healthiest populations on the planet with people living long lives free of disease. They recently have had a large surge in diabetes and heart disease as there are more Western restaurants being opened and people are changing their eating habits. Historically meat was hard to find and was typically savored for that reason. Meat was an accent in meals because of the scarcity. People with money had regular consumption of meat. Eating meat regularly then became a status symbol (just as feeding formula to babies was in the 50s and 60s even though breast milk is healthier in most cases and is FREE). 
        e. Carbs are present in fruits, vegetables, as well as grains. 
        f. Grains: As long as you do not have celiac or other autoimmune disorders, whole intact grains are a great addition to your diet. I do not eat items with gluten in it but I love oats and brown rice and eat them regularly. 

All in all I think the age-old message, that everyone knows, which is not sexy by any means, is to eat more plants. Fruits and vegetables, which contain both macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients, are the healthiest foods on the planet. Just focus on eating more of those rather than on avoiding certain foods. If you fill yourself up with the good stuff then you won't have as much room for the other stuff. 

I don't want this post to be too lengthy so I am going to end here. I learned a lot of really great things in my research and plan to continue to explore as I find it all fascinating! Hopefully you either learned something or found yourself spending some time pondering :) 

If I peaked your interest, here is another fantastic article!


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