Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Confessions of a Food Geek or Nutrition 101

Little things make me giddy. Things like cooking a good meal; developing an exercise that focuses on a killer muscle group; watching springtime appear in the snow; reading books on nutrition. Yeah, reading books on nutrition.  Cracking open that fresh spine, smelling the brand new pages, learning the digestion processes afresh, and of course weeding out the good information from the postulates and opinions of the author, modifying my opinion based on new facts and information.

I will fully admit that my diet/lifestyle isn't ideal for most people.  Full disclosure, I don't eat sugar, most grains, legumes or dairy... But I am not offended if you do.  They don't work for me, but if they work in your body, HOORAY!!!  Rock it!  Can we all eat a better diet?  Can we all eat more nutritiously? ABSOLUTELY!

So to the confession.... I teach the cooking merit badge for my local BSA troop.  And every time I teach it, I cringe when I am supposed to teach the FDA's food pyramid or MyPlate.  Food groups are good, but there is more to the story than food groups... besides these guidelines are influenced by consumer groups, lobbyists, and dietitians.  Each with their own agenda.  MyPlate is a conglomeration of competing priorities and misses the big picture, in my not really humble opinion.

So how do I get around that?  I tell them what MyPlate says, then I give my own opinion.  I know; you are dying to know what MY opinion is.  BALANCE with a dash of common sense.  Yup that is it.  Balance your nutrients... use some common sense and you will be good. So here is your nutrition 101 according to Erica:

Your body needs certain compounds in vast quantities. Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates.  Every food is made up of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, or a combination of all of them.  Realistically, well to me at least, some fats, carbs and proteins are better than others.  If one carbohydrate is loaded with phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and another is just plain sugar, can we agree the carbohydrate with the bonus nutrients is a better choice?  More bang for your caloric buck.  Right.  A little common sense would tell you to not just eat fats, proteins and carbohydrates, but eat the good for you ones more often than the less good for you ones.

Now balancing your nutrients can be a bit hard, especially if you eat American style food.  We are used to the food pyramid that says we need, grains, diary, fruit, veggies, protein and a little bit of fat.  Yes all of those are good, but where do each of these foods fall in the macro-nutrient continuum?  Fruit, veggies, dairy (milk), grains all fall into carbohydrates.  Meats are your proteins... Dairy (cheese) and other fats are your fats.  Now we have the arguments... Yes grains do provide some protein.  Yes legumes and milk can also provide some protein too.  Yes you can can get all the protein your body requires from legumes, dairy and grains, but you will contribute lots to your carbohydrate load as you accumulate these needed proteins.

Different diets propose different macro ratios as optimal for weight loss, muscle acquisition, or overall health.  Ketogenic platforms recommend a high fat, low protein and low carbohydrate ratio (60% fat, 20% carbs, 20% protein).  Bodybuilding buffs will tell you that your natural body shape (slight frame versus large frame) will dictate your carbohydrate tolerance and thus your ideal macro ratio.

So how much of what do you eat?  I have no idea.  Listen to your body and your body will tell you what is best for you.  You may do better with carbs and not very well with protein..  Great.  Go for it, just make sure you are meeting all your needs.

I also push for "as close to nature as possible."  The more something is changed, modified, diluted, altered, or just sits on the food shelf, the more of the best nutrients can be lost. So I teach that whole wheat, freshly ground and made into bread is a better choice than whole wheat, germ removed, cooked and mixed with additives to prolong shelf life, then mixed with 45 other ingredients to make those yummy twinkies that can survive a 40 year radio-active fall out.  Common sense.  Fresh will usually be better and processed.

So use judgement.  Weigh your options and choose what is good for your body, then what is better.  You know your body.  You know how your digestion works.  Pay attention to what is going on inside.  Then use some common sense.

Because you want to know... what do I eat.  Lots of veggies-- 2 cups per meal is my goal.  Fruits as dessert.  Proteins- and my favorite fats... avocados, coconut oil, milk, cream, and nut butters-- fats from nature as much as possible.

Happy eating my friends.