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NUTRIENTS

Updated: Dec 21, 2022



Macro Nutrients For the sake of simplicity, the best way to understand nutrients is by breaking them down into the three basic Macro nutrients. Proteins, Carbohydrates and fats. For those who have grown up looking at food pyramid charts, please erase this antiquated picture from your minds since it has led to the most obese and out shape society in the history of human evolution. What the food pyramid does not take into account is the fact that people actually differ in body types, they differ in their ability to digest certain foods. People differ in their levels of activity, their lifestyles and goals (gain muscle, gain endurance, loose fat, health a disease,…). The pyramid also does not take into account that as we age, our nutritional needs vary. The objective was to have a cookie cutter approach that would at the same time promote certain industries and we have all seen what this has led to. That’s on top of having a questionable order or priorities and categories which should not merit their own place, unless industry lobbyists get involved…

The best way to understand any diet is by properly understanding the roles of that the various macro nutrient , how they interact with each other and their effects on physiology. Only by properly understanding this can you make educated decisions about what, when and how much to eat. A basic understanding of how our hormonal system affects these nutrients is also essential and I will do my absolute best to simplify it so that the information can be retained by all.

Last but not least, these foods do not just offer Macro nutrients; they offer Minerals and vitamins that are the building blocks for proper bodily functions. I will not go into great details as this is dedicated to Macro nutrients but do keep in mind that variety is important when selecting our food.


Protein

Here are some additional functions below:

1-Vital Chemical reactions through the formation of enzymes (a protein) Enzymes allow for thousands for biological reactions that are essential to life. They are able to initiate vital reactions with the cells by interacting with molecules within the cell called substrates. They can also act outside of our cells such as we can see with digestive enzymes that aid initiate digestions.

2-Hormones Some proteins are also hormones that act as chemical messengers. Our endocrine system secretes these hormones which then bind to protein receptors on certain cells to provide a signal for action. When we talk about peptide hormones or amines, these are protein based hormones which are formed through the combination of different amino acids. When we talk about HGH (human growth hormones), Insulin , Glucagon, ADH (Anti diuretic hormone), ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), to name a few, these are made from protein. As a side note, some of the most popular steroid hormones such testosterone and estrogen are primarily made from cholesterol.

3-Structure for our cells Some proteins are fibrous and also supply cells with rigidity and strength. These proteins consist of keratin, collagen as well as elastin, which form the connective frameworks of our bodies. Some proteins such as Keratin will primarily be involved in your skin, hair and nails while others such as collagen will play a larger role for our tendons, ligaments , tendons and skin. Elastin, is another abundant protein that is several hundred times more flexible than collagen. It enables our tissue to go back to their initial form after extending or contracting. Examples would be our lungs and arteries

4-pH Regulation We have specific proteins, including hemoglobin that allow us to maintain a proper pH level. As you may know, maintaining a proper pH is vital to our health and body is in a constant battle to always maintain the appropriate levels.

5-Fluid balancing Proteins such as Albumin and globulin act by attracting and retain water to maintain appropriate fluid levels. Any deficiency in protein will impact this functioning by down regulating these proteins. This can lead to fluid buildup between cells and cause swelling, primarily in the stomach region. If you have ever seen pictures of children suffering from malnutrition but with enlarged bellies, this is often one of the causes.

6-Immune health Our bodies are armed with cells that detect against ‘’invaders’’. The protein cells called antibodies tag the harmful substances in our bodies and mark them so that other immune cells can see them and take appropriate actions. Viruses and bacteria would simply take over our bodies and quickly kill us if it wasn’t for our antibodies.

7-Transportation and storage Vitamins, minerals, oxygen, blood sugar, to name a few could not be utilized it it was not for proteins that transport them. Lipoproteins will carry cholesterol and other fats, Hemoglobin will carry oxygen and glucose transporters will transport glucose to your cells. Our bodies also utilize proteins such as ferratin to store iron

8-Energy At 4 calories per gram, needless to say that protein supplies the body with energy as well. However, since it is harder to digest proteins than carbs and fats, it is not the preferred source for quick energy. That being said, for those interested in weight loss and maintaining muscles, protein plays a vital role. We should also be aware that protein is not only found in meat, there is protein in some vegetables, legumes, grains, even fruits. The highest food in terms of protein % is a microalgae (spirulina) and not steak so we need to stop thinking of foods as entirely carbohydrate, protein, fat or even worse, area on a horrible pyramid pointing to diabetes and obesity. Since our muscles, skin, organs, hair, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, DNA are all partially composed of protein, it is critical that we replenish our bodies with this valuable macro nutrient.


Fats Often referred to as fatty acid or lipids, fats are formed by three glycerol molecules joined together to form a triglyceride. We have the fats that our bodies can produce and we also have the fats which we refer to as essential fatty acids, which we need to get from our diets (Omega3-6)

Although fats are not the villain we once thought, we should be careful to consume healthy fats and stay away from the highly process transfats on vegetable oils such as canola oils which are often used in our foods.

The best sources of healthy fats in my opinion are

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids

  2. Extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil (non heated)

  3. Organic coconut oil

  4. Organic flax seed oil

  5. Avocado oil

  6. Organic free range, grass fed butter

You will notice that I will not make any reference to cholesterol in this section. Not because there is no relationship between fats and cholesterol but because if we look at studies looking at the relationship between cholesterol and risk of heart disease, the results are simply not consistent. The scientific community is no longer convinced with the relationship since there is mounting data pointing in the opposite direction. What is consistent in studies is that we are quick to establish correlations until it is evident that there are other factors that should have been considered. Science does not always get it right so when the scientific community are completely opposed to a theory and both have data to support it, it is best to be prudent before drawing a conclusion.

In my opinion there are many factors that can lead to cardiovascular mortality; Genes, lifestyles, entire diet, environment, ability to handle stress, etc.. To say that cholesterol is ‘’the’’ factor that determines this would be unwise.

Types of fats

Unsaturated fats

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated: These fats are the typically found in foods, avocadoes, nuts, olive oil, peanut butter, sesame seeds. They are liquid at room temperature and only start to solidify when chilled. They difference between the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated forms is simply that polyunsaturated fats have an extra double bound molecule.

Essential fatty acids The fats your body gets from your food give your body essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acid. They are called “essential” because your body cannot make them itself, or work without them. Your body needs them for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting. Omega 3-6 are the only EFA know to be truly essential for our health. Omega 3’s have numerous beneficial functions for our health and can play a positive roles is almost all areas. They are composed of

  • ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid)

  • DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

ALA, although essential, can be consumed in our diets. And although our bodies can transform ALA into DHA and EPA, the process is not efficient at all and it is important that we add foods that are high in EPA and DHA for optimal health.. Foods that are high in EPA and DHA include: Salmon Anchovies Caviar Clams Fatty fish such as sardines and Mackerel

Saturated fats Before we start on saturated fats, please note that it is again not the villain everyone has made it out to be. Saturated fats play a vital role in our health and have been part of our diets for thousands of years. What one must consider is that fat is often a deposit for hormones, anti-biotics, toxins and that in today’s agricultures, the fat we are eating from animals is not as healthy as the fat from 10 000 years ago. So is it fair to say that saturated fat is unhealthy or that fat consumed from an animal that has been fed an unnatural diet of grains, kept in confinement, given hormones and antibiotics might not be the best for us? Saturated fats play a critical role in our diets but one must also consider that certain diets might lead to excess consumption. Too much of a good thing can often be bad and if we mix saturated fats from an unhealthy animal with a diet that will spike insulin, is pro-inflammatory and in excess of what our body requires, one can’t be surprised that bad things can happen.

Why are people saying it is bad?? Several decades ago, hearth disease rose to the top of the charts for the #1 cause of death in the USA. Around the same time, researchers discovered a relation between diets high in saturated fats and elevated levels of cholesterol. There was also some data pointing a relationship between heart disease and cholesterol. The assumption was made that fat leads to increase in cholesterol and that cholesterol leads to heart failure. The hypothesis was referred to the ‘’diet-heart hypothesis) and was not even tested on humans before it became accepted as the truth and even part of National policy.

Several book and articles have been written on the subject so I will refrain from expanding more. Just note that saturated fat in moderate quantities from a healthy animal is in the opinion of most nutritional experts healthy. I have yet to find the scientific study that links saturated fats to an increased risk of heart disease. And that, despite Billions of dollars spent trying to prove it.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Extra virgin, first cold pressed olive oil (non heated)

  • Organic coconut oil

  • Organic flax seed oil

  • Avocado oil

  • Organic butter


Carbohydrates Because you can almost eliminate your carbs and still have enough energy to train for an ironman, carbs if often referred to as the luxury macronutrient. If our carbs consumption is really low and our insulin kept low through limited protein, the body will produce Ketones, which supply you with energy.

With that said, again, there is a difference between surviving and thriving and carbs definitely have their place in a healthy balanced diet. Can someone go near zero carb without impacting their energy levels? Short term, yes! Ketones are great. Can someone go zero carbs for a long times without impacting their health? In my opinion, NO. I also can’t picture a diet that excludes mangos, dark berries and all the wonderful food that has been placed as our disposal.

Our creator would be insulted if we didn’t consume all the wonderful fruits placed on this earth. I simply can’t imagine achieving optimal health without all the wonderful vegetables filled with the micronutrients our bodies thrive on. So do I ever advocate a carb free diet? No. A low carb diet? Depends on the person, their goals and how smart they are about their carb selection. Sorry, no cookie cutter answers on that question. But for those who want a hint, if you are obese, start with lowering your carbs, especially sugar/fructose. Anything that spikes your insulin is your enemy if you are trying to lose weight. So what is a carbohydrate? Carbohydrates refer to the starches, sugars and fibres found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts and grains. Again, it is important to understand that carbohydrate % varies a lot depending on the food. Pretzels, cereals, sugar and fruits will BY FAR have more carbs in % than nuts, seeds and green veggies. But for the sake of understanding what carbohydrates are, it is important to know that these foods still do contain carbs.

Simple carbs (Monosaccharides): These are the fast acting carbs that make you wonder what your child just ate to be jumping off the wall. Simple sugars can be naturally occurring and they can also be added. Since sugar is more addictive than cocaine, adding sugar to foods has been an amazing business decision by our food manufacturers. Something that is guaranteed to have us come back for more for that dopamine rush. In the family of simple sugars, you will see names such as table sugar, brown sugar molasses, Honey, cane sugar, powdered, raw, turbine, high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup and more. You may also see other terms being used to describe simple carbs such as lactose (milk sugar) Fructose (fruit sugar), dextrose, glucose.

Glucose: The preferred monosaccharide by our or body is glucose which is why we also refer to it as blood sugar. Most of the carbs that we eat are converted to glucose which can then be used for immediate energy or to replenish glycogen storage in our liver and muscles. When glucose levels are high, our bodies secret Insulin which shuttles glucose into our cells. One must note that when our muscles and livers are already full of glycogen it becomes increasingly easy for excess carbohydrates to be stored as fat.

Fructose: We can predominantly find sources of fructose in fruits, nectars (honey) but some vegetables also have small amounts. Unlike glucose, fructose does not elicit a significant insulin response and is metabolised quite differently. Since fructose is not the preferred source of energy for our muscles and brains, the liver processes most of it with the help of fructokinase (enzyme) to initiate its metabolism. Because there is limited storage in our liver and that our muscles prefer glucose, fructose is more lipogenic than glucose . Meaning that it is more prone to causing the excess accumulation of body fat. On top of not being the preferred sugar, not having as many storage options, fructose also does not elicit an insulin response which in turn does not trigger an increase in Leptin., the hormone that tells your body that it can stop eating. So not only does fructose hae a clearer path towards fat storage, your body will not even know when to stop eating which will make use prone to over consumption. And now the bad part: Food manufacturers are well aware that fructose leads to overceating and extra $profits. So what substance do you think they would add to so many products? High fructose corn syrup!! Also referred to as HFCS, this horrible substance can be found in Breakfast cereals, softdrinks, breads, candy bars, condiments (ketchup/miracle whipp), cookies, cakes, ice cream, pastries, salad dressings, sauces, even canned soups, canned fruits. Basically any processed food/snack is prone to having HFCS so always read the label. And since people are starting to understand the risk, the manufacturers are trying to disguise the names so look for substitutes such as Maize syrup, glucose syrup, Tapioca syrup, dahlia syrup or isoglucose. Rule of thumbs, if it comes in a shiny box, bottle or wrapper and it is sweet,… probably HFCS, don’t buy it if you care about your health, or the health of those you feed.

Galactose: A simple sugar similar to glucose but has a lower impact on insulin levels. The main dietary source is dairy products.

Simple carbs (Disaccharides) Disaccharides consist of 2 sugar molecules

Sucrose When you hear the term table sugar, it is usually sucrose they are referring to. Sucrose is primarily extracted from cane and beets and is made up of glucose and fructose in equal parts, Sucrose does not taste as sweet as fructose but a bit sweeter than glucose.

Lactose A simple sugar found in milk and milk by-products. We need a special enzyme to digest it (lactase) and when we are lacking this enzyme, these food can lead to bloating, cramping and even diarrhea (lactose intolerance) This large sugar molecule is made up of glucose and galactose and must be split in order to be properly digested. The glucose and galactose are then digested in our small intestine

Maltose A sugar molecule composed of 2 glucose molecules bound together. Although it is not as sweet as fructose or sucrose, it is often added to processed foods due to its ability to withstand temperature spikes. We may see a slight switch toward the use of maltose vs fructose in processed foods as the public becomes more aware of the impact of high fructose consumption.

Complex carbs (polysaccharides) Complex carbs are starches formed by longer chains of saccharides and take longer to digest. Typically, when you hear the term complex carb, dieticians are referring to foods such as whole grain and starchy fibrous vegetables. Complex carbohydrates can and will still raise blood sugar levels but because they take longer to digest, you will not have the rapid spike as you would with simple carbs. Complex carbs will also be more nutrient dense, meaning they will have mineral and vitamin content essential for optimal health. They will also contain indigestible fibre which play a vital role in gut health.

Example of complex carbs would be : Rice, quinoa, lentils, vegetables, barley, oats, spelt, sweet potato, wheat, split peas, rye, potato, Kamut, beans, bulgar, squash.

Carbohydrates are the luxury macronutrient in my opinion because it possible for us to stay alive without carbs. Notice that I say stay alive VS thrive…We cannot deny the fact that for most of us, we feel better with carbs in our diets. Not only do they provide a quick source of energy but for those with healthy diets, eating cabs means that they are heating vegies and fruits which provide crucial vitamins and minerals to our bodies. No longer eating carbs would mean that you are depriving yourself from some of the most nutritious foods out there.

Unfortunately, healthy carbs and not often to go to choice for most people where they will consume large amounts of processed sugar and fructose. Or bodies simply have not evolved in a way where we can handle the amount of fructose that we consume and consequently, our insulin levels stay elevated way too long contributing to the diabetes epidemic that we see today. People do not get diabetes from eating to many broccoli carbs… Drink 2 litre of soft drink a day for ten years though and see what happens.

Rule of thumb if you are wondering if your source of carbs is good as yourself this very simple question:

Would this food look the same in nature? If the answer is no, put it back on the shelf. If it comes in a can or a box, put it back on the shelf unless there is no access to fresh produce in your area or unless you simply cannot afford it. Al foods that are processed (middle isle of your grocery store) will typically contain added sugar, fructose and or artificial sweeteners that are detrimental to your health. And when they don’t, ask yourself why so many of them contain corn and soy that are typically genetically modified. Make your decision easy, purchase your vegies and fruits in the manner in which you would find them in nature and you will typically have the healthiest forms of carbs along with the fiber to slow down the rise in sugar.

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