The modern world is looking for a magic pill, magic food or magic self care technique to help them with their issues. Have you found it? It doesn’t exist. An overall diet and lifestyle built to decrease stress and inflammation is the key, in my opinion.
No one food (eaten or eliminated from your diet) can be the cure all, but I have come to the realization that even if you are eating the right foods and making good choices throughout the day, you may not truly be nourished and fulfilled.
I personally was often unsatisfied and hungry every couple of hours, after eating what I considered to be healthy food. After much trial and error, it’s back to the basics.
The basis of a complete nourishing filling meal contains a few different components, known as macronutrients.
New information? Probably not. Let’s quickly review these macronutrients and then get to some actionable tips to help you.
A component of food made up of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of our cells and tissues and crucial for vital functions, regulation and maintenance of our bodies. They are used to build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, nails, hair, hormones, enzymes, etc. A complete protein is used to describe sources of protein that contain sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids necessary for your dietary needs.
Seen as a primary source of energy, however choosing the right unprocessed unrefined foods plays a role in this. If you are filling your body with the right carbohydrates you are filling your body with fiber, nutrients and supplying energy to your body. According to the book Nourishing Traditions, “When sugars and starches are eaten in their natural, unrefined form, as part of a meal containing nourishing fats and protein, they are digested slowly and enter the bloodstream at a moderate rate over a period of several hours. If the body goes for a long time without food, this mechanism will call upon reserves stored in the liver. When properly working, this marvelous blood sugar regulation process provides our cells with a steady, even supply of glucose.”
When you choose refined carbohydrates you are getting nutrient depleted foods, leaving your body unfulfilled.
There are many types of fats, including saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Fat provides a concentrated source of energy, provides building blocks for cell membranes and variety of hormones. Fat slows down the emptying time of the stomach and therefore digestion so we can go longer without feeling hungry. Fat also slows down the release of blood sugar so you aren’t getting a spike in blood sugar after eating and then a subsequent crash. It also helps you absorb nutrients and antioxidants and acts as a carrier for fat soluble vitamins. The quality of fat matters.
Quick summary of the types of fats:
- Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and don’t go rancid with heat.
- Monounsatured are liquid at room temperature and are relatively stable.
- Polyunsaturated oils go rancid easily and shouldn’t be heated. Omegas are a type of polyunsaturated fats. The two main types of omegas are omega 6 and omega 3. Omega 6s comes from processed foods and vegetable oils, where omega 3s are found in fish, nuts and seeds. Most people get an imbalanced ratio of omegas, thanks to the industrial revolution and introduction of vegetable oils and grains being fed to animals. The typical ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should be 2:1 but for most it is much higher, some even say as high as 20:1. When the ratio is higher in omega 6, enzymes involved in inflammation are activated and our body is prone to all the issues that come from increased inflammation.
According to Weston A. Price, “all fats and oils, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are some combination of saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated linoleic acid and linolenic acid.”
Examples of good fat include:
Saturated: animal products (butter, ghee, tallow, lard), coconut, palm oil, full fat animal dairy, eggs
Monounsaturated: olive oil, avocado oil and nut oils (or whole versions: avocado, nuts, olives)
Polyunsaturated: salmon, flax and flax oil, walnuts and walnut oil
Oils to avoid include: canola, corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, sunflower, peanut, grape-seed, vegetable oils, margarine or other processed butter like products. While you may personally choose to not cook with these oils, keep in mind most processed store bought products are made with these oils and these are often the oils used in restaurants.
So now that we have talked about the differences in these macronutrients, let’s talk about how to consume these foods to best maximize your health.
I think the two biggest mistakes people make when building a meal include:
- Not including fat sources in every meal
- Choosing the wrong carbohydrates
Don’t be afraid of fat.
Many years ago society got hit with ‘Fat Is Bad’ headlines after Ancel Keys published an article in the 1950s linking saturated fat and cholesterol with heart disease. Since then he released comments stating his beliefs had changed, but this has been a hard fast theory to die. And still to date, every year studies are released in the media bringing hype and attention to this very topic.
I won’t get into the politics of if saturated fat is good for you or not but will say many who disagree with those original theories feel that the types of studies that are released are not adequate. And keep in mind many scientific studies are often funded by industry leaders that want to influence the end result (i.e. Sugar Association, United Soybean Board, US Canola Association, companies like Nestle and Coca-Cola, etc.).
What I will say is when fat was originally touted as evil, everyone went low fat and low cholesterol, which meant more processed foods and often more sugar. No one ever got full and people kept buying and people kept eating. Sounds like a win for the food industry if you ask me.
Regardless of your thoughts on saturated fat, try to get fat in with every meal. You can still opt for other healthy fat options such as olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, salmon, nuts, seeds, etc.
Pick the right carbs.
Carbohydrates in a nourishing diet should come from fruits, vegetables and whole grains with the focus being on vegetables – starchy (sweet potatoes, squash, beets) and non starchy.
How do I actually do this?
This doesn’t have to be hard. Meal prepping will help save you and I shared two tips I do to get you some protein and veggies prepped that is super simple! Check that out here.
I also have created a concept I wanted to share that I coined Kitchen Sink Belly Bowls. It is really a step by step guideline to help you build easy meals with things you have around your house, often using any combination of leftovers you have.
If you want to learn more about my Kitchen Sink Belly Bowls and get a template for creating your own, check out my free eBook!
Don’t forget about snacks. While it may not be realistic to get fat, protein and carbs (fiber) in your snack, opt for 2 out of 3.
Few last things to point out with these meals.
- We don’t consider fruit as part of the meal. My boys eat fruit with most every meal, but it is usually after the meal, as a dessert bonus. My husband and I eat fruit as well, but just not with as consistent regularity as our kids.
- Included in these bowls are fermented foods. If you missed my article on fermented foods last month, check that out here.
- Consider this a guideline. There is no one size fits all diet for all people. Protein may come from meat for some and non animal products for others. Some may need more carbohydrates than others. Play around with quantities and listen to your body. With the exception of lots of veggies (up to half your plate), all other quantities will be flexible based on YOU and YOUR NEEDS.
- I often mix everything up in the bowl to meld the flavors.
- Finally, if breakfast is holding you up trying to figure out how to incorporate all of these components, you can still do a Kitchen Sink Belly Bowl with breakfast foods. One of my favorites is hard boiled egg, sauerkraut, sweet potato, brussel sprouts and avocado. Don’t be afraid of veggies at breakfast! In that free eBook I mentioned you also get access to how to build a nourishing smoothie using all those key components – fat, carbs, protein.
Let me know if you notice a change after really focusing on getting all these items in every meal.
Weston A. Price
Institute of Integrative Nutrition