There is a lot we can tell about the foods, which nourish us by combining knowledge about macronutrients with your own life experiences with food.
When it comes to our own health, fitness and body shape, nothing beats objective research to find answers. Sadly, we all have a jungle of misinformation, conflicts of interests and hidden biases to wade through. Following that, there are official guidance, social stimuli and endless snippets of advice, which originate from a narrow perspective.
With more facts and data, we can find our own answers and make informed choices about food, health and fitness, which can give us confidence to stay ontrack and filter out unhelpful societal, media, government or peer narratives or directives.
Articles are beginning to emerge about using our genes to determine which types of dietary fat, protein and carbohydrates work best for us. However, many of these guides are simplistic, superficial and require spinning many different plates at once to mine for any answers.
To increase the value of genetic tests and the results they may provide – or for more context – here is information about macronutrients, including detail I have gathered from various sources but not found in one place to provide a fuller picture. This is information, not advice, along with views I have formed from my own analyses, observation, searching and experiences.
Mono-unsaturated Fats – Olives, Avocados, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds.
Poly-unsaturated Fats – Fish, Shellfish, Coconut, Nuts, Beans, Pulses, Legumes, Grains
Saturated Fats – Meat, Eggs, Dairy
Trans Fats – Grass fed lamb, cow, goat or other ruminants contain a small percentage.
As you can see, there is some kind of dietary fat in many healthy foods, which also contain protein and some carbohydrate. Processed foods containing both fat (vegetable oil, spreads, dairy, nuts, seeds etc) and carbohydrate (sugar or starch) are ones to avoid as the combination of fat and sugar is highly addictive and causes many metabolic conditions such as insulin resistance and other food sensitivies and intolerances.
For those of us living in colder, less sunny countries, in order to absorb fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K – particularly between October and April, we need to have some fat with each meal, but there are many choices how to do this for your genetic type. For example, those with Northern Europe ancestry need to store vitamin D as we do not get enough sunlight everyday all year round to make it. That means those with genes created in hot, sunny countries may not need to store vitamin D and could be intolerant, sensitive or even allergic to one or more dietary fats. Allergies and other responses to foods can lead us to answers if we have the fact laid out in front of us. Nut and fish allergy? Poly-unsaturated fats may be the macro to filter out. This information may explain why the Full English breakfast and fish and chips are popular in the UK.
The amount of misinformation out there is staggering. Mainly, it is the lack of detail, which makes for confusing reading, with mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated muddled in together, which isn’t much help.
We have complete protein and part protein. Not every complete protein comes from animals though. In 2008, I had a vegan flatmate, who ate a healthy diet involving quinoa and buckwheat, which he said were protein. What I didn’t know was that quinoa and buckwheat are complete proteins as they contain all 9 amino acids as do soy products (Tofu, Tempeh, Edemame, Natto, Miso, Soy Beans).
Like various foods, I’m discovering, soy is an anti-nutrient (a plant’s way of defending itself from being eaten by insects) and needs the right preparation to stop it absorbing nutrients from our bodies. Soy has found its way into bread, chocolate and other foods where it is not needed or expected and is one of the 4 drivers of deforestation, whereas 60 years ago it was used for wallpaper paste. Personally, I avoid soy.
Therefore, complete proteins include:
Meat, game, poultry, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, kefir, quinoa, buckwheat, soy, eggs, amaranth, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds.
It is no surprise, then, that various traditional dishes are combinations of partial protein to provide 9 amino acids. These include hummus and pitta, kidney beans and rice or baked beans and potato. In other words, combinations of part-proteins can provide all 9 amino acids, for example, assortments of:
*Potato *Wholewheat Bread *Hummus *Rice *Kidney Beans *Nuts *Seeds *Legumes *Whole grains, *Coucous, *Lentils, *Pulses, *Beanshoots, *Kale, *Chard, *Brocoli, *Spinach, *Asparagus, *Artichokes, *Olives, *Avocados *Blackberries *Oranges *Guava *Avocado *Banana *Coconut *Watercress *Bok Choy *Cauliflower *Spring or Summer Greens *Cabbage *Brussel Sprouts
Some of these are anti-nutrients, which means it is a goood idea to find out how to prepare them so they don’t absorb all the nutrients from your system, such as brussel sprouts, cabbage, spinach and brocoli. This was new to me, as I only discovered last year that hypothyroidism and hearing loss came from an iodine deficiency in the womb and that these vegetables could block iodine.
Glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)—can prevent the absorption of iodine, which may then interfere with thyroid function and cause goiter. Those already with an iodine deficiency or a condition called hypothyroidism are most susceptible.“Are Anti-nutrients Harmful” Harvard Education
Here are the 9 esssential amino acids we need from our nutrition and what roles they play.
For those recovering from viruses, injuries, operations, medication or illnesses, our bodies use protein for repair and maintenance, which means that eating foods containing protein can help the healing process and the immune system. To fight off infection, the blood will move protein round the body to rebuild damage, which means that protein taken from muscles will cause fatigue.
Resting when recuperating helps too. Getting all the fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, macrominerals and trace elements, taking from all 3 macronutrients would provide your system with maximum equipment to restore your health.
Let’s have a quick look at symptoms, as they deliver both good and bad news. In my view, there are recovery symptoms, which indicate an immune system at work, and disease symptoms, which are caused by the infection. Unfortunately, some lethal non-communicable diseases onset without symptoms and therefore give us no warning. This is another reason to aim for optimal health from activity, conversation, rest, honest self-awareness, creativity and good nutrition.
Again, there is a sea of value, glossed-over or inaccurate information about the 3rd and last macronutrient. Subsequently, I’ve only just found out the details. We may know them in a the more familiar form of: Starch, Sugar and Fibre but carbohydrates are essentially, simple, combined or complex. The more saccharides in a carbohydrate, the more instant energy it provides. If too much energy, or glucose, is consumed, the remainder is stored as fat. This provides more depth to various vague and lazy pieces of advice bandied around. These are interpreted in an earlier blog.
Monosaccharides – Fructose (fruit or honey) – simple sugars from natural foods
Dissaccharides – Maltose (foods with yeast, starch and gluten), Lactose (milk) and Sucrose (sugar).
Polysaccharides – Most essential are Glycogen (saccharine) and Cellulose (starch) stored in the muscle of the liver.
The way I understand carbohydrates is: Sugar, Starch or Fibre. However, the three types shown above provide more information about the type of sugar found in real fruit (not juices or syrups) and why it provides instant energy. Various writers including Allen Carr and Harvey and Marilyn Diamond recommended fruit in the morning to start the day, to replicate the indigenous human lifestyle. In order to live in different parts of the world, people adapted to the food available and subsequently, here are the fruits, which also contain proteins.
These tropical fruits would evidently be nutritious to people with genes evolved to get enough sunlight all year round to make vitamin D, while getting fats and proteins from tropical fruits as well as energy from the carbohydrates. Many of these fruits provide complete protein, such as avocados, which are also mono-unsaturated fats and carbohydrate. That doesn’t mean everyone benefits in the same way from eating these tropical fruits as we cannot and do not all use the amount of sugar they provide.
Personally, I seem to absorb sugar from many foods and feel an overload of energy if I have too many carbohydrate in my diet. Subsequently, genetic testing has recommended that I have only 8% of carbohydrate. I do this by sticking to green, above ground and leafy carbohydrates, which also provide fibre. However, brown rice is highly nutritious and I have only just discovered that soaking it for 8 hours stops it soaking up all the nutrients in my system. To minimise the glucose in my blood stream, I prefer low GI carbs, which take longer to digest and don’t cause insulin spikes. In fact, too much sugar is the only thing that will give me a headache. Therefore:
Sugar – fruit, milk, sugar, honey, beans, peas, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, tomato, peppers, dried fruit, syrup, squashes
Starch – wheat, root vegetables, potatoes, rice, pasta, malt, barley, rye, grains, cereal
Fibre – the above plus green vegetables.
As a general rule, cultivated crops, which we have had to cook to be able to digest such as wheat, potato and rice, rather than those we have found by foraging including fruit, garlic, onions, vegetables and berries, which can be eaten raw or cooked would suit those with genes, which evolved in warmer central parts of Europe and the Mediterranean.
Hopefully, this has provided an insight into why certain macronutrients suit some people better than others. This can accompany us on our own food journeys so we can take back control of our health, bodies, nutrition, minds and fitness. It can also prompt ways to recognise messages from our bodies and minds in terms of feelings or sensations, which may include symptoms as we fight an infection or a warning to avoid a certain food or drink.