DISCLAIMER: THIS ADVICE IN NOT FORMULATED BY DOCTORS AND ASSUMES THAT ANY TEST RESULTS FOR SERIOUS ILLNESS WERE NEGATIVE. THIS ADVICE IS ALSO NOT APPLICABLE FOR ANY PERSON WHO IS SERIOUSLY OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE.
Understanding the basic principles of healthy nutrition is a key component to getting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here we offer a quick overview of the three nutritional elements in food: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.
Sufficient protein should be the staple of any diet although the amount needed depends on your body composition, energy expenditure, and health goals. The general consensus among dietitians is that our bodies need at least 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight and up to 2-3g per kg for athletes. The more active you are and the heavier you train your body, the more protein it will require. The source of that protein can be animal or plant-based. There is little evidence as to which type of these proteins is better, therefore, it comes down to a choice of humane and food quality arguments. If you choose to eat animal based protein, you should try to always eat the best quality of protein you can find and afford. If you use an animal sourced protein, consider using free-range, grass-fed, from a small local farm. This type of product always amounts to less antibiotics, hormones, and preservatives and generally ensures the humane treatment of animals that are harvested for their meat. We will address quantity later but overall, it’s important to remember the 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight rule. This is the first component to a healthy nutritional plan.
Carbs are the only non-essential nutrient. Oftentimes carbs are described as the body’s preferred source of energy, but what this really means is that it’s easy for the body to extract energy from carbs, not that they are the healthiest. There is one criterion for eating carbs - to eat carbs you have to earn it by hard physical work or training. If you don’t work or train hard physically, your body doesn’t need carbs, period. This doesn’t include green vegetables which are compulsory regardless of the nutritional plan (high carb or high fat). Green vegetables are the best source of minerals, anti-oxidants, and fiber and should be consumed with every meal. On the other hand, starchy and sugary carbs (processed carbs) are not only non-essential, but are detrimental to the health of an adult who leads a sedentary lifestyle. First to exclude when striving for a healthy diet is all processed carbs. The next category to look at is naturally gown carbs such as potatoes, rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, and turnips. From these, potatoes should be avoided and a stronger emphasis put on buckwheat as it is high in fiber and omega-3, is alkaline forming (contrary to most foods that are acidic), is gluten free, and is less prone to cause constipation like rice can. Another way to distinguish between sources of carbohydrates is the glycemic index or GI, which shows how fast the carb is releasing sugar into the bloodstream. The aim is to eat foods that release sugar slower and have a lower glycemic index. More information can be found here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods.
The next essential nutritional element is fat. Fats are the building blocks of hormones and are also responsible for the feeling of satiety. Fats can be divided into saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature, such as butter. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as oils. Unsaturated fats can be further divided into omega-3 and omega-6 fats. It’s important to strive for 50% of your fat intake to come from omega-3 sources. Omega-3 fats are responsible for the health of all cells in the body (including your nerve cells) and work by supporting cellular membrane quality, development/renewal of brain tissue, and fighting inflammation. Omega-3 fats are abundant in fatty fish, avocados, walnuts, olives, and flax seeds. If you are unable to get your Omega-3 intake to the suggested level, it’s important to at least eat something rich in Omega-3 every day. We will later discuss the recommended amounts of fat necessary to eat per day, but the minimum amount varies between 0.5-1g per kg of bodyweight for high carb diets and can go as high as 2.7g per kg of bodyweight for extremely high fat/low carb diets like the Ketogenic diet.
The rules of healthy eating
- The worst culprit against healthy nutrition is eating a lot of carbs with a lot of fats. This means that if you need a lot of carbs for heavy workouts or physical work, you need to control your fat intake. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle with little or no training, you should consider trying the high fat/low carb diet.
- Although it’s not just about calories, total caloric consumption matters. Some people believe that eating healthy allows a person to eat more calories a day and stay fit while others say it doesn’t matter what you eat, the important thing is calories in should equal calories out. The truth lies somewhere in between but is strongly linked to the first. It’s better to eat more calories than you need from healthy foods than to eat less calories from unhealthy foods. But to have your body and digestion system in balance, it’s important to keep the total caloric expenditure and intake within a reasonable framework.
Caloric expenditure for a 30 year old person by gender, weight, and height*
* taking into account moderate physical activity of up to 3 hours of training per week
High Fat / Low Carb
High fat/low carb diets were introduced into the public domain beginning with the Atkins Diet in the 80s, which despite its notoriety was proven to work. Atkins’ approach was to eat meats, fish, and other animal products with green salads, avoiding all sugars and starches. The difference between the Atkins diet and most contemporary HF/LC diets (especially the strictest, the Ketogenic diet) is that Atkins’ unstructured nature (usually too high in protein) is easier for most patients to grasp, although it fails to keep them satiated and doesn’t emphasize taking in the most calories from fat.
The HF/LC diet we propose is the Ketogenic diet, where calories from protein are limited to 15%, carbs are limited to 10% (from residual sources as most foods have at least some carbs in them), and 75% from fats. As described in the fats’ section, half of the fat intake should ideally be comprised of omega-3 fats (fish, avocados, walnuts, etc). The other half should come from saturated fats (fatty meats, butter), or unsaturated omega-6 fats like plant based oils, etc.
|Fatty fish||Avocadoes / oil||Broccoli||Walnuts|
|Fatty beef||Butter||Spinach||Pumpkin seeds|
|Full eggs||Olives / oil||Brussel sprout||99% chocolate|
|Lentils (vegitarian)||Flax seeds / oil||Asparagus||Macadamia nuts|
|Tofu (vegitarian)||Fish oil||Lettuce||Water with lemon juice|
An example of the hf/lc day of eating for 2000 kcal
|3 full eggs||100g of beef||50g of walnuts||100g of salmon||50g of Macad. nuts|
|300g of spinach||260g of broccoli||
|70g of avocados||
|10g of olive oil||40g of butter||
|10g of olive oil||
|200g of Br.sprouts||
High carb/controlled fat
The high carb controlled fat diet has been prominent since the American Dietary Association announced their nutritional guidelines in the 1950s, proclaiming fat as dangerous and promoting a diet heavy in carbohydrates. This diet is much less suitable for a modern day adult than the LC/HF diet for people who are mostly sitting behind desks. Even most blue collar jobs are becoming more and more sedentary. This diet is mostly useful for athletes who expend energy and have the need for explosive power. Active youth and children may benefit from this diet although a sufficient amount of fat is required, both in terms of quality and source (omega-3s to start).
A high carb diet would consist of eating a much higher amount of protein as well (2-2.5g per kg of bodyweight rather than 1g). Also, the source of protein needs to be much leaner: lean cuts of beef, chicken breasts, tuna, egg whites, lentils, etc. Remember, the high carb diet requires the person does some strenuous work or hard training so all the protein will go to rebuilding the broken-down muscle tissues.
The next nutrient is carbohydrates. Here again, only the unprocessed carbs should be eaten, such as vegetables in all colors and some variety of fruit. All the carbohydrate sources mentioned above apply: potatoes, rice, buckwheat, sweet potato, and turnip are all great sources of carbohydrates. Remember that a high carb/controlled fat diet may be harder to keep due to the absence of satiety effect of a relatively low-fat diet. If you feel that eating even 1g of fat per kg of bodyweight is too low, start replacing carbs with fats in the ratio of 1g of fat for every 2g of carbs to keep the caloric balance. It’s important to monitor the fat intake and to make sure you consume at least 0.7-1g of fat per kg of bodyweight. Try to focus on omega-3s most of all. Some people don’t feel their best when on a medium to low fat diet. If you find that’s the case for you, increase your intake of fat gradually until your body feels good again.
It is important to drink about 1 liter of water per every 25kg of bodyweight per day. It is a good idea to drink the water with a little lemon juice. Additionally, to keep your omega-3 intake in check, make it a habit to drink 1-2 spoonfuls of fish oil every day. Also take a D3 Vitamin and Vitamin K2 in recommended doses. Try to avoid dairy products, except flavorless yogurt and butter. When choosing dairy, go for goat milk as much as you can, otherwise, choose products made of milk from grass-fed, free-range cows. Don’t put a strong emphasis on nuts and seeds.