I want to be frank: health has very little to do with your body weight and everything to do with the nutrients you put into your body. Your weight does not determine how healthy you are, it’s just one of the many factors that plays into it. Being overweight or underweight can have a significant impact on your health and can be a risk factor for many diseases, but seeing the number decrease on the scale does not necessarily mean you’re doing your body a favor.
Like I mentioned, there are a variety of factors that go into your health and wellbeing, but for the sake of this article (and since I can speak best to this subject), I will hone in on nutrition. From now on, when you think of nutrition and what it means to eat healthy, I want you to break it down into 2 categories: macronutrients and micronutrients. These 2 areas need to go hand in hand to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and ensuring your health from within (from a nutrition standpoint). Now, for those of you who still get confused between the two, I’m here to help you out. Macronutrients are your big 3: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. You can think of these as the 3 categories that all of our food is comprised of. All food has all 3 (because all 3 are necessary in the biochemical makeup of our cells), but it’s the ratios of each of them in our food that we need to be aware of. For example, 1 egg has roughly 6 g of protein, 5 g of fat, and about 0.6 g of carbs. But of course, when we think of eggs we think of protein, because this is the most abundant macronutrient that we get from eating eggs.
Why is it important to have a balance?
The right balance of macronutrients (and right portions) is what’s responsible for our body’s capacity to lose weight, gain weight, burn fat, store fat, put on muscle, lose muscle, give us sustained energy, and so on. What is the right balance you ask? The right balance depends on your goals. This is different for everyone. You typically want your carbohydrates to be between 45-65% of your calories, your fat to be between 20-35%, and your protein to be between 10-35% (and again the exact percentages depend on your personal goals).
Making sure you get all of your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is important for your cells to perform at their greatest potential, which includes their ability to metabolize food, fight off infection and disease, synthesize new DNA, and balance your hormones. Think of the vitamins and minerals you get from food as tiny little enzymes that work together to break down the bigger macronutrients and improve the ability of your nutrients to be absorbed. Also, do you want to know a huge benefit of the metabolism of carbs? ENERGY! The more efficient our cells are at metabolizing carbs, the more energy your body will produce (that is, if you’re not in a ketogenic state). On a personal note—I am able to work 12-hour work days straight through with NO coffee because of this. It’s truly amazing.
If you want to make things a little easier for yourself and guarantee you’re getting a wide range of micronutrients, then eat vegetables and fruits from every color, on the regular (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). The pigments in food account for different nutrients.
In order to ensure you’re getting a good balance of macros and micros, you need to start re-thinking the way you look at a meal. The first thing to do is look at the ratio of macronutrients on your plate—how much of my plate is carbs? How much is protein? How much is fat? I do this with every meal and snack. If you are eating a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, broccoli, spinach, and peppers—even though I love that you’ve added the veggies for micronutrients and fiber—where is the protein? where is the fat? This meal is all carbs, which means the excess carbs from that meal will be stored as fat. And the carbohydrates that are not in excess will not be metabolized as efficiently because fat assists in the metabolism of carbs. In addition, you are likely to feel hungry 30-minutes later because there is no protein to stimulate your hormones that trigger your feeling of satiety. Imagine you are eating a spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, croutons, carrots, apples, raisons, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Again, I like all the micronutrients and fiber in this meal, but there is no protein. Even though there is some fat in the vinaigrette, it’s a very little amount, maybe 5% of the meal. We need a good balance of all 3 macros to ensure the most efficient utilization of nutrients. Another note to remember is that our fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) cannot be stored or utilized without fat, so this gives us another incentive to include fat with our veggies.
I would now like to break down where I, personally, get my macro- and micro- nutrients, so you all can use it as a guide for yourselves. Just to note: this is based off of my food preferences, so this list isn’t an end-all-be-all to mindful eating. Also, each of these foods might contain many nutrients, but where I list them is only placed there because I know that it’s satisfying that nutrient for me. If it’s abundant in another nutrient, you can place it elsewhere on your list. Again, I’ve only listed the foods I eat personally, I did not list all the foods that are high in that nutrient.
fatty fish, pasture-raised organic eggs + chicken, lean ground turkey, grass-fed beef, pork
olive oil, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, MCT oil, cod liver oil supplement, grass-fed butter, ghee
fruits + vegetables (for the most part. In my Monday-Friday eating pattern, I stay away from processed, refined carbs)
sunflower seeds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, pork, grass-fed beef
tuna, chicken, salmon, grass-fed beef, peanut butter
sunflower seeds, peanut butter, eggs, broccoli
grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, fish, avocado, carrots
egg yolk, salmon, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, avocados
kale, oranges, beets
grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs
oranges, strawberries, broccoli, kale, peppers, tomatoes, beets, radishes
fish, cod liver oil, egg yolk, butter, carrots, squash, sauerkraut, tomatoes
fatty fish, cod liver oil, eggs, sunlight
olive oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, tomatoes
eggs, peanut butter
EPA + DHA fatty acids
fatty fish, cod liver oil
grass-fed beef, seafood, broccoli, sauerkraut
seafood, eggs, peanut butter, grass-fed beef, kale, pumpkin seeds
cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, dark chocolate
brazil nuts, eggs
iodized salt, anchovies
tap water, tooth paste
egg yolks, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, pork
cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, green tea, beans
table salt, anchovies
bananas, beans, squash, tomatoes, radishes
canned anchovies, canned sardines, grass-fed cheese, goats milk cheese, kale
fish, grass-fed beef
kale, broccoli, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds
eggs, broccoli, kale