Fascinated by human nutrition and how it makes us feel, I recently enrolled as a student for a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition + Dietetics. Sounds fancy right?! Put simply, I will be a qualified nutritionist, and you can chat to me in private clinics. Yahoo! As a total health nut (you'd have to be right?! Staring down the barrel of another 6 years of University), I've spent a fait bit of time looking at balanced (and not so balanced) approaches to food in the quest for optimum health.
That's what we are all seeking right? To feel the best we can possibly feel, whilst still enjoying all things we put into our bodies.
The past few years of popular and extreme diets (lemon juice cleanses, I'm looking at you!) has seen us lose touch with what a balanced meal really means.
Don't get me wrong, I've been there and done that - I've cut carbs on a Ketogenic meal plan, I've been Paleo (lasted a week - I like oats WAY too much) and even hopped onto the all-plant-based bandwagon, but struggled with digestion. For my body and lifestyle, clearly none of these were sustainable long-term, because I'm now back to eating everything within moderation - carbs, fats and proteins from all sources. That's where my body seems to feel it's best.
So in a nutshell - here is why we need all three for a balanced meal:
- Provides fast to medium release energy (around 1-3 hours)
- Boosts metabolism
- Inhibits insulin release = steady blood sugar levels.
- Helps build lean muscle, which helps us burn more calories at rest.
e.g. chicken breast, turkey mince, tinned tuna, tofu, legumes, plain yoghurt, eggs, salmon.
- Provide fast to medium release energy (around 1-3 hours).
- Fuels your brain, kidneys, heart, muscles and central nervous system.
e.g. oats, brown rice, sweet potato, pumpkin, fruit and most veggies
- Provide slow release energy (around 4 hours)
- Insulate us and protect our vital organs.
- Some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning without the accompaniment of fat in your food, you won't be able to absorb the goodness!
e.g. nuts, avocado, olive oil, cheese
If you have a meal consisting of just protein + carbs, you will be hungry again after about 3 hours. If you added fats to that same meal, you'll be fuelled for up to four hours - meaning less fridge-picking in between meals!
Each macronutrient also has its own specific function in nourishing the body. Miss out on one category and it's likely you'll feel deprived which will hamper even your best efforts to lose weight and feel good.
A nourishing, whole food diet will help balance neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine - the brain chemicals that help us feel full, happy, motivated and rewarded!
Avoiding Risk Nutrients
What we need to be careful of is our intake of 'risk nutrients'. These are those things found in food that don't make us feel so great - such as sugar, refined oil, and heavily processed foods. The Health Star Rating in Australia is your quick-reference guide to navigate this on the front of packeted foods. At a glance you can compare like-for-like foods to select the one with the least amount of risk nutrients. How handy is that? Look for items that have the highest amount of starts (rated from 1 - 5) for the most nutritious options.
Other countries have similar systems - so be sure to check out the regulations in your country to help you make healthy choices quickly!
Have you cut out a food group before? How did it make you feel? In trying to eat a balanced diet have you noticed Health Star Rating on packaged food? What did you think?
I'd love to know in the comments below!
This article is proudly sponsored by the Health Star Rating. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Fit Foodie Blog possible. All images and opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.