Pillar 3 - Nutrition
Okay so this week’s blog post is Pillar number 3 – Nutrition. Let me just start off by saying that in this post I’m not going to go into detail or talk much about all of the different diet approaches, this is mainly because there are just so many; Intermittent fasting, Ketogenic, Paleo, Carnivore, Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian and low fat, to name literally just a tiny fraction of the endless list of diets out there. I’m going to avoid talking too much about these in this blog post largely because without talking about each one in significant length it is impossible to give each diet choice the adequate analysis they deserve.
The truth is, most diets carry with them some form of positives and some form of negatives. For example, take two polar opposites such as the vegan and carnivore diets (ethical issues aside) both diets provide benefits, carnivore is literally probably the easiest diet in the world to make sure you get adequate protein intake, since you basically just eat meat, this also means your iron levels will also probably be at an all time high! However, you also will run a high risk of becoming deficient in micronutrients since this diet isn’t typically high in fruits and vegetables and you cholesterol levels will also probably not thank you! On the other hand, vegan diets usually contain more fruits and vegetables so you smash it on the micronutrient front, but you do have to pay slightly more attention to what you eat to make sure you get enough protein since many plant based foods aren’t as high in protein as meat based products when compared over the same volume.
The point of the little example above is that one of the first questions I get from clients is “which diet is the best?” It is a very valid question but one unfortunately without a straight answer. In my opinion the ‘best diet’ for you is largely based on 4 factors:
1. Practicality – Will the chosen diet approach fit into your life? If not then it won’t work, it could look all pretty on paper and make perfect scientific sense but if it doesn’t match up to your lifestyle then it won’t work.
2. Goals/ objectives – Does the diet match up to your goals, if the diet doesn’t match up to your goals then you will just end up frustrated when you feel that you aren’t progressing in the direction that you want.
3. Medical history – It is recommended to consult a doctor before making any lifestyle changes, this is because some diets can have beneficial effects such as lowering your blood pressure – this is a good thing - but if you are currently also on medication which lowers this then you may need the medication dose lowered to avoid the number from dropping below the healthy range! Additionally, some diets are much better choices for certain people as the diet may not only help them feel better and help facilitate a weight loss, but some diets can also help with some medical problems, for example intermittent fasting and keto can both help control blood sugar in diabetic patients, but again this would need to be checked with a doctor before the participant started the diet to ensure that at no point do their numbers drop too low.
4. Ethical considerations – If you don’t eat meat for ethical reasons then already that may make several of the diet types not suitable choices for example; a Ketogenic diet while possible on both vegan and vegetarian diets is far easier on a meat eating diet, so someone who is a vegan looking to take up a ketogenic diet will have to decide whether they are willing to eat a very restricted selection of foods or if they are happier to run a less restricted low carb diet.
So what do you need to think about when deciding the contents of your diet?:
Macronutrients – there are 3 macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats) and you need to make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of each of these, diets such as low fat or low carb, whilst they can have their place and can be beneficial for some groups of people I largely steer clear of these for most clients because dropping any one of these 3 from your diet can lead to more harm than good!
Micronutrients – micronutrients include vitamins and minerals all of which play a very important part in your body. Being deficient in a particular micronutrient can have very serious impacts on your health! The Vitamins and Minerals are:
· Vitamins; A,B,C,D,E and K
· Minerals; calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, zinc, chromium, iodine, copper, fluoride, manganese, selenium and molybdenum
The key to making sure you get enough of each of the micronutrients is to each a healthy varied diet! Let me explain this ‘varied’ point, I’ve met people who each day eat an apple and carrots as their fruit and veg of the day and that’s it. The problem with this approach is, an apple contains Vitamins A, B and C and a carrot contains; Vitamin A then Vitamins C and K but in low doses. So on this Apple and carrot ‘health approach’ you are missing out on Vitamins D,E and K along with countless minerals, this is why it is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and also eat a variety of nuts and seeds (so long as you aren’t allergic).
To sum up, the ‘best diet’, is the one that you can actually stick to! Any potential diet approaches should be considered against the following 4 categories; practicality, goals, medical history and ethical considerations. Then from here once you have decided on the diet approach remember this is the equivalent of deciding which wrapping paper to wrap a present in, you still need to actually decide what to put in it, so far more important than the diet type is the contents of the diet, remember to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of all of the Macro and Micronutrients.
If you aren’t sure how to structure your diet or how to start changing your diet, then drop me a message and we can get you booked in for a nutrition consultation and start you on the journey to improving your health.
Next week’s topic – pillar 4 Exercise