Updated: Feb 29, 2020
What the heck should I eat? Real foods, I will answer.
But what does that mean?
Well, stuff you would either hunt or gather (i don't mean you need to amazon prime some bowl and arrow, although that might be a fun option!)
Therefore, think outside of the box! (Pun intended) Whole foods are things that perish, that are alive and will bring life force into you.
Let’s get some NUTRITION BASICS out of the way.
A nutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow, and reproduce.
Important to know that quality absolutely matters! You are not only what you eat but also what you eat eats as well.
Therefore, the nutrients on a grass-fed beef will be really different than a conventional lot fed cow which ate GMO corn all its life. Would you choose a chicken that ate bugs or a chicken fed with pesticides laden grains? From a nutritional perspective alone, it is a no brainer… and I am not even getting into the energetic/hormonal impacts of those choices.
Nutrients can be divided into 2 categories: macronutrients, and micronutrients.
Macronutrients or Macros are those nutrients that the body needs in large amounts.
The energy provided by macronutrients is measured in calories.
In addition to providing the body with energy, macros serve a lot of other vital functions. Macros are the famous proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You need them to thrive and survive. All of your meals should contain all three macro every time.
Micronutrients, on the other hands, are those nutrients the body needs in trace amounts, most commonly known as the vitamins and minerals that foods can provide.
But what are proteins, carbs and fats and why are they important?
As a rule, you should have all 3 macro nutrients at every meal you eat.
Now, how to adjust the proportions to achieve your goals and optimum health is the real question.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy in the human body. The two main types of carbohydrates are simple and complex. Carbs can be nutrient dense or nutrient poor. So, not all carbs are created the same and, therefore, they will impact your health differently.
Many people tend to look to low-carb diets to lose weight, but it is important to include some most healthy carbohydrate sources in this diet. Low carb should not mean no carbs. Completely depriving your body of carbs is not a healthy long term strategy. There are many health reasons to go very low carb, but that needs to be done wisely and under guidance so that you can have the nutrition you need to survive. Remember that carbs are a macro nutrient for a reason! Again, the game changer here is the type of carbohydrate you are eating.
My nutrition programs are very carb conscious so that you understand the impact of this macro nutrient on your own body. They are the primary driver of blood sugar regulation and very important to dial them correctly according to your goals.
Food sources of carbs are grains, vegetables and fruits. So, things like asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, as well as tubers, potatoes, squashes and fruits.
Pretty much things you would get at a farmer’s market. There are nutritionally empty carbs & nutrition-enhancing carbs. I don’t need to tell you what is best. Unfortunately, the SAD is basically nutritionally empty carbs. Stuff like pancakes, bagels, muffins, bread, refined sugars. And the ratio with the other nutrients is extremely out of balance. It is no wonder we have an increasingly sick population and chronic and auto diseases on the rise. If we don’t give the body the building blocks to health, it cannot function optimally.
Dietary fats have been villainized, but our body requires fats in order to maintain proper health and wellness. We should not fear them, quite the contrary.
In addition to their energy provision, fats are needed in maintaining the structural composition of cells, in the regulation of hormones, in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, in the development of neurons and even in the simple mechanisms of maintaining body heat and providing cushioning for our organs. In sum, fats are really important and fear not! They do not make you fat.
Examples of good fats are nuts and seeds, butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados. More on the good, the bad and the ugly later.
Proteins are the main building blocks of your body. They are used to build and repair muscle, to build and maintain healthy tissue, skin, nails, hair, as well as hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and various other tiny molecules that serve important functions in the body.
Without protein, you just wouldn’t be you!
However, we can’t talk protein without understanding amino acids.
There are 20 different amino acids that combine to form proteins, and although your body requires all of them, you only have the ability to make 11 of them!
The amino acids your body makes are called non-essential amino acids.
The other nine—those you can’t make—are termed essential amino acids, and must be obtained from your diet. They are called ESSENTIAL FOR A REASON. YOU NEED THEM.
Protein sources are meat and fowl, seafood, dairy, eggs, as well as nuts and legumes.
Please, note that nuts and legumes are also sources of fat and carbs, so this needs to be taken into considerations when counting macros.
Many plant-based proteins sources, however, are lacking in essential amino acids, making it important for vegetarians and vegans to really know what they are doing in order to get the essential amino acids required to thrive.
Here are more detailed examples of Macro Nutrients if you are still confused on what they are.
MEAT & FOWL
Organ meats, pate, brains, buffalo, elk, heart, kidney, liver, beef, chicken, venison, wild game, Cornish hen, duck, goose, lamb, pheasant, rabbit, quail, veal, bacon, pork etc.
Anchovy, caviar, herring, mackerel, mussels, sardine, scallops, crab, lobster, oyster, salmon, octopus, etc.
Milk, yogurt, kefir etc.
NUTS & SEEDS (These are both fat & protein.)
Pecan, almonds, cashews, hazelnut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, flax seeds, chia seeds etc.
LEGUMES (These are both proteins & carbs.)
Beans, lentils, peas, soy products like tempeh, tofu etc.
Oats, amaranth, quinoa, spelt, wheat, kasha, kamut, barley, rye, millet, buckwheat, teff, sorghum, rice, couscous etc.
Green peas, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, artichokes, sprouts, corn, spinach, eggplant, celery, carrot, potatoes, pumpkins, rutabaga, parsnip, lettuce, collard, turnip, kale, winter squash, okra, beets, yams, cabbage, summer squashes, zucchini, tomato, watercress, jicama, mustard greens, chard, sweet peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, leek, scallions, onion etc.
Avocado, coconut, olive, pear, apple, banana, etc.
Nuts and seeds (These are both protein and fats.)
Butter, coconut oil, cream, ghee, avocado oil, olive oil, palm oil, flax oil, fish oil, hemp oil, walnut oil, almond oil etc.
It can truly become a math problem when you start moving around protein, fats, carbohydrates and calories. So, be sure you’re clear on what you hope to achieve out of your diet, so you don’t get lost in numbers and lose perspective of overall health.
When you’re eating a primarily real food whole foods diet, do macros really matter? The answer might actually be no. If you’re healthy, asymptomatic, not trying to trouble shoot any symptoms or syndromes, then macronutrient ratios matter a lot less.
If you’ve got hormonal imbalances, gut issues, fatigue issues, fertility issues… then, it matters a bit more.
Before we even get into the whole carb and macro discussion, we have to make sure you’re getting enough food and examine the quality of the food you are eating.
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Isabela Fortes is a
Board Certified Holistic Health Expert, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher Level II
Certified Yoga Therapist
She teaches and work with clients in Southern California and Virtually anywhere in the world.
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