Often when writing on a health and wellness aspect, I do a fair amount of research on the subject matter. Between books, medical studies and searching the internet, I find a vast amount of contrary information.
One area that is loaded with opinions, fake news, lousy research and contradicting information is in regards to carbohydrates. It is almost laughable how many marketing products and services are around carbohydrates, making it a billion dollar industry. With all the various products and information that is in the market, none of it fixes the nutritional challenges of establishing a healthy diet, obesity or basic weight loss.
There is no doubt that proper daily nutrition challenges all of us. Developing solid eating habits and discipline with what and how much we eat is no small task. Digesting all the information around carbs, good fats and proper amounts of protein that will meet our unique nutritional requirements is a daunting task.
The more straightforward approach to proper nutrition needs to start with how we micromanage our macronutrient requirements. So what are macronutrients? Macronutrients are nutrients we consume in large enough amounts for our body to sustain itself with healthy growth and development. The primary sources of macronutrients are made up of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Macronutrients provide enough calories for the body to perform at peak levels during our daily activity.
All three of the areas as mentioned above start with eating habits built around the basic building blocks of carbs, fats, and protein we eat.
The problem with managing our macronutrients in today’s processed food environment is the imbalance between protein and good fats weighted against the volume of carbohydrate-rich food sources. The official guideline on calorie and carbohydrate intake per person per day is sitting at around 2,400 calories and up to 65 percent of that intake is carbohydrates. That is close to between 250 and 350 grams of carbs each day.
Eating 350 grams of what is often empty simple carbohydrates or sugary processed foods is a health crisis. That’s not saying that someone eating 350 grams of whole raw vegetables each day to meet their carbohydrate needs would be unhealthy, but it would be a considerable amount of greens and produce making that concept somewhat unrealistic.
Since people in the U.S. eat one of the most unhealthy diets on the planet, finding an answer to managing a healthy blend of macronutrients needs to be a priority for each of us. Worldwide, it is estimated that 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese. Here in the U.S., we statistically dominate the world with roughly 70 of all men and 60 percent of all women are considered overweight or obese.
If each of us started looking at three aspects of our daily nutrition, we could begin to turn the dial on a healthier lifestyle and better weight management.
First, it starts with clearly understanding your ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Most people eat the bulk of their daily calories in carbs and have removed good fats. To add to the challenge, most people struggle to get enough protein in their daily food intake. Shortchanging yourself on proper protein is often not even noticed.
The second aspect to ensuring you are eating whole, nutritious foods is avoiding processed foods and excess sugar along with grains. Incorporate raw fruits and vegetables, making a mindful commitment to sneak in healthy fresh foods throughout the day. Drop the pretzels, chips, popcorn and candy and replace them with carrots, apples, broccoli and nuts.
The third simple and often overlooked nutritional practice is to eat an equal balance of your macronutrients. Since most of our overeating is done in the carbohydrate category and we eat much less in the good fats and protein category, pay close attention to equal ratios. Proper nutrition on a daily basis is complicated to manage, so this straightforward aspect of leveling out a similar percentage of your macronutrients can make a big difference to your overall health. Look at your meal and make sure the blend of carbs, fats, and protein have equal caloric values.
Once you have fulfilled your fundamental macronutrient requirements, which should be balanced against activity levels, you can theoretically consume your remaining calories with foods you like to eat. Meaning, eat whatever you want as long as you have fulfilled your required protein, carbohydrate, and fat needs.
Eating whatever you want as long as you get your required macronutrients sounds pretty good. One of the downsides to this is it becomes another calorie counting method which has never proven to be a reliable approach to a good nutrition plan. This at least gives you the benefit of getting the macronutrients portion of your diet from whole healthy foods.
Being aware of the carbs, fats and amount of protein you eat is a great way to start shifting your nutrition. Tailoring a balanced ratio of macronutrients to suit your individual preferences will give you the most success with weight loss, energy levels and sticking with a nutrition plan. Timing when you eat, what you eat and how much you eat consistently is another significant factor for better health.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.