Sometimes it’s hard to know what to eat, especially with all the fad diets out there. Do you do keto, or paleo, vegetarian or vegan? It is definitely murky waters when it comes to diet and what is actually GOOD for your body; what your body needs to thrive. I break down these three components and why our bodies need them. Whether you choose to eat gluten or not, eat meat or not, eat dairy or not, you can still make sure to include: Fat, Protein, and Fiber into every meal (or as many as you can), to ensure your body is getting what it needs to function properly.
Just very quickly before we get into the nitty gritty, WHY do we need our body to function properly? Well, when our body is not getting what it needs, issues will arise such as: infertility, allergies, immune issues (you get sick often), autoimmune diseases, just to name some of the big ones. Your body is telling you something in the only way it knows how to; by giving you a signal or a sign. If you change nothing else in your life right now, just try to get these 3 components into your everyday diet. And as always, try to get it through whole foods (aka not processed). An example being; it is better to get fiber through whole fruits and vegetables in a smoothie than it is to get through All-Bran cereal. And remember, nobody is perfect, you will and still can eat processed foods, just try to use the 80-20 rule:
80% of the time try to eat homemade, whole nutritious foods, 20% let yourself eat out, eat sweets, or processed foods. It is not always sustainable to eat “clean” 100% of the time.
Let’s dive in:
Gone are the days where all fats are thought of as bad, or where they are thought to increase your body fat if consumed. Hopefully by now, you’ve heard that healthy fats are crucial for the bodies function and for regulating hormones (which is a growing problem with many women). Fat is the bodies preferred energy source for fuel and crucial for cell membranes and prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds). They also help your body properly absorb some vitamins (like Vitamin D).
If you are aiming to get pregnant, are pregnant now, or are postpartum, studies have shown that eating full-fat dairy and meat is beneficial, and consuming low-fat dairy or foods can actually harm your health. Basically, it is exactly opposite of what our parents taught us.
Unsaturated Fats (like those found in vegetable oils), are highly susceptible to damage and go rancid easily when exposed to air. The result creates free radicals (which are highly toxic compounds), which has many adverse affects on overall health. Omega-6 oils (a specific type of unsaturated fat), when consumed in large quantities compared to Omega-3 oils (think fish oils), increase inflammation in the body.
Examples of Healthy Fats to Consume:
- Nuts + Seeds (chai, hemp, pumpkin, almond, cashew, walnut)
- Nut + seed butters
- Fish (esp. salmon, herring, mackerel, halibut, anchovy), Omega-3 fish oil
- Cold-pressed/Extra-virgin Oils (coconut, macadamia, avocado, Olive, grass-fed Ghee) – naturally lower in Omega-6 fats and high in healthy monounsaturated fat.
- Egg Yolk
- Full fat dairy (cheese, yogourt, milk)
- Liver (try taking cod liver oil)
- Bone broth
- Coconuts (coconut cream, oil, milk, meat, consume it all!)
- Butter, lard, tallow
Unhealthy Fats to Avoid:
- Processed vegetable oils and seed oils that are high in Omega-6 fats (corn, soy, peanut, canola, safflower, cottonseed)
- Shortening, Margarine. Any oils that have been ‘partially hydrogenated‘ – these are sources of man-made trans-fats.
- Omega-6 fats labeled as ‘vegetable oils’ in snack foods such as; mayonnaise, salad dressing, sauces,
- Fried foods from restaurants. They fry with cheap vegetable oils, which they heat up at very hight heats repeatedly (this increases the inflammatory free radicals.)
- Snack foods that never go bad (they are typically a result of a process called “partial hydrogenation”, which result in longer shelf life)
After water, protein is the most plentiful component in our body, found in the bones, cartilage, muscles and skin. It is crucial for muscle maintenance and regeneration, cell and tissue repair, as well as making hormones and enzymes. Basically we cannot survive without it. And it may surprise you to find out just how much you need to consume on a daily basis.
Formula for your daily protein needs:Michael Murray, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Atria Books, 2005, p.58
Take your body weight x 0.36 = daily grams of protein needed
Ex: 150lbs x 0.36 = 54 grams protein / day
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, a growing child, intense strength training, or healing, then your protein needs increase to:
Body weight x 0.8 = grams of protein needed daily
Ex: 150lbs x 0.8 = 120 grams protein/day*
*Notice your protein needs are more than DOUBLED when you are pregnant or lactating!
Protein Rich Food Sources:
- Meat (poultry, beef, lamp, pork)
- Seafood, Fish
- Eggs (ideally pasture-raised)
- Hemp seeds (this is a complete protein source including all 9 amino acids)
- Flax seeds
- Nut butters
- Grains such as Quinoa and Amaranth
- Beans, legumes (Lentils, Chickpeas are the highest – See the recipe below for a Chickpea, Quinoa salad.)
- Greek yogurt (replace regular yogurt with greek)
- Soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh) – Aim for organic
If you are eating a plat-based diet, be sure to get complete protein sources, which includes all of the amino acids that are needed (meat includes all the 9 required amino acids), but certain plant based protein sources do not. So make sure to eat a variety and mix certain proteins with carbs to get what you need, ex: rice and beans will contain adequate amino acids versus beans on their own.
Fiber is crucial to help the body regulate sugar, maintain bowel health, and lower cholesterol levels. Think vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes, seeds.
Make sure to keep the peels on your fruit to get more fiber. The fiber in fruit is also what makes fruit sugar better for your body versus the sugar from fruit juice because the fruit’s fiber helps the body regulate the sugar.
For example, a medium apple with peel on contains 4.4 mg fiber, while 1/2 cup applesauce has 1.4 mg and apple juice contains no fiber.
The more processed a food, generally the lower the fiber content. So make sure to eat plenty of whole fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and legumes to get what your body needs. Try to stay away from fiber supplements, and instead eat more fiber-rich foods.
Examples of Fiber-rich foods:
- Vegetables (dark leafy greens, squash, zucchini, cruciferous veg, colourful veg.)
- Fruits (pears, apples, bananas, etc)
- Beans and Legumes
- Seeds (chia seeds) + nuts (almonds)
- air popped popcorn (non GMO)
Examples Of Fat, Protein and Fiber-Rich Meals + Snacks:
- Eggs / Avocado / Sauerkraut or other sautéed veggies
- Smoothie (including: coconut oil, hemp seeds or protein powder, greens, fruit, greek yogurt, nut butters). Try this Pineapple Green Protein Smoothie Recipe
- Plain greek yogurt, hemp seeds, berries.
- Oatmeal with coconut cream, bananas, berries, hemp seeds. Try this Nut and Seed Overnight Oatmeal
- Tuna Salad sandwich with healthy mayo, loads of greens or sprouts, on buckwheat or rye bread.
- Salmon Cakes
- Chickpea, Quinoa, veggie salad (include sautéed garlic, and veggies on hand). See Recipe below.
- Lentil Soup made with bone broth and added oil or butter.
- Chocolate chia pudding
Chickpea, Quinoa Salad
- Can chickpeas
- 2 cups Quinoa rinsed
- Beets (cooked and cubed)
- Cilantro chopped finely (or any herb, try dill or basil instead for a different flavour)
- Cucumber chopped
- Tomato chopped
- 1/2 cup Sunflower seeds – raw
Cook 2 cups quinoa in 4 cups of water. Let cool, add to a big bowl for mixing. Mix in chickpeas, chopped cucumber, cooked and cubed beets, chopped cilantro, raw sunflower seeds, sautéed garlic, tomato (chop and add any veggies you have on hand that need using). Mix dressing (lime juice, olive oil, s+p) pour over salad and combine. Enjoy!
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two and have a couple new ideas to get you started. My goal is not to overwhelm, so take it slow, and try adding one new thing at a time. Happy eating 🙂