Proteins are easy as we need just enough, not too much, not too little. We need protein for many of the functions in our body as well as for optimal muscle mass. They also help with blood sugar regulation and cravings. In practice, it means that we should ideally have some source of protein with each meal. It can be a small piece of meat or fish (a palm size) or vegetarian sources like a small handful of nuts and seeds for example. We are all different of course and if we struggle with keeping or putting some muscles on or other health challenges we should re-adjust. In general, the excessive consumption is not necessary and potentially even harmful.
When it comes to fat and carbs my first and I think the most important rule is their quality. This concerns of course protein as well. Before we start experimenting with any ideas, either high fat or low fat, we should make sure carbs come from optimal, wholefoods’ sources and we avoid any unnatural or damaged fats. This is more important for our health than coming up with a perfect carb to fat ratio. Once we clean up our diet, we can think about what optimal nutrition means for us. Basic understanding of our metabolism and what actually happens with the macronutrients in our body is important in my opinion. We want to get rid of any preconceptions or ideas promoted for such a long time. Low fat diet is one of them. As a first step I’d avoid any low fat products, which goes with my first rule about the quality. Low fat yoghurts, low fat cookies etc. are usually not wholefoods and often packed with extra sugar, sweeteners or other ‘strange’ and often unhealthy ingredients to make them edible. Fat makes foods taste good. If your remove fat you have to compensate. The idea that we do need healthy fat in our diet is often quite difficult to accept especially when someone comes for weigh loss. Why would I eat fat if I want to lose fat? This is when a little understanding about our physiology comes handy and we discover that excess carbs are actually stored as triglycerides (fat) in our bodies. It doesn’t mean that everyone should be on a low carb diet. Low carb diet can be not optimal for you, depending on your lifestyle, age, gender, activity levels etc. or even harmful in certain conditions. If we are in good general health, we can experiment and find out what makes us feel the best. We certainly should not be scared of good quality fats in our diet.
I recommend watching this short video by Dr Mark Hyman, the medical director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. It’s aimed at fatty liver disease but explains the role and destiny of different macronutrients nicely.