Enter the PLANTS
Thank you for reading! We have already received some great feedback on our Performance Pyramid.
Some responses were from the academic community, and others were from people needing some help in their real-life scenarios.
Regardless, we are excited to continue this conversation because there is no single perfect way to eat for everyone. (There are, however, some really bad ones that need dispelling).
Due to beliefs, whether religious, philosophical, both or other, we people have many ways in which we relate to food.
Side Note: If you are hungry for more after reading below, Michael Pollan is a great person to read and watch pertaining to our relationship with food - http://michaelpollan.com - as well as the intersection between nature and culture. Mr. Pollan has written several classic books on food and nutrition, as well as an intriguing Netflix series entitled "Cooked" if you are interested in going down this path a little further.
Recently, with the original structure and order of our Performance Pyramid, two concerns have come up, for which we are grateful. We have adapted a version of our Performance Pyramid to empathize with the vegetarian and vegan community and to help alleviate these concerns:
1. When looking at things from a caloric restriction perspective, focusing on vegetables is likely the best way to direct your attention. It is very difficult to calorically overeat vegetables. Caloric restriction has its benefits in certain scenarios, and we are happy to say that in addition to this post, we can have at least another on this subject!
2. What about people who are vegetarians, vegans or partially committed to one of these two ways of eating? There are some concerns about where to obtain macronutrients such as protein and micronutrients such as B vitamins and Iron.
Hopefully, this week's post can give further insight into those two concerns. Let us know what you think!
A typical American diet has been about 45-65% carbohydrates. Unfortunately over the past few decades, majority of that percentage has come from processed and refined foods. Essentially the refining process of foods takes out the natural fiber in the food and is replaced by sugar. When these foods are consumed, our blood sugar rises, we produce insulin, and our bodies store fat. Exactly the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish!
Enter the PLANTS:
After a continued increase in obesity (more on that later) and obesity-related illness we are looking to change the norm. We start by recommending closer to the 45-50% of the total caloric intake coming from mainly carbohydrate, and mainly from plant and whole grain sources. There are ways to make this percentage more specific, such as obtaining quality objective data like a true resting metabolic rate, your VO2 max, and your body composition via DEXA scan. Another post for another time.
So, dropping the recommended 45-65% carbohydrates in your diet in favor of 45-50%, for now. This number may even be high, depending on your level of activity.
We redistribute the 15 percent difference from the previous paragraph to protein and unsaturated fat sources for your caloric intake. When challenging the norm, it should be noted that the more physical activity you do, the higher your carbohydrate intake should be. Your activity level and carbohydrate level should be one in the same. By changing this distribution, you will see steady blood sugar levels, and an increased ability to burn fat!
Plant sources are the most Nutrient Dense foods we can consume. This means they have the highest availability of nutrients, for the lowest caloric value. They have a wonderful balance of carbohydrate, proteins, fats, fiber, and water!
Transitioning the diet to favor Plant Carbohydrates over refined and processed carbohydrates is the quickest way to reduce disease risk, lose weight and improve quality of life.
By favoring plant carbohydrate over processed carbohydrate, you will see a lowering of the Glycemic Index (more info in future post) in your diet.
This transition will lead to lowering/controlling blood sugar, resulting in improvements in fat burning capabilities and reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
I like to think it is common knowledge that we all know about the abundance of vitamins and minerals that fruits and vegetables have, therefore I won’t go into it too much. However, I would like to tell you about the additional benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outside of the vitamins and minerals.
An uncommon term I want you to take away from this article is Phytochemicals. You cannot get this through supplementation. Phytochemicals are plant components that are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Although they are not essential nutrients, these substances have been clinically proven to block the development of cancer and even decrease the risk of heart disease!
Current multivitamin and mineral supplements do not contain these beneficial chemicals. That is the reason why nutrition and health experts suggest that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is the only reliable way to obtain the benefits of phytochemicals.
High Protein/Low Carb Diets
High protein and low carbohydrate diets have been recommended for people who are looking to lose weight and burn body fat. Many popular diets tend to lean heavy on eating meat, fish, and plants only. This can be effective, but it should be noted that if you are going this route, it is vital to eat a variety of plants. Making sure you get multiple types of vegetables, fruits, and legumes will ensure that your body is getting enough protein, carbohydrate and vital micronutrients from the plants.
For those people who choose not to eat meat, same rule applies. Eating a well rounded plant based diet is the only way your body will receive enough Essential Amino-Acids to help build and maintain healthy muscle function. Consequence of eating little variety of plant sources are anemia and inability to build healthy muscle tissue.
*It is also a challenge to simultaneously go high-protein and low-carb while eating only plant-based protein sources, since the ratio of carbs to protein is much higher in plants than in protein rich sources like meat and fish. This is where a lot of active vegetarians and vegans resort to plant-based protein supplements to hit their daily requirements.
To go back to my first statistic of the post, 45-65% of our intake had traditionally come from carbohydrate sources. Before you go, I hope the message is clear. It is vital for our society to adopt a lower-carbohydrate, more plant-based way of eating, specifically in lieu of refined or processed foods. This is the main contributor to the obesity epidemic in our country. An epidemic whose estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illness are an astounding $190.2 billion (or 21% of annual medical spending in the U.S.) Childhood obesity alone is responsible for $14 billion in direct medical costs.
So remember when you are at the local grocery store, to pick up plenty of plant sources and leaving out some of the processed and refined foods that you may perceive to be more convenient. Prepare to succeed, and you shall.
Have a great week!
image credits: http://terencegaffney.com/