I recently read an article that discussed the notion of ‘macro-nutrient wars’. The article was great; it resonated with my own experiences of people’s perceptions when I’ve seen them in clinic and I wanted to write my own piece to keep that message going.
We’ve been turning one of our three main macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) into enemies for years; we just keep changing our minds as to which one we currently hate the most. Once upon a time all we heard about was how bad fat was; ‘stay away from fats and you won’t put on fat’ was the advice. Then at the turn of the noughties, carbohydrates took the prime time slot as the devil.
“We’ve been turning one of our three main macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) into enemies for years.”
To be fair, things aren’t exactly black or white, especially when you see how research has covered tracks over the years by paying off scientists to come to conclusions that benefit big corporations. Take The New York Times article back in September 2016 that exposed how the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the greater of the two evils instead. The impact of this has been massive – a huge burden on our healthcare systems by simply misleading the public as to the major effects that large amounts of sugar can have on the body.
“The sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the greater of the two evils instead.”
So this really begs the question – which food, in part, is to blame for the huge rise in illness, chronic disease and obesity? If we look at our three main macronutrient food groups, let’s face it, none of them are to blame alone. We need to detach any stigma from any single one of these as being bad. Pronto.
What we need to do is take a closer look at the types of foods being consumed in each of these groups, as well as the quantity and quality of those foods we’re consuming – like asking ourselves whether a Dunkin’ Donut and a bowl of brown rice of the same serving size really is a fair like-for-like comparison? That’s an extreme example, but the answer is, of course, no.
“Is a Dunkin’ Donut and a bowl of brown rice of the same serving size really is a fair like-for-like comparison?”
By cutting out certain food groups, you leave yourself open to micronutrient deficiencies. Let’s take vegans, for example, who cut out all animal products. Although I totally understand this dietary approach for ethical and/or taste reasons, one has to be aware that it may result in micronutrient deficiencies such as B12, omega-3 fatty acids and iron, to name a few. For the latter two nutrients, granted there are vegetable sources, but seeing as everyone is different, not everyone may be able to absorb these nutrients well, so it would be advisable (and sensible) to monitor levels to ensure best health.
Modern day lifestyles don’t help matters; we live in the age of grande choco-mocha-coffee thingy’s, whilst just about anything can be stuffed between two slices of bread. In addition, commercial farming techniques both for crops and animals result in far lower quality produce, meaning we’re lacking in nutrients from the outset. Therefore cutting out food groups or having a diet lacking in diversity definitely isn’t going to help health matters.
“So, the bottom line – stop fearing the macros themselves and start focussing on the types of foods you’re consuming.”
So, the bottom line – stop fearing the macros themselves and start focussing on the types of foods you’re consuming. I promise, if you’re eating a diverse range of quality vegetables, some unrefined grains or root vegetables and organic sources of protein both from vegetarian and/or animal sources, then you’re likely to be giving your body the best nourishment for great long term health.
Zoe Stirling is a nutritional therapist and co-founder of healthy food hang-out, Squirrel, in London.