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Micronutrients 101

Now that we’ve covered off on Macronutrients, I wanted to chat a bit about the other group of essential nutrients, micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals. Called micronutrients because they are needed only in minuscule amounts, these substances are the “magic wands” that enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for proper growth and development.

Although we can get vitamins and minerals through supplementation, getting them through your food can ensure that your body absorbs them properly. Micronutrients are found in whole foods of all kinds — meaning those that are found in nature and not processed. These nutrient-dense foods include vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, ancient grains, legumes and quality animal products.

Among micronutrients many roles are: breaking down macronutrients into usable energy, protecting the brain, allowing the muscles to move, and helping with tissue repair. Micronutrients nourish your body and keep you healthy, reduce your risk for chronic diseases, slow the aging process, and help every system in the body function well.

Many American adults have trouble getting enough of the following essential micronutrients. Let’s all focus on incorporating some of these foods into our diet this week!

Nutrient Food sources
Calcium Broccoli, dark, leafy greens, and sardines
Potassium Bananas, cantaloupe, raisins, nuts, fish, and spinach and other dark greens
Fiber Legumes (dried beans and peas), seeds, apples, strawberries, carrots, raspberries, and colorful fruit and vegetables
Magnesium Spinach, black beans, peas, and almonds
Vitamin A Eggs, milk, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe
Vitamin C Oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, broccoli, and red and green bell peppers
Vitamin E Avocados, nuts, seeds, spinach and other dark leafy greens

 

All About Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural, innate response to injury/pain/illness/stress. The inflammatory process doesn’t happen by accident – it’s necessary for our bodies to heal themselves – and it’s something we’re able to do through food and lifestyle choices.

There are two types of inflammation:

  1. Acute inflammation – This type of inflammation is brief, lasting several days or less. Pain, swelling, redness, and that radiating sense of warm that we feel at the site of an injury or illness would be the signs of acute inflammation. Acute inflammatory responses are caused by trauma (EX. getting punched), bacterial/viral infections, burns, allergic reactions, etc. Acute inflammation isn’t necessarily a bad thing – pain hurts and is in indication to your body to back off and start healing itself.
  2. Chronic inflammation – This is the type of inflammation that is linked with chronic illnesses – like obesity, heart disease, and depression – these big problems arise when your body is constantly trying to fight inflammation. It’s when the inflammatory process becomes a constant low-level feature of your physiology that’s always ‘on’.

Chronic inflammation is induced by things that are commonly seen in developed countries such as toxic diets (high-sugar, high-processed carb, high-gluten), lack of sleep/movement, poor recovery, chronic stress, lack of down time/nature time, and poor gut health. If we want to lessen our risk for disease, it’s important to limit chronic inflammation, here are some ways that you can start fighting it today:

  • Incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet such as garlic, spinach, kale, onions, and peppers
  • Start using turmeric in recipes. The curcumin in this spice is strongly anti-inflammatory
  • Get quality sleep
  • Find healthy ways to manage your stress
  • Get outside
  • Focus on improving your gut health by increasing your probiotic intake (more to come on this later)

My Favorite Food Blogs

I hope that in the past several weeks I’ve inspired you to start thinking more about food and nutrition and if so, then I want you to be armed with healthy, free recipe resources. What follows are some of my favorite food blogs that I have been following and cooking from for years. I’ve also listed specific recipes that I always come back to.

Paleomg – simple, straightforward paleoish recipes. This was the first food blog I started following and I always come back to it.

Fed and Fit – foolproof paleo recipes that are creative and flavorful with a minimal amount of ingredients!

Nomnompaleo – more complex, technical recipes with step-by-step images that are always great.

Additional blogs: Ambitious KitchenWell FedAgainst All GrainLexis Clean Kitchen

I own many of these author’s cookbooks as well so let me know if you ever want to borrow one!

Intermittent Fasting

Conventional dietary wisdom tells us to eat every 3-4 hours but what if I were to tell you that there are a host of benefits that you can experience from going 16+ hours without food?

Without getting to into the nutritional science weeds, it’s not only unnecessary to eat this often, but recent research suggests that doing so is actually unhealthy and detrimental to weight loss goals. When you eat, you begin the process of digestion, and complete digestion usually takes at least six hours. So, if you’re snacking/eating another meal within that time frame you’re disrupting that process and asking your body to restart digestion. This takes energy away from other repairs your body is making as well as shortening your body’s ability to burn fat in between meals.

Benefits of Fasting

The research is very new on IF but from my personal experience with it, it has really helped me get better at listening to my body.. now I notice when I’m actually hungry vs. just eating on a schedule. I’ve actually come to enjoy the feeling of being hungry as so often in our culture we are just eating to eat. Fasting is a great way to practicing noticing and managing hunger.

Additional benefits include increased longevity, neuroprotection, increased insulin sensitivity (store carbs as muscle glycogen rather than fat), stronger resistance to stress, increased mental clarity, among many others.

Overall, fasting is like setting a reset button for your entire body, putting your body into repair mode on a cellular level.

How to Implement

There are many fasting ‘protocols’ and I’d recommend experimenting to find what works best for you! That may mean simply skipping a meal a couple of times a week and just tapping into your ‘hunger cues’, for me it means eating dinner around 8pm and not eating again until noon the next day (also known as a condensed eating window, probably the least daunting approach), you could do a single 24-hour fast, or alternate day fasting.

Now, fasting isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be a struggle, it should just come naturally. There are also some prerequisites that I’d advise you have in place before giving it a try: eating a relatively healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and minimizing stress. I also wouldn’t recommend IF to pregnant women.

Mark’s Daily Apple has plenty of good articles written on this topic if you’re interested in learning more.

Macronutrients 101

Macronutrients

Macronutrients – you may know them by their abbreviated name ‘macros’ or as made famous by the popular hashtag #IIFYM (If it fits your macros). We aren’t going to get into that whole thing in this post but I wanted to do some quick education on what they are and the roles they play in our body.

What are they?

Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body needs in large “macro” quantities as they supply you with energy. These three fuel sources are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Proteins

“The king of macronutrients,” proteins play a wide variety of important functions within your body but are the one that people tend to consume the least of.. Proteins are made up of smaller substances, called amino acids, which make up just about every tissue, cell, and chemical in your body. Each gram of protein that you ingest is composed of amino acids, combined in a specific structure and order. In most cases, proteins are rapidly deconstructed, unless your body has an immediate need for that particular protein, and then their amino acids are reordered, repurposed, and used to fill some other need within your system.  Some proteins form enzymes and hormones, others build and repair tissues.

Fats

The delicious, oft-misunderstood macronutrient. Made confusing by the low-fat craze of the 90s. I’m here to assure you that fat is not to be feared, but should rather by viewed as an essential part of a healthy diet. These nutrients are the most calorically dense, packing a powerful source of energy. Fats are also vital for the processing and absorption of many vitamins and minerals. They’ve also been shown to exert powerful benefits on the function of the immune system, heart, and brain. Bonus: they are extremely satiating.

Carbohydrates

Carbs superpower is their absorption rate and efficiency. Of the three macronutrients, they are the quickest to absorb and put to use. In order to be put to use, they must first be converted into glucose – which is actually a fairly simple process. Any glucose that isn’t immediately needed is turned into glycogen and tucked away in your liver and muscles for future use. They are great fuel for the central nervous system (your brain) and during high intensity exercise. An important thing to point out is that carbs are often demonized and people can be tricked into thinking that low- to no-carb eating is an effective diet plan. The key thing to keep in mind is that not all carbohydrates are created equal! Simple carbs, such as those found in white bread and sweets, lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and hunger pangs shortly after consumption, so it makes sense to avoid those. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are slow-burning. They contain significant amounts of fiber which help you feel full longer and are beneficial to consume around workouts.

If you’re interested in learning more about what your macronutrient ratio should be here is a good resource that addresses eating for your body type.