Protein, Carbs, and Fat… Why Do We Care So Much?
By: Annette Baker & Marianne Lacko, Co-Owners of Nature’s Plate
In the world of nutrition, there’s probably nothing more confusing than advice about how we much of each macro nutrient we should eat. Over the years, this advice has shifted – fat has been vilified and then carbohydrates got a bad rap. Weight lifters and cross fitters tend to focus on protein (recommending as much as 50% of calories come from protein) – raw food proponents emphasize carbs (recommending 80% carbs, 10% fat, 10% protein)… so how do you know what’s best?
We’re going to suggest two concepts as an easy, common sense solutions:
- Eat real food
- Eat more plants
More on those in a minute… but first a little more about what’s wrong with focusing on macro nutrients so much.
Food does not equal macros.
This focus on macros leads to over simplification in categorization of foods and also leads us to label foods as completely good or bad based on that categorization. For example, meat has been lumped into the protein category, but even a “lean” chicken breast is about 10% fat and ground beef can be more than 50% fat. (All percentages are calculated based on percentage of calories.) Referring to meat as “protein” is confusing.
French fries – consistently called out as “carbs” – are actually about 50% fat and 5% protein – so less than half carbohydrate! And not we’re not trying to say French fries are healthy.
Vegetables are universally accepted as healthy (at least so far), and they are the hardest to fit into a macro focused system – broccoli florets are 26% protein, 10% fat, and 64% carbs – where does that fit in? Spinach is 30% protein and 14% fat!
Brown rice, white rice, and refined white sugar are all considered carbs – and they’re all viewed negatively as a consequence. There are huge differences. Brown rice is actually 5% protein, but more importantly, a cup of cooked brown rice provides 5 grams of fiber and 5% of our daily requirement for iron… and so much more that we’re just beginning to discover. Refined white sugar has none of that.
Most fruits are close to 100% carbohydrates, but they are abundant with phytonutrients that keep us healthy and fight disease – and fruit is the best source of soluble fiber.
In modern, western society, our issues are not whether we get enough protein (or any other macro nutrient)… our issues are all about getting too much – most importantly, too many calories overall. Focusing on macro nutrients doesn’t help. Rather than worrying about getting enough of a particular macro, a focus on micro nutrients and fiber – plentiful in whole plant foods – is the solution.
All of the “diseases of affluence” – cancer, heart disease, diabetes – are linked to over-consumption but under-nutrition. Lots of calories but not enough nutrition.
Phyto nutrients (from plants) and fiber are increasingly identified as the most important aspects of a healthy diet. So to cut through all the confusion, just focus on whole, unprocessed foods and Eat More Plants!
All nutrition data and percentages from nutritiondata.com based on USDA data and analysis
Written by: Annette Baker and Marianne Lacko, co-owners of Nature’s Plate, provider of fresh plant-based meals, snacks and bakery items.
Nature’s Plate is located at 10233 E Northwest Highway #432, Dallas, 469-307-4217 or online www.naturesplate.biz