A healthy diet is essential to getting quality energy, fending off disease, and reaching your ultimate health and fitness goals. If you’re not in the habit of taking in the proper foods and nutrients for your body, though, your system won’t be functioning at its most efficient level, and can cause and prolong illness and disease.
So it’s extremely important to really know exactly what you’re eating, and what a healthy diet actually consists of. Let’s take a look at a couple of “food fads” to try to better understand each, and what we should know before taking on the next popular diet.
One of the biggest fads spreading around right now is the “protein craze”, which basically suggests that anything labeled as a “good source of protein” is automatically considered healthy. What most people don’t know is that the average diet actually satisfies most people’s necessary protein intake, without even trying. The recommended daily intake of protein for the average person is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. So for a male weighing 160 pounds, that equates to about 58 grams of protein a day. That may seem like a lot, but lets add some context. One 4oz. chicken breast contains about 36 grams of protein. So, if you have chicken for one of your meals throughout the day, you’re algready getting about 62% of your daily recommended intake of protein, in one serving of chicken! That’s not even taking into account the other 2-4 meals you’ll eat in the day.
The lesson: Protein is an amazing thing, but don’t stress about eating only high-protein foods, because you’re probably getting enough as is.
Another huge trend out there is the no-carb diet. Now there’s plenty of research on either side to support carb, low-carb, and no-carb, and a lot of it has to do with the activity level of every individual. When it comes to advocating in favor of one or the other, most studies conclude that further research is needed. But the fact of the matter is that carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy. And for an average individual with normal activity levels, carb intake supports proper brain function, provides an essential energy source, and even helps with the metabolism of fat. The average daily recommended intake of carbs is about 135g, but this again depends on activity level, where higher carbs should be consumed if you’re more active.
The lesson: Carbs aren’t the enemy, so long as you’re making sure to stay moving so that you’re always using and burning off what you’re consuming.
These two fads above, and lots of the food trends circulating around, relate primarily to macronutrient intake. Macronutrients are energy-yielding nutrients and consist of proteins, fats, and carbs. They are broken down in some way shape and form to fuel the body. When people “count their macros,” they’re basically referring to the practice of breaking down their diet according to these different nutrients.
But again, a large majority of us already get the recommended daily amount of different nutrients (and in some cases, like fat, we might be getting a little too much). What a large majority of us don’t get enough of, though, are certain micronutrients. These are non-energy-yielding nutrients: vitamins and minerals. They aren’t energy-yielding because they don’t get broken down to fuel the body. Instead, they help transport macronutrients, aid in bodily function, help prevent illness, etc.
That’s why it’s important to also understand the role that taking vitamins can play in your daily life. Some of the most common vitamin and mineral deficiencies are iron, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, and calcium. If you are tracking your food consumption and notice that you aren’t eating a ton of vegetables, or maybe you don’t eat a lot of meat, you might have one of the above deficiencies. And even with a healthy, balanced diet, it’s not uncommon for you to fall short when it comes to these micronutrients. A proper blood test must be taken to truly calculate vitamin and mineral levels, but if you know that your diet may be lacking in certain areas, taking supplemental vitamins can help prevent deficiencies and make you feel healthier, more energized, and help fight off common illnesses like the cold and flu.
So don’t worry too much about those fad diets trending out there telling you that protein is king and carbs are the killer. Eating a well-rounded diet will provide you with all the macronutrients you need. Instead, focus on your micronutrient intake to make sure that you are eating the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals that will make you stronger, healthier and happier.