This video is called general rules about nutrition because it applies to most people but not everyone. As always, getting personalised advice and overtime figuring out what works for you is important to make sure certain combinations of foods is right for you.
The first general rule about nutrition is – aim for most of the time to be eating whole and real foods for example vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. The opposite of this which you want to keep to a limit are processed and refined foods like processed fats that you would find in fried foods, biscuits and baked goods, processed meats like sausage rolls, hot dogs etc, refined carbohydrates like sugary soft drinks or sodas and white bread. Pretty simple.
As I said in the last video, not all fats are equal, not all proteins are equal and not all carbs are equal. Often people oversimplify these food groups and say things like “fat is bad” or “carbs are bad”, and that is oversimplifying it. Some fats are bad and some carbs are bad, but some fats are very good and some carbs are very good. So let’s break these down.
Carbohydrates are sources of energy that can range from simple carbohydrates like sugar to complex carbohydrates like starch and indigestible forms like fibre. In a very basic way, they are like long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms, and the longer those chains are, the more complex the carbohydrate is. When you eat carbohydrates the body digests and breaks these chains up if it can into simple sugars and uses these as energy, which our cells need like car engines need fuel. The simpler the carbohydrates the quicker it gets released into our blood, which is called the glycaemic index, which I will describe in the next video.
So the general rule is – complex carbohydrates are better than simple carbohydrates most of the time. But sometimes we need simple carbs like sugar for a quick energy hit, say if we are doing lots of exercise. So they have their place.
If the gut cannot digest a carbohydrate then this is called fibre, and it passes through our gut and reaches the end called the colon, where it either helps us poop or the healthy bacteria break them down and do good things for us. The next general rule is – fibre is very good for us and most people are not getting enough.
Then we have fats.
As a general rule – stick to oils and fats that are naturally occurring like olive oil and avocados. And avoid processed and refined oils like certain vegetable oils and trans-fats that are in biscuits and cakes that are definitely not good for you.
The other general rule is – unsaturated fats are good for you, like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats in vegetables, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Trans-fats are bad for you and saturated fats are controversial. Most guidelines suggest we limit the amount of saturated fats in our diet and these come from animal fats like fatty red meat, cream and butter and baked goods. Often these are added to other foods like milk chocolate, so the original dark chocolate might actually be good for you, but the added milk fats are not. The reason saturated fat is a controversial topic is because there are many types of saturated fat, some look to be bad for us and others that may not be too bad for us. Overall though, the bad ones are more common and so it is best to focus on healthy fats like the naturally occurring unsaturated fats.
And the final general rule for fats is – it is ok to cook with extra virgin olive oil. Studies have shown it has a very high heat tolerance and is quite safe to cook with.
As for proteins – there are animal sources of protein, like meat, and plant sources of protein like beans, legumes, beans, grains etc. Evidence shows that vegetarians who don’t eat animal meat still get enough protein in their diets if they eat healthily and a diverse range of foods. So you don’t have to eat meat. However, if you want to eat meat, then aim for animals that are raised in an environment that most closely mimics their original environments, so cows are grass fed, chickens are free range and so on. Small studies have shown grass-fed beef is higher in healthy fats versus long term grain fed beef.
And finally – is animal protein or vegetable protein better for you? This is a much-debated area with no clear answers. However multiple studies support protein sources that are rich in plant protein, with some animal sources such as grass-fed meat, fish, and poultry.