Micronutrients, Whole Foods & Why Social Media Sucks.

Last week we discussed the principles of energy expenditure for weight (ideally fat) loss. If you'd like to read about how to guarantee you can lose weight in last week's article please click here.


If you managed to put yourself in a small calorie deficit each day (including the weekend) of last week, then congratulations; you will have already lost a small amount of weight. It may not be too noticeable JUST yet but remember point two; change comes from consistent action!


Six to eight weeks down the line and you could have some really promising results without starving yourself, eliminating food groups completely or potentially damaging your metabolism.


Health Matters


Last week it pained me to write "a calorie is a calorie" - because although this statement is true and you can " lose 27 lbs (12.2kg) from only eating "twinkies and Doritos" in two months" it doesn't reflect your health.


Health is so much more than what you look like. Deep health refers to a whole-person approach consisting of six primary dimensions:


  1. Physical Health

  2. Mental Health

  3. Emotional Health

  4. Existential Health

  5. Relational-social Health

  6. Environmental Health

More on deep health soon.


But for now, I want to tell you that you can count calories all day every day, but what you put into your body is going to affect your physical, mental & emotional health all at the same time; and here's why...



Let Me Introduce You To Vitamins & Minerals


The word vitamin comes from the Latin "vita", or "life" and rightly so since vitamins are organic compounds that we need to live and thrive.


Although they do not directly contribute to energy metabolism [1] vitamins DO participate in metabolic processes such as growth, repair, digestion, energy transfer, nervous system function, and immunity.


Minerals are compounds that we absorb, mostly through feeding, from the surface of the earth. Via plants and animals, we ingest minerals and as such, your environment and the source of your food can greatly affect its mineral quality.


Minerals, like vitamins, do not directly affect energy expenditure but are vital for building body structures like teeth and bones, regulating body fluids and are co-factors in enzymatic reactions [2].


Grouping vitamins and minerals together can also be known as micronutrients and if the above wasn't enough to convince you I'll do my best below to give some examples of why it's essential to incorporate micronutrients into ANY diet.


Micronutrient Functions


So here are a few examples of the importance of making sure you include vitamins and minerals into your diet:


Vitamin A: Found in animal products (retinol, retinal, retinoic acid) & plants (carotenoids - in carrots or peppers, colors yellow, orange and red).


Involved in [2] :


  • Forming pigments in the eye (carrots DO help you see better in the dark)


  • Synthesizing proteins


  • Immune function and wound healing


  • Embryonic development


  • Stem cell differentiation


  • Red blood cell development


  • Bone health, remodeling, and gene expression


  • Correct cell differentiation (which helps reduce the risk of cancer cells from forming)


Not getting enough Vitamin A can result in:



  • Difficulty seeing in dim light

  • Dry eyes

  • Rough/dry skin

  • Acne


Need I go on? This is ONE vitamin out of 13 ( A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate) key groups all with different chemical cousins that are CRUCIAL for your health.


I could write a massive list, but I won't. I'll just give you one more example of why minerals are so important.


The mineral Calcium: Found in dairy, dark green vegetables, beans, nuts & seeds and fish.


Involved in [2] :


  • Transmitting nerve impulses

  • Muscle contraction

  • Hormone secretion

  • Forming teeth and bone

  • Acting as a co-founder for enzymes


Not getting enough Calcium can result in:


  • Poor bone metabolism (e.g low bone density, rickets in children)

  • Muscle stiffness & cramps

  • Low blood pressure

I don't think another example is needed to highlight the importance of minerals in the diet; of which there are 15 others (phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, and selenium, molybdenum, chromium, and fluoride).


Why Social Media Pi**es Me Off


So, taking into account what we now know. Although calories are extremely important for energy balance and thus body composition, they don't really have a leg to stand on when it comes to talking about our health (as long as your getting the balance right). Take a look at the picture below and reflect:



As you can see this post highlights the calorie content of one Dominoes pizza and one "healthy snack". Stating that since there are fewer calories in a pizza it could be considered a better option for body composition purposes. However, look at the micronutrient break down of ONE brazil nut vs a WHOLE Dominoes pizza:


One Brazil Nut MICROnutrient density:


  • 109 milligrams (mg) of phosphorus

  • 99 mg of potassium

  • 56 mg of magnesium

  • 24 mg of calcium

  • 0.61 mg of zinc

  • 0.36 g of iron

  • 0 mg of sodium


Small Dominoes Meat Lovers Italian Crust:


  • 2570 mg of Sodium


Oh, by the way, that's OVER the recommended daily guidelines of your 2400 mg of daily sodium. And here's what too much sodium can do to your body:


  • Increased fluid volume and edema

  • Nausea and/or vomiting

  • Diarrhea and/or abdominal cramps


It's posts like this that grind my gears because they're designed to attract your attention and quickly highlight information that meets popular demand without taking into account the after-effects of such information.


Even though this post doesn't say specifically "pizza is healthier than a fruit smoothie and nuts", in my opinion, it's promoting that message and I'm here to tell you - it's wrong.


Jumping on the back of the protein marketing bandwagon doesn't help either. And contrary to popular belief due to "documentaries" like Game Changers 30g of protein from grass-fed beef and 30g of protein from peanut butter are comepletely different.


Why?


Because they have different micronutrient properties and thus a large variance on the metabolic processes that will occur in your body once consumed.


There's also 92g of processed carbohydrates in that dominoes that will do nothing but spike your blood sugar and likely get stored as fat (unless you've just run a marathon).


Whereas most of the calories from the left-hand option come from the naturally occurring fats in the nuts that contain HUGE amounts of essential vitamins and minerals as we just discussed.


These will most likely be in an easily digestible (bioavailable) format and can contribute to so much more than just our calories for the day! But our overall metabolic function and thus health!


I mean really, when has anyone ever finished a dominoes pizza and felt good?


Next week we'll be diving into macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) and why any diet should contain ALL of them.


Eat More Whole & Fewer Process Foods


So you can probably tell where I'm going with this. Yes, eat as many calories that meet the energy demands of you as an individual. But ensure that the food you do consume is nutrient-dense and of as good a quality as possible.


To ensure you're eating nutrient-dense foods you need to eat whole foods. Here are a few simple and practical ways you can tell if your diet consists of whole or processed foods:


In general, whole foods:


  • Can be recognized by what they used to be. E.g fruit looks the same in a shop as it did when growing.


  • Don't come in any packaging. Other than what's necessary to stop them from leaking or rolling around.


  • They don't have ingredients labels. There are exceptions, but meat is meat, vegetables are vegetables, grains are grains.


  • Take a minimum number of steps to get to you. Recognize how much manipulation the food had to undergo to arrive in front of you.


  • Typically go bad fairly quickly. Exceptions include dried beans, nuts, extra-virgin olive oil but most whole food perish rapidly.


And the opposite can be said for processed foods. Aka, if it keeps for a long time, took multiple steps of manipulation to get in front of you, has a large ingredients label and isn't recognizable as it's original products - it's probably junk. Say like, a dominies pizza?


There are other great reasons why eating whole foods is so damn good, not only do they contain appropriate micronutrient density (not getting all your sodium in one hit) but they generally can help with the bioavailability of other whole foods.


By bioavailability I mean the molecules whole foods contain are more easily digestible for our gut. But more on gut health in the following weeks.


Conclusions


I hope you enjoyed this week's read. I've tried to sum up the main points below so that hopefully you can take away, and begin to implement, some of this knowledge. Remember, the key is consistency - so make small but manageable changes based in the following:


  • Energy balance (calories) is the number one factor when it comes to weight loss.


  • Just because you're losing weight does not mean you're healthy


  • Deep health is made up of six categories ( physical, mental, emotional, existential, relational-social and environmental).

  • Having a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is crucial for the body's metabolic processes and building the body's structures.


  • Wheater a food is "healthy" or not shouldn't be defined by its calories but by its micronutrient quantity and quality


That's all for this week! Next week we'll be talking about macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) and how they fit into the puzzle that is weight (fat) loss and keeping a balanced and healthy diet,


Take care everyone,


Mike



References


[1] - https://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Metabolism.aspx

[2] - The Essentials of Nutrition and Coaching for fitness health and sport, Unit 2 The science o nutrition, Precision Nutrition, Book 2, Page 159-170

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