My inaugural Branco Nutrition Blog post! When Erin and I decided to create a Blog to complement the website and our services we wanted to make sure that it provided real actionable content for our readers. We want to avoid flashing a bunch of trendy terms coupled with a preaching tone and no real substance. Our goal is to provide you with realistic, actionable advice that makes you think. Hopefully with a bit of personality too. Anyways here it goes…
Probably one of the most common questions we receive is “What do you think of (insert random diet here) “ or “Do you think I should eat (insert random food)?”. It’s no wonder these are common questions since we are constantly bombarded with information on “bad foods”, “super-foods”, high carb/low carb, high fat/low fat, Keto, Paleo, Oreo, Vegan, Vegetarian…(you get the idea) it becomes difficult to make sense of it all. Our answer is almost always…”that depends”. It depends on a few factors specific to the individual but before considering what the “best” diet is, we first need to try and understand what good nutrition is. Here are 4 points that we use to define good nutrition. Critically look at your diet or ingredient- if they meet these points then it’s a good start!
Good Nutrition is Nutrient Dense
Nutrient density is the ratio between a foods nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber etc) relative to its total calories. Food thats are nutrient dense have high quantities of vitamins and minerals to support body function such as cell function, energy transfer, muscle building etc compared to foods of the same calorie measure. For example 100cals of soda (under 1/2 can) contains 0.1g of protein and 0.1mg of Iron, and that’s pretty much it. The same 100 cals in spinach (12.5 cups) contains 12g of protein, 10g of fiber, 12.5mg iron, 2.5mg zinc 0.9mg of B6 to name a few. They provide the same amount of energy, but one gives you more bang for your buck. You’ve probably heard the term “empty calories”…the soda is the example here. I know what you’re thinking, “damn thats that’s a lot of spinach”, cola is more calorie dense than spinach, we’ll get into that another time.
You may be tempted to consume the majority of your micronutrients through supplements. Supplements have their place, but real food comes first!
One thing to note is we are not speaking about macronutrients ratios- Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein. Recommended macronutrient ratios are dependant on the individual’s activity level, body type, and goals. They should meet nutrient density and the other points mentioned below.
Good Nutrition Supports Energy Balance
Energy balance is really just the relationship between energy in (food) and energy out (body function and activity). Increased energy in (past certain thresholds) will increase body mass and can start to affect health factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. Inversely, a reduction in calories below what is needed will result a decrease in body mass. But wait…an uncontrolled or extreme change in energy balance can also have very negative effects on your metabolism, hormones, and performance. Energy and food consumption should support your goals in a safe and sustainable way, striking a balance between moving you towards your goal, but supporting body function. If you think you have good nutrition but are still over or under your goal weight, energy balance and quantity may be the area to dig into.
Good Nutrition Achieves health, body composition and performance goals
This is the time where I’m supposed to say things like “Body composition is 90% nutrition” and my personal favorite “Abs are built in the kitchen!”. Well I guess that’s true, but the takeaway is that good nutrition also needs to support YOUR goals. My cliche examples are more around weight loss but the concept of nutrition supporting goals could also be for someone wanting to bulk up and put on muscle, get their diabetes in check, lower cholesterol, fuel sports performance or just feel better. You could be on what is considered the best diet on the planet, if it doesn’t help reach your goal maybe it’s not the best strategy for you.
Good Nutrition is achievable and sustainable
This may be the most important point for your long term success. It’s a common tale of individuals starting a new very restrictive nutrition plan, do great for a few weeks and fall off the wagon. Unfortunately these people almost always take the blame on themselves and see it as a failure on their part. Was it the individual that failed, or did the plan they followed not meet them where they were at? Being able to execute the plan is a key to success, but what if what’s required is unreasonable, extreme, or too advanced for the individual? It seems these days everything has to be extreme to get results. “Oh what’s that? You’re on a great new diet! Cool! So all you have to do is eat nothing of anything, no carbs except on full moons from 1-1:07am, drink $300 a month in herbal tea topped with locally sourced New Zealand lactose free Llama milk, and drip gypsy tears on free range avocados.” I know I’m being ridiculous but sometimes I swear I’m not far off. A good plan should meet the individual where they currently are and slowly and effectively evolve over time as the person does. So much of nutrition is based on habits and relationship with food. Small effective changes have a better long lasting success rate. Play the long game.
Bonus: Environmentally Sustainable
It would be silly for me to not mention something about environmental sustainability. In today’s world, climate change and how we effect the environment should be on everyone’s mind. Food sourcing and how we produce food is a large contributor to greenhouse gas production. In 2016 transportation accounted for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and a large portion of that was in freight, aviation and rail- all ways food gets to us. Factory farms are also a large contributor to Co2 emissions. Locally sourced foods have a lower carbon footprint as well as support local businesses! You may not be able to get all your food locally or year round, but supplementing with locally sourced ingredients makes a difference and also grows the local supply chain. Look for food sourced in your city, and work your way out into region, province, country and so on. I hear the moon makes a great pie but I like all my foods to come from earth (that was a dad joke).
What to do next: Look at your current diet and take the 4(5) points I’ve presented here and see how well they align. If they do then you’re well on your way to dialing in your nutrition, if not that’s ok! Small progressive and sustainable changes will get you there!
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I’m off to find some of those free range avocados…
-Paulo, Your Nutrition Coach
Essentials of Sports and Exercise Nutrition (2012) J. Berardi, R.Andrews
Canadian Nutrient File : https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/index-eng.jsp
Environment and Climate Change Canada (2018) Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Greenhouse gas emissions. Consulted on Month day, year. Available at: www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmentalindicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html.