While walking the aisles of the Publix grocery store while on vacation it is clear how obsessed the American culture is with ‘fortification’ and ‘more or less’ fat or carbs.  They even have Hershey Chocolate Syrup, “now enriched with Calcium!”  Canadian culture is no different (hey, we’ve got Smarties that say “no artificial colours!” because hot pink candy-coated chocolate is natural?!?), but most packaged goods’ innovations come from the US so you tend to see a greater assortment of these types of products here.  One thing that really ‘erks’ me is when you see all the claims on nuts and beans that they are “a good source of protein!”  Do they have protein? Yes.  Should you rely on nuts and beans to get your adequate protein for a day? NO.  This is where the claims fall short and I believe some people are likely led to believe that they can eat nuts and beans as their main source of protein and be nutritionally balanced.  
Let’s look at an example:

  • Take me: on an average day I eat around 70g-80g of Protein, 50-60g Carbs (from veggies/fruit) and 65-75g Fat.  For Protein, this equates to about 10 ounces of chicken = 554 calories, 22g fat, 0g carb, 82g Protein.  
  • To get the same amount of protein in almonds, I would need to eat 2 + 3/4 Cups = 2,241 calories, 196g fat, 76g carb.   
  • To get the same amount of protein in beans, I would need to eat 7 Cups of Garbanzo (chick peas) beans = 1,999 calories, 19g fat, 380g carbs

One thing is for certain, both the bean and almond option would probably send me on a one-way visit to fart-town.  But seriously, the amount of almonds that I would need to eat would almost double my caloric and fat content for the day – and that doesn’t include eating anything else!  With the beans, my carb content would be enormous and send my insulin shooting up – because the carb load is so excessive, most of it would be converted to fat (gah!).  If you follow the Paleo diet, you also understand beans are not an acceptable food due to their high lectin load which acts similar to gluten and can irritate your gut (for more on that read Robb Wolf’s FAQ page).  

The lesson here is that almonds/nuts are great in small doses for adding fat into your diet and will top up your protein, but should not be used as your primary protein source.  Include some lean meat each time you eat to keep your metabolism running and promote the usage of body fat for energy.  If you are a vegetarian you need to rely on Tempeh or Tofu (Only Organic!) to get your protein.  Mark’s Daily Apple did a great post ranking the best protein sources and which one’s to avoid and why.  This site also has recommendations for Vegetarians, so it’s a great reference.

Example of 1 Day Meal: Special K Diet

It’s that time of year where we get hammered with new dieting fad’s and weight loss ‘miracles’. Aside from the “Smart Bite” – which is a mouth retainer that prevents you from chewing large bites (Why not just have your mouth wired shut or buy a tapeworm?) – I think that one of the most unhealthy and misleading ‘diets’ out there is the Special K diet. When I saw the commercial, I felt I had to go check out their recommended meal plans and analyze it (nerd alert!). The image at the top is the nutritional value of one of the day’s meal plans.  What you can see is pretty disheartening – it’s a low-fat / high-carb diet full of refined carbohydrates, sugar, corn syrup and other processed foods (mostly from the cereal and bar) with little green veggies and protein.  The worst part is that it meets Canada’s recommended food guide requirements – that’s a whole other big issue that I won’t get into today.  Back to Special K… If you go to their website you can choose from a few different meal plans – here is 1 example:

You can see that it includes 2 bowls of cereal and 1 of bar, along with some other food.   The only thing that I would consider eating in this entire meal plan are a couple of the lunches and dinners. The rest is basically garbage that will make you hungry, tired, less active and potentially sick if you continue to eat this way.  Check out the nutritional information on the cereal and bars:

 

Special K Almond Vanilla Cereal - Nutritional Info

 

Special K Chocolate Cereal Bar - Nutritional Info

Is there any mention of a real food ingredient?? Oh wait, there are almonds in the cereal…i stand corrected. Seriously, when the first few ingredients are gluten and sugar, you cannot honestly promote this as a healthy diet.

So what happens to your body when you eat like this?  I’m breaking this down into the most simplified explanation that I could come up with:

  1. You’re eating carbs for breakfast and lunch so your insulin will spike (especially after that PB and Banana sandwich)

  2. Insulin causes cells to stopping using fat as an energy source

  3. Insulin levels from excess carbs stimulate your liver to create Triglycerides which turns to Fat – They are made in the liver from any excess sugars which have not been used for energy 

  4. Insulin sensitivity will be impaired and you’ll require more insulin (carb cravings) to get the reaction your body is craving – therefore you will likely be starving and have little energy.

  5. There is no ‘good’ protien and therefore you are not balancing out the insulin with Glucagon and therefore preventing your body from using fat for energy

 And we wonder why people keep getting fatter and unhealthier despite all the ‘healthy options’ being pumped into the grocery stores.  Low-fat / High-Carb diets are obviously not working.

One of the other horrifying things that I found on their website in the Nutritional Articles section was this statement: “There is a misconception that starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes are fattening. In fact these foods are typically low in fat. They can however be made into a higher fat choice when margarine, butter, gravy, or rich cream or cheese sauces are added to them, or when they are deep-fried.”  I guess this statement is true, but it leaves out the pertinent fact that your body is going to convert those starchy foods to triglycerides which turns into fat, regardless of whether you smother it with butter.

I’m not suggesting that we should be eating Low-Carb and High-Fat because that can be interpretted in many different ways.  What I am recommending is that you take the Primal Challenge instead and see how much better you will feel once you fuel you body with what it needs to thrive.   Eat Meats (leaner is better), Veggies, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds and other good fats (Olive Oil, Advocado, Coconut Milk) – in that order.  I guarantee you will look better, feel better and perform better.

I could write about this topic for pages and pages, but I’ve tried to keep this succinct.  One good article that I would recommend reading for more information is from the Crossfit Journal in 2003.  Or check out Robb Wolf’s website because he has a plethora of great links and information.