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What is Food? (Part 1 of 6)

When you think of the word food, what comes to mind first? Most will say “food is fuel”. I’ve said it. But in reality it’s more than that. It’s information. Medicine. Communication. Just think about that. Before western medicine our ancestors used plants and animal products to heal our bodies. Eastern medicine or traditional Chinese medicine uses herbal medicine and various mind and body practices to treat or prevent health problems.

By definition food is any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth. Food is much more than just “fuel” or “energy” or “calories”.

When we break down food purely in the physiological since we are talking about macronutrients, micronutrients, phytochemicals, zoochemicals, water, and more.

Let’s break down the macronutrients first. There are three (technically speaking four, but I’ll save that for another post), protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

The word protein comes from the Greek word protos, meaning first. Proteins are composed of amino acids that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of body tissues including skin, organs and muscles. They also play a large role in your immune system. When broken down in the gut they release a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK tells the pancreas to make certain enzymes to help digest the protein that is now sitting in your small intestine. Cells then put these protein parts to work making hormones, enzymes, structural proteins, and start building muscles. Protein has 4 calories per gram. The recommendation dietary allowance (RDA) for the amount of protein daily consumed is 0.8 grams per kilogram or about 0.36 gram per pound for generally healthy adults who are not exercising on a daily basis. That amount is really to stop protein deficiency.

If you do work out on a regular basis, then the recommendation is 1.4-2.0 g/kg or about 0.6-1g/lb of lean body mass. Lean body mass is weight minus fat mass. A 150lb person with 17% body fat, at 1g/lb lean mass would need 125g of protein daily.

If your training and job are intense and/or active, then you should be a little higher. If you are trying to gain weight or muscle, then your numbers would be a little higher.

Click here for a protein calculator  Click here to learn more about protein

You’ve probably also had someone tell you to be careful with how much protein you eat. Currently there is not research or studies that support that myth. Listen to your body if you’re eating too much it will tell you. Unless you have a kidney issues or renal function issues listen to your doctors, but everyone else is okay.

So what proteins should I eat?

Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables. Quality supplements are an easy way to consume protein if you have troubles meeting your daily intake. There are also BCAAs, branch chain amino acids, usually leucine, Iso-leucine, and valine. Those three amino acids the body cannot make and are acquired from food. Fun fact, the FDA is not allowed to place calorie count on the label because they are considered free proteins. However, they are the building blocks for protein they should be tracked as 1 gram equals 4 calories. BCAA supplementation is not necessary if you are reaching your protein goals. However, if you like to train regularly in a fasted state, or workout for longer than one hour, drinking BCAA can help prevent muscle breakdown.

Below are some good sources of protein:

Food Protein (grams)
3 ounces tuna, salmon, haddock, or trout 21
3 ounces cooked turkey or chicken 19
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt 17
½ cup cottage cheese 14
½ cup cooked beans 8
1 cup of milk 8
1 cup cooked pasta 8
¼ cup or 1 ounce of nuts (all types) 7
1 egg

100g Soybeans, mature seeds, raw

3 oz Ground beef




Source: USDA National Nutrient Database, 2015