Ben Warren is a leading Clinical Nutritionist and Clinical Director of scientific, holistic health company, BePure.
Finding out what food your unique body thrives on is one of the greatest things you can do to improve your health, vitality and ultimately your quality of life.
When you eat the right ratio of protein, fats and carbs for your body, you ultimately support your health, energy, mood and levels of satisfaction after eating.
- Study of Kiwi diet reveals good, bad and ugly
- Learn to eat, eat to learn': The doctor taking on childhood obesity in Glen Innes
A way of eating that I follow and recommend to clients is based on a combination of our genetics and lifestyle influences. This recognises that each of us has a unique body and lifestyle, meaning which combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates - also known as your Macronutrient Profile - best serves us is personal.
Breaking it down, this means that some of us do well eating mostly protein and fats, known as "protein types", while others are "carb types" and thrive off plant-based proteins, which are higher in complex carbohydrates. Another group are "mixed types" who require an equal amount of carbs, fats and proteins at every meal. You can also exist on a spectrum of both mixed and carb or protein type.
Figuring out what foods you thrive on can seem daunting. A great place to start is by simply looking at your meal before you begin eating to see what your plate is constructed of. Is there a good source of protein, or are there more carbs and fruits? Do you have a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil or nuts? Once you are aware of what exactly is on your plate, you can then gauge how you feel after eating and find whether it's served you well.
Our bodies are incredibly intricate and clever. They are constantly trying to tell us what they need and we simply need to learn how to listen to them. Keeping a journal or taking note of how you feel after each meal is a great way of taking notice of your body's biofeedback of what you've eaten.
Six signs you're eating right for you:
When first making changes to what you eat and experimenting with different ratios of protein, fats and carbohydrates, it's helpful to remember there is a period of adjustment if you have some degree of metabolic dysregulation. If you've been eating foods that don't serve you, it may take a month or more to feel all of these benefits below. Read on to get started.
- How full do you feel?
You should feel full for four or five hours between meals. This is a sign that the foods you are eating are being simulated effectively by your body and stabilising your blood sugar levels. The exception being if you've been active and require a post-workout snack, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are recovering from adrenal fatigue.
2. Do you get hungry or ravenous before you eat?
If your last meal was sufficient to your needs, hunger should creep up on you and not come on suddenly and ravenously. Based on this you should be able to make good food choices rather than rash decisions that can result in the likes of eating on the run.
3. How are your energy levels?
You should feel energised for the whole time between meals. Obviously this doesn't factor in stress, lack of sleep or physical exertion, but you shouldn't feel sleepy, heavy or lethargic.
4. Do you get cravings?
With stable blood sugar levels after eating, you shouldn't have urgent or insatiable cravings for salty or sugary foods. I once had a client who was eating a well-constructed low-carb diet believing it the best approach to manage blood sugar levels and sugar cravings. However, we found she was actually a "mixed type", meaning she functioned best on a mix of protein, fats and carbs. Despite never eating sugary foods or a lot of fruit, she always had sugar cravings at 3pm. Once we introduced some slow releasing carbs like kumara, pumpkin, quinoa and brown rice these cravings gradually disappeared.
5. How satisfied are you after eating?
You should feel satisfied with the meal you've just eaten. Rummaging around in the fridge after lunch or dinner is often a sign you haven't eaten enough of the right food types in your previous meal.
6. How do you feel after eating an apple?
A quick way to find out your food needs is simply through trial and error. How do you feel after an apple? If I eat an apple on its own (a carbohydrate), I'm basically hungrier after eating it than when I began, as it spikes my blood sugar levels hugely. My wife, Lynda, can eat an apple and be full for 2-3 hours, as she's more of a carb type.
It will take you a while to work through all of this on your own. Simply because we all exist on a continuum somewhere between being a protein/fat type (like me) and a carb type. Some people will require a mix, or be slightly more towards one end than the other.
At BePure we utilise a macronutrient profile questionnaire to find what combination of carbs, fats and proteins may suit your body best. However, following the six tips above and learning to listen to your body during and after eating to see how you feel is a perfect place to start in understanding what foods are right for you.