Key 2 – Make Every Meal Smartly Balanced

Make EVERY MEAL SMARTLY BALANCED. The major macronutrient groups, carbohydrates, fat and protein with a carbs:fat:protein energy value distribution of approximately 50:30:20 to contribute optimally to your health.

Smart Health balanced distinguishes between the quality of the major macronutrient groups. Carbohydrates (also discussed on another page) differ in quality like black and white. Take two sources of carbohydrate for instance – Icing sugar has very little in common with a plate of bean soup. The fat present in avocado is a lot different from the white fat you find on biltong. Chicken breast is a clean source of protein unlike tinned bully beef, which contains too much saturated fat and sodium.

Following the example of the Mediterranean diet, using the models of the Blue Zone communities, and in accordance with modern global consensus, it is unlikely that there can be much improved on the carbs:fat:protein energy value distribution of approximately 50:30:20. It is a sustainable and risk free mix – provided you follow the other keys on a consistent basis. Aiming for a balanced meal at every ocasion will keep your energy levels stable throughout the day.

High protein diet: 20% of total kJ boils down to consuming 1.0 – 1.5g protein per kg body weight, which is in the middle of the recommended 0.8g protein per kg body weight for sedentary persons and 1.2 – 1.7g protein per kg body weight for athletes. Consuming more than this amount of protein per day (i.e. about 50 – 150g for 50 – 100kg persons) increases your risk for osteoporosis (100g pure protein is found in about 430g meat, fish, chicken or cheese). This is because proteins are made up of amino acids and these have to be neutralized by the body by drawing alkaline calcium out of the bones. In addition, this type of diet is usually low in calcium (unless a lot of dairy products are consumed), which increases your chances of developing osteoporosis and/or arthritis, if followed for any length of time. High intakes of meat, fish and chicken and low intakes of starch, fruit and dairy products often leads to high purine levels predisposing to gout. A high protein diet also usually taxes the kidneys, especially if too little carbs are consumed, when the body has to use expensive protein for energy, before it can start to be used for muscle building and repair. A high protein diet (especially from animal products red meat and dairy) also predisposes to heart disease and cancer. There is thus no need and only risks associated with consuming a diet that is more than 20% protein.

High fat low carb diet: This diet permits the consumption of unlimited amounts of fat without distinguishing between bad (detrimental) saturated and trans fats and good (beneficial) mono-unsaturated (MUFAS) and poly-unsaturated fat (PUFAs), which include omega-3 and omega-6. Followers of this diet are also wrongly informed that omega-6 PUFAs are very bad for you, whereas the truth is that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is important. As most people do not eat any or very little omega-3 rich products like salmon, pilchards, mackerel, trout or other fatty fish, their consumption of omega-6 rich products are relatively too high. The minute they include a portion of fatty fish or an omega-3 supplement every day, this is corrected. On the high fat diet, the use of cream and/or butter or full cream milk in tea or coffee is encouraged and you are not required to remove the visible fat (mostly saturated) off bacon, chops, etc. The use of coconut oil, coconut cream and coconut milk is encouraged, which is very high in bad saturated plant. Regular portions of protein is allowed, but often, as bad, saturated fat is not limited, too much protein in the form of meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, dried wors, etc. are consumed with all the bad animal fat. This diet is 70-80% fat, coming mainly from saturated fat, which is a far cry from the Mediterranean diet (see below).

At first glance this sounds wonderful, but this is again not an ideal diet to follow:

  • In the long run it is no longer fun to eat bacon and eggs without toast for breakfast every morning, or to eat cheese without bread, or to eat meat, fish and chicken without any rice, potato or other starch.
  • In addition, this type of high fat high protein eating can lead to all sorts of lifestyle diseases, i.e. diabetes, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and/or high triglycerides), etc., including cancer. What the proponents of the high fat and/or high protein diets don’t know and thus can’t inform you about, is that all the cell membranes of your body consist of all the fat you eat and that the bad trans and saturated fat makes your cell membranes more rigid, predisposing you to lifestyle diseases, whereas the unsaturated fat cause your cell membranes to function better, reducing risk of lifestyle diseases.  The Mediterranean diet is 37-40% fat, but comes mainly from healthy MUFAs and omega-3 PUFAS with very little saturated fat.
  • It may seem that since carbohydrates initiate an insulin response in the body and because insulin is a fat storer, avoiding carbohydrates should be the best course of action. Not so! Protein elicits an insulin response, and both protein and fat have a delayed effect on blood glucose levels. Low GI carbohydrates only have a small effect on blood glucose levels and thus don’t cause a major insulin response and whole grains can improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. Even higher GI carbohydrates have a small effect on blood glucose levels during endurance exercise and after exercise, when insulin is switched off. Thus eating the right kind of carbohydrate at the right time will keep blood glucose and insulin levels within normal limits with no health risks.
  • When you try to cut out carbohydrate, the strangest thing happens – you start craving something, mostly sweets, baked goodies, crisps and/or nuts and tend to over consume these. Some people even eat more meat or consume more alcohol, to try and silence the cravings. In the end those on low carb diets consume the high GI high bad fat carbs most of the time, which are the real “bad guys”. So eat your good, slowly digestible, low GI, whole grain carbs and you won’t crave the bad, rapidly digestible, high GI carbs, but will be able to reserve then for during endurance and after exercise, when your body really needs them and can handle them without health risks.
  • In addition, all the disadvantages of the high protein, low carbohydrate diet apply here as well. Cutting out whole grains and fruit has many disadvantages, i.e. less total fibre is consumed, predisposing to constipation, diverticulosis and cancer, less soluble fibre is consumed which usually helps to bind and lower cholesterol, less prebiotics are consumed which is very important for gut health and immunity and less vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, plant sterols and phytochemicals are consumed, as only certain very low carb vegetables are allowed.

Consider this: A meal of 120g or more of fatty meat, fish, chicken or cheese with no starch and only a portion vegetables or salad covered in oil can be replaced by a meal consisting of 60-90g lean meat, fish or chicken (about ¼ plate), 1 – 2 portions of low GI starch (about ¼ plate) and vegetables or salad (about ½ plate). You get the same kilojoules (calories) with less fat as even the leanest meat and chicken contains fat, whereas most pure starches are fat free! This last meal is better balanced, gives you more energy, is better for sustained energy and is easy to follow for the rest of your life!

Fat is fattening, especially as it is very dense and contains more than double the kJ of protein and fat. Carbohydrates are not fattening, unless a lot is consumed together with a lot of fat, causing your total kJ intake to be too high. So, watch your portions, especially if you need to lose weight, prefer low GI (slowly digestible) carbs and limit higher GI carbs (rapidly digestible carbs) for during endurance and after exercise, as doing this also reduces your risk of lifestyle diseases.