You and your friend are driving behind a truck of crated chickens trying to figure out how you can rescue them. Crack! Two of the crates bounce off the truck and onto the pavement. Your friend swerves to avoid fowl play, stops the car and the two of you jump out. You grab some disoriented birds and pop them into the back seat. You run around the car to open the other door for your buddy who has her arms full of feathered friends. She grabs the door before you and knocks you in the head. The next thing you realize is that you are in a hospital and have been asleep for two days. What are you getting in that tube feeding? Glucose – the fuel and carbohydrate that runs your body.
Your body will rip apart anything it needs to make a specific protein. But, if you are low on carbs, your body will rip apart anything to make glucose. Your brain doesn’t run on fish flesh, it runs on glucose. In fact, if you wanted to get some great brain food, choose eggplant. Yes, if you want to increase your mental acumen, nosh on baba ganoush with walnut butter instead of tahini.
When it comes to protein, your body makes most of the amino acids you need out of all kinds of different foods. Your body doesn’t think, “Hey, that’s broccoli, hmm, send it down and only use the anti-oxidants. Send the rest down the BIG TUBE.”
Your body looks at all the chemical components of broccoli and sends calcium where you need it, antioxidants where you need them, and then may rip apart another molecule and send some of the amino acids to make your eye blink or pancreas excrete insulin. Your body is smart and uses what it has to create what it needs. That being said, it is necessary to eat nine amino acids for your body to complete all its various functions. Those specific amino acids are called, Essential Amino Acids, coming from the German word, Essen, which means to eat.
Because your body does more than build muscles, you need unrefined carbohydrates and starches. One of the most important things your body does is get rid of what it doesn’t want. For that, you need fiber. Animal products do not have any fiber.
Why do you need fiber? Because everyone wants a smooth move. Think about a celery rib. Break it in half. Those long strands of celery that can get stuck in your teeth is a great visual of fiber. Like a broom, fiber sweeps out your intestinal tract. If you happen to eat something with more cholesterol than you can handle, fiber can help remove the extra. If you want to decrease a slam to your blood sugar, fiber is key.
The average American eats about 15 grams of fiber a day. The recommendation is 25-30 grams. Personally, I shoot for 35 grams a day. An easy way to see if the foods you are eating are getting you enough fiber is to check them out on a nutrition breakdown, such as the National Nutrition Database of the United States Department of Agriculture. A good rule of thumb is part of what I call “The Magic Threes.” When measuring fat or fiber you look for the number three. For fat, you want the fat per serving to be three grams or less. For fiber, you want the fiber per serving to be three grams or more. Three cups of air-popped popcorn has over three grams of fiber and one gram of fat. Three cups of regular microwave popcorn has 2.7 grams of fiber and almost 5 grams of fat.
There is a normal state of the body turning fat into energy called, ketosis. When your body doesn’t have enough glucose to run the body and brain, it will create this substance called ketones. Your brain will deal with a certain amount of ketones instead of glucose. This is what the “No Carb Diet of the Week” expects you do to – cut carbs so that you go into a state of ketosis. However, if you cut back too far on the carbs, you can put your body into real trouble in the short term by lowering the pH of the blood and going into uncontrolled ketosis called, ketoacidosis. This is a life threatening state and needs immediate medical attention.
On the other hand, a less dramatic lack of glucose can cause issues in the body as well. For those on a high protein diet, there are a whole host of issues that can occur when this type of eating regime is done long term.
As so many things in life, some protein is great, but there is a limit that your body can handle.
Image source: 10 Ways to Cook With Eggplant