Lifting the Lid on Nutritional Information: A Guide to Macronutrients

We want to make it easy and convenient for people to make informed nutritional choices whilst they’re busy and on the go, because what we eat impacts every area of our lives. To do this, we’re arming our customers with educational content from the industry’s leading professionals, such as The Gut Health Doctor. But we’ve also been working on our in-product experience too!

 

From this week, all Cloud Canteen customers can filter their menus by specific food goals. So whether you want to up your veggie intake with something plant-packed or you’re looking for a high-protein boost on your gym days, you can now filter and order meals depending on your specific goals.

 

We’re not stopping there though, we’re also working with our vendor community to provide the detailed macro breakdown for every meal on our platform. No long-winded, confusing statements – our goal is to provide credible, easy-to-understand data so our customers can make informed meal choices in line with exactly how they want to eat.

 

 

Here’s what this looks like in our menus:

 

But what does this information mean? 

To celebrate the launch of these new features, we’ve enlisted the help of guest editor Dr Clare Wyld for the first in a series: Lifting the Lid on Nutritional Information. We begin with the basics: Macronutrients – what are they, why do they matter and why are we displaying the full macro breakdown on all Feedr meals?

Dr Clare is a GP with over 12 years’ experience. In 2017, feeling frustrated by the ever-increasing need for pills with little improvements in her patient’s overall health she qualified as a Naturopathic Nutritionist. She now works part-time as a GP for the NHS and part-time as a private nutritional therapist. She is a member of BANT and CHNC and is also part of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine, a new and forward-thinking group promoting the use of lifestyle medicine within the NHS, enabling her to integrate the worlds of medicine and nutrition for the benefit of her patients.

Follow Dr Clare @wyldhealth and visit her website for more info: www.wyldhealth.co.uk

Macros: A Quick Overview 

Macros (macronutrients) are the main food groups: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The metric that we’re all familiar with is calories, energy released by our food, and these 3 groups are the 3 key constituent parts of our caloric intake. 

Every individual has different optimal levels of macros needed in their diet, and different food goals advocate varying percentage recommendations to achieve weight loss or maintenance, muscle building, fat loss etc. But the below is a typical recommended diet breakdown:

So why are macros important? The best way of answering this is to look at each in turn to see what they are and how they are used in our bodies.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates constitute all the sugars, starches and fibres in our diet. They gained a bad reputation in the 90s and early 00s with the explosion of the Atkins diet among others, and people often still fear them. But as we now know, different carbs have different qualities, so rather than avoiding them altogether, we should be reducing the highly processed and enjoying the unrefined, and here’s why. 

1.Fibre

Often overlooked because, unlike other carbs, our bodies don’t use it for energy, Fibre is a carbohydrate and is vitally important. Found in all veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds – it’s essential for normal bowel function, it helps to feed the good bacteria in our gut and it helps to slow down the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Shown to be beneficial for protection against colorectal cancer, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, we should be aiming for about 30g a day minimum.

What does 30g of fibre look like?

2. Starch and sugar

With the astronomical rise in processed food through this century, sugar has been top of  health experts agenda, but navigating the ever changing messaging around sugars can be hard. So what is the difference between starch and sugar and how does this relate to carbs? 

Starch and sugar are effectively the same to our bodies – where sugar from simple carbohydrates provides immediate glucose, starch is broken down into glucose molecules, and released more slowly by the body. So both starch and sugars provide much needed energy for when we need it, as well as being our brain’s preferred ‘food’. But for optimal health, we need to ensure we’re eating the right balance of starch and sugar providing carbs. 

Not all carbs are created equal! 

Simple sugars found in refined and processed foods (white bread, sugary cereals, baked goods) have become a staple to the western diet over the last half a century. These simple-carb loaded foods which are often fast and convenient lead to high levels of the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin, which promotes fat storage and a host of other medical impacts. So it’s no wonder we’re seeing increased rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes across the western world. 

But then if starch is treated in the same way by our bodies does this mean we need to avoid complex carbs too? No, because there is one big difference. Naturally occuring starch tends to come from fibre-rich carbohydrates, (think brown rice, potatoes with the skins on and whole wheat flour), have a lower glycemic index and break down much slower; limiting the sugar spikes that simple-carbs cause.

So, what’s the takeaway? We need to think a little more like our ancestors and swap convenient, processed simple-carb options for natural plant-derived alternatives. And how about those diets which promote cutting carbs altogether? Evidence suggests that doing this will have a long term detrimental impact, as you’ll end up losing precious fibre from your diet, which as we know is vital for optimal gut health.

Fats 

Avoided since the 80s and 90s fats finally seem to be back on the menu, but some people are still wary from the low-fat rhetoric of by gone days. Fats should not be maligned, without them we wouldn’t be worth much. Every single one of our cells is surrounded by a membrane made almost entirely of fats, not to mention all our hormones and inflammatory mediators, as well as vitamins and cholesterol, which are also composed of fat. They are important for our skin and brain health; they are essential to help lubricate our joints and to prevent degeneration of our eyes. 

There are two main types of fat:

Saturated fats 

Found in animal fats such as butter, lard, ghee and some vegetable fats, such as coconut and palm oil, as well as processed foods. They are more stable when heated so are often recommended for cooking, however they also tend to be more ‘pro inflammatory’ (inflammation causing).

Despite this, don’t shun all saturated fat but instead look for quality sources, for example butter from organically reared cows or virgin coconut oil and as with everything, moderation is key!

Unsaturated fats 

Unsaturated fats are a little more complicated. There are lots of different unsaturated fats but there are two key types that we should concentrate on as the body is unable to produce these – the essential fatty acids: omega 3(O3) and 6 (O6).

Evidence shows that historically our 03:06 ratio is optimal around 1:2, so for every 1g of Omega 3 we should consume 2g of Omega 6. But in the modern Western world this is now typically closer to 1:20! Eating a high proportion of O6 to O3 will lead to a more ‘pro-inflammatory state’ and could well be part of the problem with the western diet and the chronic disease burden we are facing.

So what can we do to re-address this balance? Upping our intake of Omega 3s, will reduce inflammation and improve brain, heart, joint & eye health. They can be found in oily fish (salmon, tuna, anchovies etc.) as well as flaxseeds and chia seeds. But don’t forget reducing  intake of Omega 6’s (vegetable, sunflower, corn oil, poultry and nuts) is also an essential part of addressing this imbalance. 

 

So let’s put fat back on the menu – but let’s make sure it’s the right type of fat, from high quality sources, and look to increase our intake of Omega 3 to reduce the inflammatory-causing imbalance we’re currently facing as a western society.

 

 

 

Protein

Protein is probably the simplest of the macronutrients – we need a daily dose of it but not too much. The standard guidelines are about 1-1.5g of protein per kg of weight per day, so if you weigh 70kg you’re looking at about 70-100g a day. You can have too much protein, so be careful gym bunnies, if you eat too much over a long period of time it could lead to problems with your bones, kidneys or liver. It’s all about balance!

 Proteins are the building blocks of the human body and every cell therein. We need them for the production of hair, nails, muscle, skin and blood. While both fats and carbohydrates can be stored proteins cannot. Therefore, everyone whatever your goals needs to consume it daily. 

If you are an omnivore, protein is relatively easy to come by – meat  and fish (~30g per 100g), eggs (12g per 100g), cheese (25g per 100g) are all excellent sources.

Plant based sources are plentiful but often overlooked e.g. tofu (35g protein in 100g), pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans (20-25g per 100g)), nuts and seeds (15-30g per 100g).

 

So there we go, hopefully this helps to provide more detail on how the food you eat impacts your body and contributes to your overall health, how fad diets of the past have influenced our relationship with these key groups and why we need to rethink our approach for optimal health.

At Feedr, we’re actively working with our vendor community to make sure that all meals have this base layer of information to make it easier for our customers to make informed choices. But it’s not just about about the macro-split across meals, micronutrients and the finer composition of your meal is just as important. So keep an eye out for the next in this series where we’ll be delving into the importance of plant-packed meals, discussing Feedr’s stamp of ‘Plant Packed’ another important filter available to Cloud Canteen customers looking to get a great dose of the green stuff!

1 Comment

  1. November 21, 2019 / 16:23

    This is an excellent article and love the active role Feedr are playing in educating. Clear English filled with fact.
    However, I have a suggestion for Feedr… could you put in organic as a filter? I believe people should be just as concerned about how the food was produced (reliance on pesticides, overuse of antibiotics, rather than holistic farming systems and pasture based livestock etc) and not cling to one extreme diet thinking it’s the cure to all evils. That coupled with a sense of the importance of a balanced diet, as explained by Dr Wyld.
    Just a thought.

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