Interview with NATHAN TRENT + Recipe

Who would have thought that my friend NATHAN TRENT will represent my home country Austria at the Eurovision Song contest one day? I did!!! Because he is incredibly talented!! Please check out his youtube channel and the song "Running on air" which he will present on May 11th and May 13th in Kiev and VOTE FOR HIM. I am so so soooo  proud!! GO NATHAN! 

For those who have never heard of the Eurovision song contest.. a quick intro:  Its a annual international TV song competition, held, primarily, among the member countries of the European Broadcasting Union.  Every year, each country picks one band band or musician to participate in the contest! It's a very colourful and crazy event where different cultures and backgrounds meet, sing, dance and celebrate. 

!!!Update!!! Nathan became 16th at Eurovision! CONGRATULATIONS :-* 

Foto credit Jan Frankl 

Foto credit Jan Frankl 

 

I have always had a big interest in people’s eating habits, especially when their profession is performance related. Me and Nathan skyped a few weeks ago and he answered the questions I had regarding his diet and food choices: 

 

Nathan, your mother’s side of the family is Italian and your dad is from Austria. Did you grow up eating grandma’s pasta with tons of parmesan cheese everyday as we would expect it from a stereotypical Italian family? Tell us a little bit about your childhood. 

Right. I grew up in Italy, my dad is Austrian, so I experienced both parts quite strongly. Food has always been a very important part in my family, for every celebration or occasion we would sit together and have a nice meal. Pasta as a starter, then some meat or fish with vegetables or polenta and a side of salad and then yogurt or panna cotta and then cheese,  cheese as dessert or after a dessert. The most memorable thing is that we always had the TV running in the background so we wouldn't notice how much we were eating. haha

In Italy food is so important. It's the one time of the day where everyone comes together and talks about the day and eats. Celebration of life. People come together to eat. People come more likely to an event where there is food right.  

I would say I developed a very delicate palate for good food and great flavors. Pasta was a staple of course. I had a weird habit when I was a kid, I used to love to snack on dry pasta, very crunchy! I also remember that I barely ate as a toddler..an apple..a few crackers..I was a very small kid and then at the age of 4 or 5 I really started to enjoy eating and that's when I got interested in the different tastes and flavours. 

Then you moved to Vienna at the age of 19/20..how was that? How did your diet or eating habits change? 

Well it didn't change much in the first year because my mom came to my place every two weeks or every month and she cooked so much that I was good for the entire rest of the month, so that was great but then when that wonderful time was over I of course had to cook for myself. 

How did that go? 

The first 6 months I’d say I probably cooked at home most of the time and then I started to eat out because it turned out to be sometimes even cheaper and it wasn't that I was eating unhealthy, I had to keep my strength and provide my body with a lot of energy to be able to dance a lot and perform all day long. I then moved from the student housing to my own apartment where I had my own kitchen. From that time on I cooked a lot at my place and prepared my meals for the week or the next day whenever the schedule allowed it, because we had a very time consuming schedule at school. 

I try to eat a lot of carbs and energy dense food since I need the energy for rehearsals and performances. I quickly learnt that fuelling my body with nourishing and nutrient dense food benefits my health and performance. 

I think I speak for a lot of students here, but living on your own and paying for your own food is a whole different story than staying at your parents place and having a full fridge. I spent most of my money on food because I had certain standards about the quality of it, which wasn't the cheapest sometimes. Is there any advice from you on how to live healthy on a budget? 

That is a very good question because I wasn't very good at it haha. I’m someone who doesn't spend a lot of money on things, but when it comes to food I want to eat good food! That's my priority. I was always a big fan of different cuisine and trying out different flavours. So I would spend the majority of my money on going out to eat in French, Turkish, middle-eastern, Japanese, Indian... restaurant once in a while. What would you do to live healthy on a budget? 

Probably buy your staples like oats and brown rice or whole wheat pasta in bulk and then spend the rest of your money on organic meat and vegetables if possible. I remember I ate a lot of beans and chickpeas, made homemade hummus and stuff like that. It keeps you full and provides you with lots of nutrients. 

What would we find in your fridge? What is in Nathan Trent’s fridge at the moment? 

Sugo, parmesan cheese, 1 cucumber..“But I am going to order pizza tonight “

A little bird told me that your vocal cords are very sensitive to alcohol or certain foods, is that true? Do you have any life hacks for singers?

I think it depends on the person. My vocal cords are very sensitive to alcohol, smoke and everything that is a little bit too oily. It just makes singing harder for me the next day, it’s not impossible. 

Before and after shows, what do you eat?

I try not to have something heavy before a show but that's it, I don't follow a certain diet or anything. Do you have a recommendation for a quick energy boost before a show? It has always interested me. 

Totally! Since you don't want to feel full or bloated before a show but still need lots of energy, something energy-dense would make sense, like a piece of fruit (Banana, apple, orange…) handful of nuts or trail mix, a couple dates, a granola bar, some crackers… 

Now, let's play a quick game about your diet. I am going to ask you as many questions as I can in one minute. Ready? Go!

 

Sweet or Salty? 

SALTY

Favorite food? 

SUSHI

Least favorite food? 

GREEN BEANS

Bets hangover food? 

CHICKEN SOUP

Food Allergies?

NO. TOO MUCH PINEAPPLE GIVES ME A TINGLING FEELING ON MY TONGUE

Favorite cuisine? 

ITALIAN...duh

Favorite smell?

LAVENDER

Favorite herb?

ROSEMARY

Favorite ice cream flavor? 

I DON'T EAT ICE CREAM – IF I HAD TO –HAZELNUT MAYBE

Guilty pleasure? 

RED WINE – PEANUT BUTTER& NUTELLA

Wine or beer? 

WINE

Sachertorte or Apfelstrudel? 

APFELSTRUDEL

How do you drink your coffee? 

BLACK – Ristretto or Espresso

Who would you most like to cook for? 

I WOULDN'T CONSIDER MYSELF AS A GOOD ENOUGH TO COOK FOR SOMEONE. I COULD MAKE A SANDWICH FOR SOMEONE, WHOEVER IS WILLING TO EAT IT.

What did you have for breakfast today?

HAVEN’T EATEN TODAY

What’s the most money you’ve ever drunkenly spent at McDonald’s? 

MAYBE 20€

What’s your favorite flavor of Skittle? 

GREEN

If you were a type of food, what type of food would you be?

I WOULD BE A MAKI ROLL – VERY TASTY AND I HAVE DIFFERENT FLAVOURS, VERSATILE. – THE TRENT ROLL (avocado, salmon, sesame sprinkles)

 

 

Thank you, Nathan, for taking your time. I wish you ALL THE BEST for kiev!! 

 

Then he told me he is craving chicken quesadillas, which are one of his easy go to's he sometimes makes. I asked him how he makes them and e voila, I tried to replicate them. Find the recipe below: 

chicken quesadillas with guacamole 

for 2

 

4 whole grain tortillas

1 organic chicken breast

shredded cheese

zest of 1 organic lemon

one small onion, cut into wedges

1/2 green bell pepper, cut lengthwise

1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise

1/2 tsp

olive oil

salt, pepper

red chilli

olive oil

 

guacamole:

1 ripe avocado

1 small tomato

1 small onion

2 garlic cloves

salt, pepper

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 chili

1 small bunch fresh coriander

for the guacamole, smash avocado in a bowl with a fork, add diced onion and tomato, minced garlic, lemon juice, chilli and chopped coriander 

heat one Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over high heat 

season chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon zest 

add chicken to pan and sauce over medium-high heat until done 

remove chicken from pan, dice lengthwise or into cubes 

into the same pan, add onion and peppers and cook until golden brown, set aside 

 

clean pan and put back on stove, don’t add any oil

lay one tortilla in the pan, then sprinkle a good amount of grated cheese on the bottom tortilla, and then arranging the chicken and cooked peppers on the cheese, top with a little more grated cheese and top with a second tortilla

 

flip tortilla carefully when golden on the bottom and cheese is melted 

 

Repeat with the remaining tortillas and fillings. Cut into wedges and serve with guacamole and coriander 

All you need to know about SUGAR & SWEETENERS

Sugar Basics

When I talk about sugar in this article I am referring to added sugar or table sugar. The chemically correct name for it is “sucrose”.

 

 

Chemically, carbohydrates consist of a big variety of different “sugar” molecule combinations: single molecule sugars (glucose, fructose, galactose...) or paired molecule sugars called disaccharides (e.g. sucrose or lactose), and lastly polysaccharides (starches and fibers). Simply said, the longer the molecule chain the more complex the carb is. The shorter it is, the simpler it is. Hence the terms simple and complex carbs or sugars.

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Canadian Sugar Institute. http://www.sugar.ca/Nutrition-Information-Service/Educators-Students/The-Science-of-Sugar/Human-Digestive-System.aspx

Canadian Sugar Institute. http://www.sugar.ca/Nutrition-Information-Service/Educators-Students/The-Science-of-Sugar/Human-Digestive-System.aspx

 

Digestion enzymes break down these molecule chains starting in our mouth and continuing in the small intestine. As mentioned above, table sugar is a disaccharide (the chain is only made from 2 molecules: glucose + fructose). Therefore, enzymes only need to break down one bond before molecules get absorbed into our blood. Whenever you eat complex carbs (whole grains, vegetables, fruits…) it takes much longer to break down the long sugar chains into single molecules and thus you will not feel that quick sugar rush in your blood.

 

The chemistry of carbohydrates and their bonds and varieties would largely extend the length of this article, that's why I will stick to so called “free sugars” added to foods.  

Types of sugar

White sugar = sugar extracted from either sugar cane or sugar beets. Processed and refined, molasses is removed.

Brown sugar = white sugar (refined) with added molasses syrup.

Natural brown sugars (muscovado, raw sugar, whole cane sugar, piloncillo, panela etc.) keep their molasses which comes from cane juice, no molasses is added.

 Corn syrup: syrup made from cornstarch (treated with acid, enzymes and high temperatures)

 Dextrose: chemically identical to glucose, or blood sugar.

 Invert sugar: chemically produced sugar (glucose+fructose) in liquid form, food additive to inhibit crystallization. 

 
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How does sugar get into my blood?

As mentioned above, sugar is a disaccharide. It consists of one molecule glucose paired with one molecule fructose.  The break-down process of sugar into these two molecules starts already in our mouth, facilitated by the enzyme amylase. The absorption for the most part takes place in our small intestine.  Glucose is immediately transported into our blood and there ready as a source of energy. Fructose, however, takes a little detour through the liver. Consequently, our blood sugar rises after a carbohydrate rich meal.

Blood glucose facilitates the production of insulin, which transports blood glucose to our muscle tissue and liver. Thanks to this genius mechanism, our brain and body functions are maintained and have energy supply even if we do not eat every 2 hours. 


Health effects

Globally, the use of added sugar has increased steadily over the last decades. Under names such as invert sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) sugar has been on the rise and due to its synonyms, it seems easily incomprehensibly and confusing for consumers

  • Consuming sugar in moderate amounts is not harmful for our body. Consumed in higher amounts but combined with increased physical activity is not harmful either. However, consumed in excess, sugar can cause overweight, obesity and certain chronic diseases.

  • Added sugars do not contain any essential nutrients. They simply provide energy without any other nutrients, hence the name “empty calories”.

  • Sugar is not good for your teeth. It’s true! Listen to your parents. It feeds the harmful bacteria in your mouth causing tooth decay. (1,2)

  • Excess consumption of fructose can cause liver damages (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). High amounts are in high fructose corn syrups (HFCS) which is added to most processed foods (breakfast cereal, salad dressing, yogurt, candy, sodas, nutrition bars…) Even though fruits contain fructose too, it will never be as concentrated as in processed foods.

  • Too much sugar can cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, especially diabetes type 2.


Recommended Intake

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests to consume less than 10 percent of energy intake in form of sugar. (If your daily energy intake is 2000kcal, it would be recommended to consume 200kcal or less from sugar, which is a maximum of 50g sugar per day). The WHO and American Heart Association agree that 5 % or less provide additional benefits.(3)


 

Does it count if I eat fruit sugar? Its from fruits right...so must be healthy..

 

Fruit sugar is sugar too! Don't take an excuse that a handful of dates or a honey in your tea is less harmful than a spoon of sugar. They do contain more fiber, minerals and vitamins than table sugar but are still very caloric and sugar dense. Natural sugar sources are the better choice but should only to be used limited (same rules as table sugar).

Our body cannot distinguish whether sugar molecules like fructose and glucose originate from honey, table sugar, a banana, a grapefruit, a liquid sport energy gel, chocolate or grandma’s Christmas cookies. However, what benefits our body and health is what other nutrients come with the sugary source (vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals etc.). Consider you eat an apple, it gives you the same amount of fructose and glucose and the equal number of calories as a teaspoon of sugar in your tea. The major benefit from eating the apple is that it provides your body with fiber, essential vitamins and minerals, anti-oxidants, keeps you full, is delicious, aids digestion and much more.

The important factor you should always consider is the volume and concentration of the food. The amount of sugar in a raisin is the same as in its fresher form, the grape. The difference is the volume. We tend to eat much more of the concentrated product than of the fresh fruit, since the volume is much smaller. Moderation is key, also with “natural” sugars such as honey, maple syrup, dates etc. (4)


 

Does sugar turn into fat in our bodies?

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In healthy individuals, the intake of carbohydrates spikes insulin, a hormone responsible for our glucose metabolism (transport sugar from the blood to the cells).  

The preferred way by our system to win energy is to “burn” carbohydrates. There is another pathway in which fat is burnt to win energy, but it’s less sufficient for our metabolism. However, when blood sugar levels and sugar storages (liver, muscles) are low, the “fat-burning” mechanism is activated and our body needs to use fat as energy for our survival.

Whenever insulin levels are high it means there is sugar present and the body is switched into carbohydrate burning mode, meaning carbohydrates and glycogen (form of sugar stored in muscle) is burnt at a greater rate but also at the same time reduces the opportunity for fat to be lost.  Our body always prefers sugar as fuel, prior to fat! So, in theory, fat will be used when blood sugar and thus insulin levels are low.

How can you achieve that? Low carb diets (not necessary recommended), increased physical activity (highly recommended), fasting periods (e.g. intermittent fasting; careful: not applicable for everyone). It is to be noted, that insulin is only one of many factors involved in our nutrient and body weight regulation metabolism. (4)


What are sweeteners?

Sweeteners, artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners are sugar substitutes that provide no energy aka have zero calories.  Currently, aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K, stevia, and sucralose are the approved sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are among the most controversial foods. They are categorized under the regulations of “food additives” and approved by the FDA, thus considered as safe. However, side effects may occur in some individuals. (4)

Aspartame (e.g. NutraSweet, Equal) is 200 times sweeter than sugar, but loses sweetness when heated. It is often associated with headaches. However, there is not sufficient evidence to make a final conclusion. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is 50 mg/kg body weightg (18 cans diet soda), in Europe it is 40mg/kg body weight.

Acesulfame-K (Sunnet, Sweet One) is structurally related to saccharin and 200 times sweeter than sucrose. It is stable for baking and heating. The ADI is 15mg/kg bodyweight which equals 30 cans diet soda.

Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) was initially removed from the market due to fear its carcinogenetic. It still is not recommended during pregnancy. It is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. The ADI for saccharin is 5 mg/kg body weight (10 packets of sweetener).

Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sucrose and is heat tolerant. The ADI is 5 mg/kg body weight (6 cans diet soda).

Stevia is a natural sweetener extracted from the plant Stevia rebaudiana. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and generally recognized as safe. The FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) considers stevia as neither genotoxic nor carcinogenic and established an ADI of 4 mg/kg bw/day


Will I lose weight when I eat sweeteners instead of sugar?

In theory, yes. The perception is that the consumption of these sweeteners will lead to 0 kcal intake and thus to weight loss. However, increased appetite after consumption is reported in many studies. (5)

On a neurological level, after sweetener consumption your brain goes “mmm sugar” but you do not provide any sugar/fuel for the brain. There is, hence a lack of complete satisfaction since the usual postingestive factor or reward response is missing. Consequently, a food seeking behaviour is activated which leads to cravings and may contribute to obesity. (6)

Artificial sweeteners encourage sugar cravings and the “sweet taste” favouring resulting on a dependence on sugar. Since artificial sweetener’s sweetness potential is much higher than that from sugar, our palate adapts and we get used to the taste and establish an new flavour preference. Therefore, natural sweet foods like fruits taste boring and not sweet enough. (7) 

In addition, the balance of our gut bacteria might be disrupted by artificial sweeteners. The consequent is increased risk of diseases. There is not sufficient evidence present to this day in time, more research is needed. (4) 

 

Do sweeteners have an effect on insulin pikes?

No.

Is diet soda and artificial sweeteners bad for us?

Combined with a balanced and controlled diet, moderately consumption of diet soda is harmless. Studies show that people who are on an unhealthy diet already consume diet sodas, trying to save some calories. Current research considered diet soda sweeteners as safe per se. In my opinion, moderation is key. 

(8-18)


Sugar alcohols 

Sugar alcohols have obviously, nothing to do with booze. They are some kind of hybrids of sugar + alcohol molecules (alcohol means there is a hydroxyl group attached to the carbon atom)

Natural sugar alcohols are found in fruits and vegetables. Industrially produced and used as food additives is the more common use. As derivate from sugars, sugar alcohols have a similar chemical structure but fewer calories (not like zero kcal sweeteners).

These products may claim to be “sugar-free” on their labels, but in this case, “sugar-free” does not mean free of calories.

Most common sugar alcohols are erythritol, glycerol, arabitol, xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, galactitol, inositol, maltitol, isomalt and lactitol.

Their mouth taste is very similar to sugar. When consumed, parts of them are absorbed into the blood and spike blood sugar levels minimal, the unabsorbed parts are metabolized in the GI tract by gut bacteria and may result in abdominal discomfort like intestinal gas or diarrhea. That is why you can read on sugar alcohol containing products “Excess consumption may have a laxative effect”.

The good thing about sugar alcohols is that they do not contribute to dental cavities since mouth bacteria is unable to metabolize them as quickly as sugar. For this reason, chewing gums, mints or other sugar free candy is sweetened with sugar alcohols. (4)


At the end of the day, it’s important to experiment. For some people it works to eat a little bit more sugar in their diet, while others react very sensitive to spiked blood glucose and experience cravings, binge eating, diseases or rapid weight loss. I recommend to try to not consume any added sugar and stick to whole foods and naturally sweet products.

The same principle applies to sweeteners and sugar alcohols. If you can handle them without side effects, go ahead but keep in mind: moderation is key! I would personally try to eat as little of them as possible because it changes my palate preference and increases my sugar cravings.


For any further questions, please contact me here.

xx JZ

1.        US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [Internet]. 2010. Available from: www.dietaryguidelines .gov

 

2.        Kavey R-EW. How Sweet It Is: Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Risk in Childhood. J Acad Nutr Diet [Internet]. Elsevier; 2016 Dec 12;110(10):1456–60. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2010.07.028

 

3.        World Health Organization. Sugars intake for adults and children. World Health Organization; [cited 2016 Dec 12]; Available from: http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/guidelines/sugars_intake/en/#.WE8elWRkF4A.mendeley

 

4.        Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding nutrition. 14th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth; 2015. 928 p.

 

5.        Yang Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings: Neuroscience 2010. Yale J Biol Med [Internet]. YJBM; 2010 Jun;83(2):101–8. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/

 

6.        Stice E, Spoor S, Bohon C, Veldhuizen MG, Small DM. Relation of reward from food intake and anticipated food intake to obesity: a functional magnetic resonance imaging study. J Abnorm Psychol. United States; 2008 Nov;117(4):924–35.

 

7.        Liem DG, de Graaf C. Sweet and sour preferences in young children and adults: role of repeated exposure. Physiol Behav. United States; 2004 Dec;83(3):421–9.

 

8.        Renwick AG, Molinary S V. Sweet-taste receptors, low-energy sweeteners, glucose absorption and insulin release. Br J Nutr [Internet]. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2010;104(10):1415–20. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/article/div-class-title-sweet-taste-receptors-low-energy-sweeteners-glucose-absorption-and-insulin-release-div/FD76542E4E27715F92DD2B0BCF31483E

 

9.        Spiers PA, Sabounjian L, Reiner A, Myers DK, Wurtman J, Schomer DL. Aspartame: neuropsychologic and neurophysiologic evaluation of acute and chroniceffects. Am J Clin Nutr. United States; 1998 Sep;68(3):531–7.

 

10.      Ford HE, Peters V, Martin NM, Sleeth ML, Ghatei MA, Frost GS, et al. Effects of oral ingestion of sucralose on gut hormone response and appetite in healthy normal-weight subjects. Eur J Clin Nutr. England; 2011 Apr;65(4):508–13.

 

11.      Ma J, Bellon M, Wishart JM, Young R, Blackshaw LA, Jones KL, et al. Effect of the artificial sweetener, sucralose, on gastric emptying and incretin hormone release in healthy subjects. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. United States; 2009 Apr;296(4):G735-9.

 

12.      Anton SD, Martin CK, Han H, Coulon S, Cefalu WT, Geiselman P, et al. Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite. England; 2010 Aug;55(1):37–43.

 

13.      Steinert RE, Frey F, Topfer A, Drewe J, Beglinger C. Effects of carbohydrate sugars and artificial sweeteners on appetite and the secretion of gastrointestinal satiety peptides. Br J Nutr. England; 2011 May;105(9):1320–8.

 

14.      Moller SE. Effect of aspartame and protein, administered in phenylalanine-equivalent doses,  on plasma neutral amino acids, aspartate, insulin and glucose in man. Pharmacol Toxicol. Denmark; 1991 May;68(5):408–12.

 

15.      Wolf-Novak LC, Stegink LD, Brummel MC, Persoon TJ, Filer LJJ, Bell EF, et al. Aspartame ingestion with and without carbohydrate in phenylketonuric and normal subjects: effect on plasma concentrations of amino acids, glucose, and insulin. Metabolism. United States; 1990 Apr;39(4):391–6.

 

16.      Horwitz DL, McLane M, Kobe P. Response to single dose of aspartame or saccharin by NIDDM patients. Diabetes Care. United States; 1988 Mar;11(3):230–4.

 

17.      Teff KL, Devine J, Engelman K. Sweet taste: effect on cephalic phase insulin release in men. Physiol Behav. United States; 1995 Jun;57(6):1089–95.

 

18.      EFSA. Sweeteners [Internet]. European food safety authority. 2016 [cited 2016 Dec 12]. Available from: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/sweeteners

Protein I

Maintaining our body’s protein requirements is crucial for our health. Some people are a little overwhelmed with the type or amount of protein that should be consumed. Keep reading and I will explain the basics. 


To start with the basics, our muscles, skin, hair, connective tissues and organs are all built from protein. We pretty much consist of protein. Further, most enzymes, hormones, antibodies, neurotransmitters and general signaling processes which are responsible for our digestion, growth, and other pathways involve protein and serve important functions. 

One protein molecule consists of amino acids - AA (you can compare them with building blocks or bricks for a house). A protein is made up of 20 different AA, of which 11 are so-called “non-essential AA”. We are able to produce them ourselves. The remaining 9 AA are called “essential amino acids” which must be derived from food. Different configurations and combinations of AA result in different protein variations. (1)


PROTEIN QUALITY 

Humans require high-quality proteins for protein synthesis. Generally, animal-based foods (meat, poultry, eggs, milk, milk products and seafood) provide such complete quality proteins, containing all essential AA.

Plant proteins, however, show more diverse amino acid patterns and thus sometimes lack in some essential amino acids. The lacking amino acid is termed a limiting amino acid. In legumes it would be e.g. methionine, in whole grains its lysine.  The right combination of plant based food (e.g. beans and rice) results in complementary proteins, thus improving the protein quality. (1)

For easier understanding, imagine you eat a piece of meat, it includes all of the amino acids you need in order to synthesize body own protein. Easy! If you eat rice and veggies it does include protein, but not all AA you need to build protein. Thus, you should combine it with e.g. beans or other legumes to achieve the same “building” effect that meat does. Some exceptions such as soy, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth do provide our body with all AA needed. (2)(3)(4)(5)(6)

For a long time, people believed that you have to eat certain combination at every meal to achieve proper protein nutrition. Nowadays, studies confirm that it is sufficient enough to consume them over the course of a day (e.g. simplified: beans in the morning and rice in the evening does the same job as combining them in one meal).


PROTEIN for VEGETARIANS - VEGANS


If you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet you need to ensure you consume a variety of foods to meet the protein requirements and all essential amino acids your body needs to build protein.

Therefore, it is crucial to eat a diversity of whole grains, legumes, seeds, vegetables, and nuts. Vegetarians can cover their protein needs sufficiently with eggs, milk and milk products. If fruits and vegetables make up the fundamental of the diet, deficiencies may occur due to a lack of protein quality and quantity.


This sounds like only animal protein is good protein. Completely wrong! Vegetarian diets are usually better in providing our bodies with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Further, meat and dairy products tend to be high in saturated fats and hence linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases.


HOW MUCH DO WE NEED?

Our body continuously breaks down protein. We don't have a protein storage like the one for fat (you all know what I'm talking about) or sugar (Glycogen). Therefore, we need to consume sufficient protein to maintain body structures. Recommendations for protein vary depending on age, size, and need. 

(7)

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0,75g protein per kg body weight for women and 0,85g protein per kg bodyweight for men (or 10-15% of the total energy). Children, infants, pregnant and lactating women, and people 70+ years of age have a slightly higher requirement. Athletes and active people are recommended to consume between 1,2-2g protein/kg BW to prevent muscle loss.


EXAMPLE: 

Let’s say an adult healthy woman with 65kg works out 3-4 times a week and works a job which is mostly sitting and some walking/standing.

65kg x 1,2 = 78g protein per day 

78g protein per day would be the amount she has to consume in order to meet her body’s basic needs.


POSITIVE HEALTH EFFECTS

  • As mentioned above, protein serves as foundation for health, repayments, recovery and chemical messenger and enzymes in our body.

  • Protein deficiency can result in slowed growth, impaired brain and kidney functions, inadequate nutrient absorption and poor immunity.-

  • Protein increases fullness, satiety helps with weight loss due to reasons mentioned below. (8,9)(10)

  • It can increase muscle mass and strength and prevent muscle loss when losing weight. (11)(12)      

  • Snacking and cravings might be reduced when enough protein is consumed. Studies show that late night snacking was drastic reduced      when protein content in the diet was increased. 

  • Protein consumption can boost your metabolism. To digest protein our body makes use of something called a thermic effect of food (TEF), meaning it burns calories to digest the protein. (13–16)

  • The risk for osteoporosis and fractures in older people is lower when adequate protein is consumed. Especially women after their menopause are recommended to consume sufficient energy together with an active lifestyle. However, excessive protein intake is associated with negative calcium balance and could potentially lead to bone loss. Therefore, dose is key! (17–19)


NEGATIVE HEALTH EFFECTS

  • High protein diets can also trigger several chronic diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, obesity, kidney stones. However, no upper level (UL) was established so far, due to insufficient data. (20) (The institute of Medicine recommended the UL for adults at no more than 30% of total energy intake)

  • Self-explanatory, protein excesses are more like to be caused by an over consumption of animal protein. Most of these sources contain high amounts of saturated fats which may contribute to cardiovascular diseases. To blame cardiovascular diseases on protein alone is therefore, incorrect. (21) When red meat and high-fat milk products are substituted with vegetable protein combined with low-fat milk products, fish, and poultry, cardiovascular diseases are decreased. (22,23)

  • Cancer and protein consumption is a popular topic. Research shows that protein itself does not seem to increase the risk of cancer, however, protein-rich foods do. As mentioned above, high intakes of red meat and processed meats and their additives are associated with cardiovascular diseases and also cancers such as colon, pancreas, and ovaries. Conversely, protein rich plants may reduce the risk of some cancers. (24–26)

  • Kidney diseases are often linked to excessive protein intake. A diet high in protein does not cause kidney disease, however, it increases their workload. People with chronic kidney diseases often worsen their disease by consuming too much protein. It is generally recommended to drink more water in periods where protein intake is increased. 


FROM REQUIREMENTS TO GROCERIES

If you calculated your protein needs in the section above and have a number but no idea how to achieve those requirements, continue reading.

When I speak of “grams of protein” it means gram of the macronutrient protein and not grams of the protein source e.g. chicken.

Foods listed below contain significant high amounts of protein:

 
 
 
Example: Let’s take the same person as above (woman with 65kg works out 3-4 times a week and works a job which is mostly sitting and some walking/standing. 65kg x 1,2 = 78g protein per day)

Breakfast:
½ cup oats, 1 cup skimmed milk, 1 cup blueberries, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, ½ apple, 1 tbsp. peanut butter

Lunch:
Steamed broccoli, 1 grilled chicken breast, 1 cup cooked buckwheat, 1tsp. butter
Salad (baby spinach, ½ avocado, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cherry tomatoes)

Snack:
1 Banana

Dinner:
3 Rice cakes, 3tbsp 2% cottage cheese, ½ cucumber, fresh herbs

As you can see, it is not that hard to maintain your protein requirements throughout the day. Please keep in mind that you have higher requirements when physical activities increase.

MY TAKE ON PROTEIN POWDERS and SUPPLEMENTS    

The sports and nutrition market is overloaded with protein powders and supplements. You can only get big and strong if you have a shake a day – that's what they say. I do not agree on that at all. However, protein powders may be a good alternative if there is not enough time to consume a balanced meal. By now you hopefully understand that getting enough protein is crucial to support health and muscle growth, but ingesting more than needed does not further enhance muscle function or growth. “Overdosing” with protein is very easy when consuming protein supplements. The plus is excreted by urine and will be flushed down the toilet if your kidneys are healthy. Protein powders provide amino acids to our body’s, however, protein in food sources supply the same and much more (minerals, vitamins, fiber etc.) and therefore my preferred source.

 - JZ

REFERENCES

1.        Whitney E, Rolfes S. Understanding nutrition. 14th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth; 2015. 928 p.

2.        USDA National Nutrient Database. Full report (all nutrients): 12012, seeds, hemp seed, hulled. 2016; Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3614?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=50&sort=default&qlookup=hemp+seeds&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1

3.        USDA National Nutrient Database. Full report (all nutrients): 12006, seeds, chia seeds, dried. 2016. Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3610?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=50&sort=default&qlookup=chia+seeds&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1

4.        USDA National Nutrient Database. Full report (all nutrients): 20137, quinoa, cooked. 2016; Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6587?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=50&sort=default&qlookup=quinoa&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1

5.        USDA National Nutrient Database. Full report (all nutrients): 20008, buckwheat. 2016; Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6479?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=50&sort=default&qlookup=buckwheat&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1

6.        USDA National Nutrient Database. Full report (all nutrients): 20001, amaranth grain, uncooked. 2016; https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/6473?n1=%7BQv%3D1%7D&fgcd=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=50&sort=default&qlookup=amaranth&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=&Qv=1

7.        AIS Sports Nutrition. Protein fact sheet [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2016 Nov 1]. Available from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/basics/protein_-_how_much

8.        Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. United States; 2004 Oct;23(5):373–85.

9.        Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;82(1):41–8.

10.      Dhillon J, Craig BA, Leidy HJ, Amankwaah AF, Osei-Boadi Anguah K, Jacobs A, et al. The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness: A Meta-Analysis and Its Limitations. J Acad Nutr Diet [Internet]. Elsevier; 2016 Nov 11;116(6):968–83. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.01.003

11.      Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc [Internet]. School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.; 2010;42(2):326–37. Available from: http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/19927027

12.      Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR. A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. United States; 2014 Apr;24(2):127–38.

13.      Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CLH, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). United States; 2011 Apr;19(4):818–24.

14.      Johnston CS, Day CS, Swan PD. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. J Am Coll Nutr. United States; 2002 Feb;21(1):55–61.

15.      Veldhorst MAB, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Westerterp KR. Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. Am J Clin Nutr. United States; 2009 Sep;90(3):519–26.

16.      Veldhorst MAB, Westerterp KR, van Vught AJAH, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Presence or absence of carbohydrates and the proportion of fat in a high-proteindiet affect appetite suppression but not energy expenditure in normal-weight human subjects fed in energy balance. Br J Nutr. England; 2010 Nov;104(9):1395–405.

17.      Bonjour J-P. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. J Am Coll Nutr. United States; 2005 Dec;24(6 Suppl):526S–36S.

18.      Kerstetter JE, Kenny AM, Insogna KL. Dietary protein and skeletal health: a review of recent human research. Curr Opin Lipidol. England; 2011 Feb;22(1):16–20.

19.      Hannan MT, Tucker KL, Dawson-Hughes B, Cupples LA, Felson DT, Kiel DP. Effect of dietary protein on bone loss in elderly men and women: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. J Bone Miner Res. United States; 2000 Dec;15(12):2504–12.

20.      Committee on Dietary Reference Intakes. Dietary Reference Intakes: Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. In Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2005.

21.      Hackam DG, Khan NA, Hemmelgarn BR, Rabkin SW, Touyz RM, Campbell NRC, et al. The 2010 Canadian Hypertension Education Program recommendations for the management of hypertension: part 2 - therapy. Can J Cardiol. England; 2010 May;26(5):249–58.

22.      Preis SR, Stampfer MJ, Spiegelman D, Willett WC, Rimm EB. Dietary protein and risk of ischemic heart disease in middle-aged men. Am J Clin Nutr. United States; 2010 Nov;92(5):1265–72.

23.      Clifton PM. Protein and coronary heart disease: the role of different protein sources. Curr Atheroscler Rep. United States; 2011 Dec;13(6):493–8.

24.      Magalhaes B, Peleteiro B, Lunet N. Dietary patterns and colorectal cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Cancer Prev. England; 2012 Jan;21(1):15–23.

25.      Larsson SC, Wolk A. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer: meta-analysis of prospective studies. British Journal of Cancer. 2012. p. 603–7.

26.      Takachi R, Tsubono Y, Baba K, Inoue M, Sasazuki S, Iwasaki M, et al. Red meat intake may increase the risk of colon cancer in Japanese, a population with relatively low red meat consumption. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. Australia; 2011;20(4):603–12.

27.      National Agricultural Library. USDA Food Composition Databases [Internet]. USDA; 2016. Available from: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index

 

 

 

 

WTF is gluten?

Last weekend I strolled around a farmer’s market, snacking some samples vendors would offer. I took some sugar coated almonds from this one lady…smiling when I saw a sign at her booth saying “gluten free candied nuts”. Hmmm, interesting. Since when do almonds contain gluten? Gluten-free is a trend nowadays, no doubt. If you are hip and trendy you go gluten-free. Ask someone on the street what gluten is, why it is bad for you or why someone follows a gluten-free diet you will get hilarious answers. Watch this video and you know what I mean.

To come to the point. Gluten is a protein in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt, barley and kamut. There are two compounds in this protein called gliadin and glutenin. (1) The white core part in grains (endosperm) contains gluten (see picture). When you mix flour with water, gluten is responsible for the stickiness of the dough. Baked goods that use regular flour rise very nicely because gluten forms this glue-like network that forms airy pockets together with yeast or baking soda, thus making it spongy. Maybe you have noticed that gluten free bread or cakes have a very dense consistency and are not as fluffy and spongy as normal baked stuff since the elasticity is not given.

Fig.1. Structure of wheat kernel. (4)  

Fig.1. Structure of wheat kernel. (4)  

Gluten is a very controversial topic nowadays. The most serious health condition caused by gluten is the autoimmune disorder celiac disease. It affects about 0,5-1% of the world’s population. (2) When gluten is consumed by individuals that suffer from celiac disease, their immune system “attacks” gluten in the digestive system which causes serious health problems due to damages and atrophy of the gut wall. This results in malabsorption of essential nutrients and increases the risk of many other diseases. (3)(4)

Some people test negative for celiac disease, however, experience celiac disease like symptoms. This condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, erythema, anemia, bloating, depression, brain fog, tiredness are only a few of the many symptoms that can occur. (5) 

There is no doubt that people suffering from celiac disease or NCGS must not eat gluten-containing foods. Depending on the severity and stage of celiac disease. Irritated Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and wheat allergies also cause similar symptoms. Some of them might benefit from cutting out gluten from their diet, some not. (6)(7)(8) Confirmation by blood tests is recommended. 

Taken into consideration that wheat is in most processed foods (even in soy sauce, mustard, vinegars, seasonings and spice mixes) it is much more complicated than to just cut out bread and pasta.  The new allergen regulation of the European union and their labeling in restaurants facilitate an easier eating-out for gluten intolerant people.

Corn, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, tapioca or millet are gluten free alternatives. Oats are naturally gluten free but due to contamination sometimes show traces of gluten.

Our market is flooded with gluten free processed foods, such as pizza, cookies, cakes, breads, rolls etc. These products tend to contain high amounts of sugar and fats low in nutrients. The reputation of gluten free products to be healthier is thus wrong. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food.

 A positive outcome of the gluten-free trend is for sure that it makes people read food labels, think about their choices and maybe it might even make them more health conscious.   

For most people it is unnecessary to avoid gluten, unless someone suffers from a health condition. I do believe that there is a very powerful placebo effect when healthy people avoid gluten in order to feel better. There is no harm in avoiding gluten, try it if you want to make your life harder without reason. Just keep in mind that having digestive problems can be caused but much more things than just gluten, e.g. stress, lack of sleep, not enough fiber in your diet, lactose intolerance, sweeteners and many more. 

 

- JZ 

 

 

1.        Wieser H. Chemistry of gluten proteins. Food Microbiol [Internet]. 2007 Apr;24(2):115–9. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002006001535

2.        Gujral N, Freeman HJ, Thomson ABR. Celiac disease: Prevalence, diagnosis, pathogenesis and treatment. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(42):6036–59.

3.        Nadhem ON, Azeez G, Smalligan RD, Urban S. Review and practice guidelines for celiac disease in 2014. Postgrad Med. England; 2015 Apr;127(3):259–65.

4.        Caballero B, Trugo L, Finglas P. Encyclopedia of food sciences and nutrition: Volumes 1-10. Encycl food Sci Nutr Vol 1-10. 2003;p 2539.

5.        Czaja-Bulsa G. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity - A new disease with gluten intolerance. Clin Nutr. 2015;34(2):189–94.

6.        Vazquez-Roque MI, Camilleri M, Smyrk T, Murray JA, Marietta E, O’Neill J, et al. A controlled trial of gluten-free diet in patients with irritable bowel syndrome-diarrhea: effects on bowel frequency and intestinal function. Gastroenterology. United States; 2013 May;144(5):903–911.e3.

7.        Aziz I, Trott N, Briggs R, North JR, Hadjivassiliou M, Sanders DS. Efficacy of a Gluten-Free Diet in Subjects With Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea Unaware of Their HLA-DQ2/8 Genotype. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. United States; 2016 May;14(5):696–703.e1.

8.        Makharia A, Catassi C, Makharia GK. The Overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Clinical Dilemma. Nutrients. Switzerland; 2015 Dec;7(12):10417–26.