The internet is a vast arena of conflicting and confusing information on what one should eat. There are veritable tribes of unquestioned belief around what is best for us: Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Mediterranean, Whole 30…It is a wonder any of us can make it through a market without being paralyzed with indecision.
It is thus that I was so excited to speak with someone with knowledge and facts that could be applied to my specific needs. My call with dietitian Ashley Reaver, the lead nutrition scientist at InsideTracker, was a special arrangement from my friends at InsideTracker. She had my blood labs, along with the recommendations that the app had made. Most of my 43 markers were excellent — cortisol, HbA1c, HDL, Vit D, and all the other markers were in very good shape.
There were a couple of borderline high results in the blood tests, including a 117 mg/dL LDL cholesterol reading. This has been steadily coming down the last three years from 150 to where I am today. Good progress, but I wanted to do better. The app recommended eating more oatmeal, a psyllium supplement, and high fiber fruit, all of which I now do daily, all from recommendations in the app that will help lower my LDL. Oatmeal with sliced apple is now part of my breakfast routine, and I am really liking it — very much a morning comfort food after my 16-hour nightly fast. This was great, and I was very curious to speak with Ashley about what else I could learn.
As we were going through my tests, Ashley told me about barley which, although recommended by the app, is not something I knew anything about. It is very high in soluble fiber and, along with oatmeal, is one of her favorite grains. Who knew? This is one of the great things about having an expert make suggestions. I never would have thought twice about barley, other than I recall it being used in Scotch whiskey. But that is a whole other story.
Next came the fats. Sadly, I am to stay away from coconut oil. Ghee, which I really like, I was told was just butter without the water and was about 60% saturated fat — another no-go. Oh, how I like a bit of soft ghee on warm sourdough bread. But what about eggs? I was relieved to learn that although we absorb most of the saturated fat we eat, we only absorb 10% of cholesterol. Meaning, surprise! Eating whole eggs was fine for me. Egg whites, she told me, are nature’s most perfect protein and, although I need to pay attention to where they are from, egg whites are great. It should be noted that I told her, and put into the platform, that I am about 50% vegetarian, almost never eat red meat, and that going 100% vegetarian seems not to work so well in my case. I try to be as plant-based as I can, but full veg is not my jam.
Check The SuperAge Podcast with Ashley here.
Next on the agenda were macros, which do not, as I first assumed, have anything to do with macrobiotic. It is the term used for carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that make up our foods. This was an area that I was very curious to hear about from an informed professional. Some people feel we should eat 1 gram of protein/ lb of body weight, other people think anything over 50grams/day is unhealthy. According to Ashley, one’s body can only absorb so much protein a day, and anything beyond that is pretty much like eating very expensive bread — it just turns to glucose. The trick is, how much is the right amount?
My current weight is 166 lbs, and I am about to start going back to the gym to regain some of the pandemic muscle loss of the last year. Ashley is used to dealing with active, sporty people, so her suggestions are based on that population. For someone of my age, 62, and my level of activity, she recommended 1800 calories/day on a rest day, and 2200-2600 calories/day on an active day. She felt that it was best to keep the protein constant at 1.4 to 1.6 g/kg of body weight which, for me, would be 106-121 grams of protein a day. She also recommended that I keep my fat constant at 90-100 grams/day. The balance of my calories should come from carbohydrates which I can bring up or down as needed based on my activity that day. My favorite macro tracking app is called MyMacros. Easy to use and, although I don’t use it constantly, it will give me a sense of what exactly I am consuming.
Shockingly, this is the first time I have ever spoken with a dietitian, and it was great. How ironic that we will make a value judgment of buying a few expensive dinners over getting an inside look at our health with a lifetime of benefit. Short-term vs long-term thinking, something I know I have been on the wrong side of many times.
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