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Several months ago I picked up a copy of "Perfect Health Diet" by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. The book focuses on optimizing  nutrition and diet by teaching what and how much you should eat. The authors argue that the right diet can be a potent catalyst for good health.

Reading the book I've realized that I lack a fundamental understanding of nutrients. What really is a protein and carbohydrate? What is a nutrient? This post contains my notes collected from various articles and Wikipedia.

Even if you don't read the book, I believe having a basic understanding of macronutrients is valuable. Because without them, you wouldn't be alive.


Basics

Nutrients are substances needed for growth and maintaining body functions.

Macronutrients are nutrients that provide energy (aka calories):

  • Macronutrients have specific roles in maintaining our body
  • Macronutrients contribute to taste, texture, and appearance of foods

There are 3 broad classes of macronutrients:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats

A molecule is two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds (they do not have an electrical charge)

A biomolecule (biological molecule), is a molecule that is present in living organisms (example of biomolecules: proteins, carbohydrates, fats)

Insulin is a hormone produced by body that regulates the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates, and fats


Proteins (4 calories/gram)

  1. Molecules consisting of smaller units called amino acids (building blocks of proteins)
  2. Present in every living cell
  3. Hold together, protect, and provide structure to our body
  4. Complex molecules, body needs time to break them down
  5. Provide:
    1. Slower and longer-lasting source of energy compared to carbohydrates
    2. Energy and growth
    3. Tissue repair, immune system function, hormone and enzyme production, muscle mass and tone
  6. To make the proteins that it needs (protein biosynthesis), the body needs proteins
  7. When eaten, proteins broken down into amino acids (dietary source of nitrogen)
  8. There are 20 amino acids
    1. Body can synthesize (production of chemical compounds by reaction from simpler materials) 11 amino acids from molecules within body
      1. This is done through de novo synthesis (from scratch): the synthesis of complex molecules from simple molecules
    2. 9 amino acids cannot be synthesized de novo by body and they must be provided by diet
      1. These 9 are called essential amino acids:
        1. histidine
        2. lysine
        3. isoleucine
        4. leucine
        5. methionine
        6. phenylalanine
        7. threonine
        8. tryptophan
        9. valine
  9. Proteins from animal sources are complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids
  10. Proteins from plants, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are called incomplete proteins because they lack one or more essential amino acids
  11. USDA (department agriculture) recommends adults eat 60 grams protein per day (0.8 per kg of weight)

Carbohydrates (4 calories/gram)

  1. Molecule consisting of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms
    1. Carbohydrates are a synonym for saccharide, a group that includes 3 types:
      1. Sugars
        1. General name for short-chain, soluble carbohydrates
        2. Many types of sugars are used in food
        3. Table sugar = sucrose
      2. Starch
        1. Polymeric (large molecule composed of many repeated subunits) carbohydrate consisting of a large number of glucose units
        2. Polysaccharide produced by most green plants as an energy store
        3. Most common carbohydrate (common in foods such as: potatoes, wheat, corn, rice)
        4. Has two components:
          1. Amylose (20-30% of weight)
            1. Polymer (large molecule) made of d-glucose units, bound by glycosidic bonds
            2. More resistant to digestion than other starch molecules
            3. Preferred starch for energy storage in plants
          2. Amylopectin (70-80% of weight)
            1. Highly branched polymer of glucose found in plants
            2. Soluble molecule that can be quickly degraded as it has many endpoints that an enzyme can attach to
      3. Cellulose
        1. Polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of many D-glucose units
    2. Saccharides are divided into four chemical groups
      1. Monosaccharide
      2. Disaccharides
      3. Oligosaccharides
      4. Polysaccharides
  2. Two major roles of carbohydrates:
    1. Primary energy source for body
    2. Source of calories to maintain body weight
  3. Involved in the construction of the body organs and nerve cells
  4. Body uses carbohydrates in the form of glucose and can quickly convert simple and complex carbohydrates into energy
    1. The body stores a small amount of excess carbohydrate as energy reserve
    2. The brain uses/needs glucose as an energy source, fat cannot be used for this purpose
  5. Glycogen, is a complex carbohydrate the body can easily and rapidly convert to energy
    1. Muscles store glycogen, which they use during periods of intense physical activity
  6. Two basic types of carbohydrates (depending on their size)
    1. Simple carbohydrates (aka monosaccharide)
      1. Cannot be broken down into simple sugars
      2. Absorbed directly into the bloodstream
      3. Include various forms of sugar such as:
        1. Glucose (aka dextrose)
          1. Simple sugar, circulates in animals as blood sugar (amount of sugar present in the blood)
          2. A primary source of energy for body's cells
          3. Transported from the intestines or liver to body cells via the bloodstream, and is absorbed by cells via the hormone insulin
        2. Fructose (aka fruit sugar)
          1. Found in many plants, often bonded to glucose to form the disaccharide sucrose
          2. Natural sources include: fruits, vegetables, and honey
        3. Galactose
          1. Monosaccharide sugar that is less sweet than glucose and fructose
          2. When combined with glucose, through a reaction the result is the disaccharide lactose
          3. Found in dairy products, sugar beets
      4. Fastest source of energy as they can be broken down by body quickly
      5. Absorbed by small intestine into the bloodstream, then transported to where they are required
      6. Sources in diet: fruits, berries, vegetables, honey
    2. Complex carbohydrates: larger and consist of long strings of simple carbohydrates, 3 groups: 
      1. Disaccharides (two monosaccharides joined by glycosidic linkage)
        1. Sucrose
          1. Naturally occurring carbohydrate found in many plants
          2. Combination of glucose and fructose
          3. Often extracted and refined from cane or beet sugar for human consumption
            1. Refined form of sucrose = table sugar
        2. Lactose
          1. Disaccharide sugar found in milk
          2. Composed of galactose and glucose
        3. Maltose
          1. Disaccharide formed from two units of glucose joined an alpha bond from a condensation reaction (chemical reaction where two molecules combine to form a larger molecule)
          2. Produced when amylase breaks down starch
            1. Amylase is an enzyme (molecular biological catalyst) that catalyses (starts/increases rate of chemical reaction) the hydrolis (unbinding) of starch into sugars
              1. Present in saliva of humans where it begins the chemical process of digestion
              2. Why a sweet potato is "sweet" when chewed - amylase degrades some of it's starch into sugar
      2. Oligosaccharides
          1. Simple polymer containing small number of simple sugars (monosaccharides)
            1. Fructooligosaccharide (FOS)
              1. Used as an alternative sweetener
              2. Extracted from blue Agave plant, bananas, onions, chicory root, garic, asparagus, wheat, and barley
      3. Polysaccharides
          1. Long chains of monosaccharide  units bound by glycosidic bonds (covalent bond that joins a  carbohydrate to another molecule)
            1. Starch
            2. Maltodextrin
              1. Polysaccharide that is used as a food additive
              2. Produced from starch by hydrolysis
                1. Enzymatically derived from any starch (typically corn or wheat)
              3. Commonly used in soft drinks and candy and other processed foods
            3. Amylose
            4. Amylopectin
          2. Broken down by enzymes into smaller sugars which are then absorbed into bloodstream

Fats (9 calories/gram)

  1. A lipid (naturally occurring molecule that includes fats and fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E)
    1. Store energy
    2. Structural components of cell membranes
  2. Also know as triglyceride, an ester of three fatty acid chains and the alcohol glycerol
    1. Fatty acid: Carboxylic acid with a long aliphatic chain (saturated or unsaturated)
      1. Important source of fuel, when metabolized yield large quantities of ATP
        1. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
          1. small molecule in cells used as a coenzyme
          2. molecule that carries energy to the place where energy is needed
    2. Esters: chemical compounds derived from an acid (organic or inorganic)
      1. Usually derived from a caroxylic acid an an alcohol
    3. Glycerol: Simple polyol (alcohol containing multiple hydroxyl groups) compound
      1. Colorless, odorless, liquid that is sweet-tasting and non-toxic
      2. Hydroxyl: chemical group containing one oxygen atom connected by covalent bond to a hydrogen atom
      3. Alcohol: organic compound where the hydroxyl group (-OH) is bound to saturated carbon atoms
  3. Fats are a source of energy (slowest but most energy-efficient form of food) and protect internal organs
  4. Four main types:
    1. Saturated fats
      1. Fatty acids all have a single bond
      2. Called saturated because they are fully saturated with hydrogen atoms and cannot incorporate more
      3. Solid at room temperature
      4. Examples: butter, cheese, whole milk dairy products and fatty meats
      5. Provide source of energy, building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
    2. Unsaturated fats (molecules contain less than the maximum amount of hydrogen)
      1. Monounsaturated fats
        1. Composed of monounsaturated fatty acids
        2. Liquid at room temperature
        3. Examples: olive, peanut, and canola oil, olives, nuts, peanuts, avocados
      2. Polyunsaturated fats
        1. Found in nuts, seeds, fish, leafy greens
        2. Position of the carbon-carbon double bonds in carboxylic acid chains in fats is designated by Greet letters
          1. Carbon atom at the end of a hydrocarbon chain is called the omega carbon (last letter of Greek alphabet)
          2. Omega-3 fatty acids
            1. Final carbon-carbon double bond in the n-3 (n minus 3) position
            2. Three types:
              1. a-linolenic acid (ALA)
                1. found in plant oils
                2. walnut, edible seeds, flaxseed oil
              2. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
                1. commonly found in marine oils
                2. fish oils, egg oils, krill oil
              3. docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
                1. commonly found in marine oils
                2. fish oils, egg oils, krill oil
          3. Omega-6 fatty acids
            1. Final carbon-carbon double bond in the n-6 (n minus 6) position
            2. Found in sunflower seeds, sesame, walnuts, soybean, corn
          4. Essential fatty acid (EFA)
            1. Fatty acids humans must ingest because body requires them and cannot synthesize them
              1. Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3)
              2. Linoleic acid (omega-6)
      3. Trans fatty acids (trans fats)
        1. Type of unsaturated fats, occur in small amounts in nature
          1. Widely produced artificially from vegetable fats for use in snack foods, margarine, baked goods
          2. Easy to use, inexpensive to produce, last a long time = fast foods restaurants use to deep fry
        2. Frying and baking fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils)
        3. Hydrogenation: forced chemical addition of hydrogen into omega-6 polyunsaturated oils to make them hard at room temperatures, primarily as a cheaper and less perishable substitute for butter in crispy bread products

I recently attended a wonderful talk by Tara Brach. Tara (among many other things) is a teacher of meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. The talk took place at NYU and was hosted by MindfulNYU.

IMG_3707

I was introduced to Tara through her book "Radical Acceptance". A collection of stories and practical lessons for introducing mindfulness and acceptance into our lives. It's become one of my favorite books and I strive to implement it's various lessons daily.

In this post I'd like to highlight some of the ideas Tara presented in her talk. These are the ones that resonated with me.


Through her teachings Tara is striving to instill a culture of caring. A culture of empathy. Practicing mindfulness is a way to get there.

Many of us fall into a "thinking trance". A trance of unworthiness. We identify and look for ways where we feel we are not good enough. It's a narrow view of ourselves that allows for fear and separation to set in. The fear and separation hinders us from being our true selves. It's like trying to exercise when you're sick. The sickness prevents you from performing at your full potential.

We are constantly asking ourselves "how am I doing?". How do I look? Should I be doing this? What will they think of me? This fuels fear as you worry of falling short. Feelings that you aren't good enough. That something is wrong with you. And you regret. You can't carry on through life like this. On your last day don't have the regret that you lived your life feeling that you weren't good enough.

Ask yourself, how do you get caught in the story that you are "not ok"?

We separate ourselves from reality. There is "the world" and "me". We separate because we feel there is something wrong with us. And yet the divide does not exist. We live in the world. Say "yes" (internally) in those challenging moments and fuse the separation between "the world" and "me".

Our culture exacerbates the feeling of "not enough". We are addicted to our screens looking for the next like, message, update.

In any moment pause, check-in, and ask yourself two questions. What is happening inside me right now? Can I deal with this?

We are in the midst of a societal evolution. Mindfulness has become global. It's all over the internet. It's value is taught in schools and corporate environments. It's used in medicine. Our global consciousness is waking up as we collectively become more aware.

Pause more.

Wake up from the trance. The Paul Newman ice cream story.

In challenging moments, try the acronym RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture. Recognize the feeling. Allow it to happen. Investigate, what does the hurting part most need? Nurture it. Try placing your hand on your heart to connect with yourself.

Ask yourself, who would you be right now if you didn't feel something was wrong with you. Radical acceptance.

Learn to respond, not react.

When you flip your lid, you lose reason, mindfulness, and empathy.

"Prayer is the bridge between longing and belonging" -John O'Donohue

Pause, see the vulnerability in people.

I will not dishonor my soul with hatred.

Pause.

In the January 1965 issue, Playboy magazine released an in-depth interview with Martin Luther King Jr. He was 36 at the time. He was assassinated 3 years later.

I came across the interview while browsing Amazon's Singles Classics, a collection that "showcases the best journalism, fiction and essays from the top authors and magazines of our time".

There are not many extended interviews with King, and I found the Playboy interview a fascinating read. Prior to reading my knowledge of King could be summed up as civil rights leader and the guy that gave the "I have a dream" speech. The interview delved into all facets of his life and provided many insights as to who King was beneath the public image.

I'd like to highlight some passages and encourage you to read the full interview.

Explaining to his daughter why he is doing what he is doing:

“Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?” I told her that I was involved in a struggle to make conditions better for the colored people, and thus for all people. I explained that because things are as they are, someone has to take a stand, that it is necessary for someone to go to jail, because many Southern officials seek to maintain the barriers that have historically been erected to exclude the colored people. I tried to make her understand that someone had to do this to make the world better—for all children.

On witnessing the power of nonviolence:

Another moment which I shall never forget: when I saw with my own eyes over 3000 young Negro boys and girls, totally unarmed, leave Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church to march to a prayer meeting—ready to pit nothing but the power of their bodies and souls against Bull Connor’s police dogs, clubs and fire hoses. When they refused Connor’s bellowed order to turn back, he whirled and shouted to his men to turn on the hoses. It was one of the most fantastic events of the Birmingham story that these Negroes, many of them on their knees, stared, unafraid and unmoving, at Connor’s men with the hose nozzles in their hands. Then, slowly the Negroes stood up and advanced, and Connor’s men fell back as though hypnotized, as the Negroes marched on past to hold their prayer meeting. I saw there, I felt there, for the first time, the pride and the power of nonviolence.

On nonviolence as a weapon:

Our white brothers must be made to understand that nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword that heals. Our nonviolent direct-action program has as its objective not the creation of tensions, but the surfacing of tensions already present.

A rhetorical question to white people who view African Americans as ungrateful for the Civil Rights Act:

Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America?

On the goal of the Civil Rights movement:

What the Negro wants—and will not stop until he gets—is absolute and unqualified freedom and equality here in this land of his birth, and not in Africa or in some imaginary state. The Negro no longer will be tolerant of anything less than his due right and heritage. He is pursuing only that which he knows is honorably his. He knows that he is right.

On certain whites telling African Americans to be patient, change will come eventually:

I feel that the time is always right to do what is right.

On assassination plots:

After a while, if your life is more or less constantly in peril, you come to a point where you accept the possibility philosophically. I must face the fact, as all others in positions of leadership must do, that America today is an extremely sick nation, and that something could well happen to me at any time. I feel, though, that my cause is so right, so moral, that if I should lose my life, in some way it would aid the cause.

On segregation:

Segregation, as even the segregationists know in their hearts, is morally wrong and sinful. If it weren’t, the white South would not be haunted as it is by a deep sense of guilt for what it has done to the Negro—guilt for patronizing him, degrading him, brutalizing him, depersonalizing him, thingifying him; guilt for lying to itself. This is the source of the schizophrenia that the South will suffer until it goes through its crisis of conscience

On "the establishment":

The white leadership—which I hold as responsible as anyone for the riots, for not removing the conditions that cause them. The deep frustration, the seething desperation of the Negro today is a product of slum housing, chronic poverty, woefully inadequate education and substandard schools. The Negro is trapped in a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign, caught in a vicious socioeconomic vise.

Regarding not condoning outbreaks of looting and lawlessness:

The use of immoral means will not achieve the moral end of racial justice.

Will there be a violent revolution?

Many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations are boiling inside the Negro, and he must release them. It is not a threat but a fact of history that if an oppressed people’s pent-up emotions are not nonviolently released, they will be violently released. So let the Negro march. Let him make pilgrimages to city hall. Let him go on freedom rides. And above all, make an effort to understand why he must do this.

On Malcolm X:

I have often wished that he would talk less of violence, because violence is not going to solve our problem. And in his litany of articulating the despair of the Negro without offering any positive, creative alternative, I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.

Historical impact of violence as a tactic for social change:

I’d be the first to say that some historical victories have been won by violence; the U.S. Revolution is certainly one of the foremost. But the Negro revolution is seeking integration, not independence. Those fighting for independence have the purpose to drive out the oppressors. But here in America, we’ve got to live together. We’ve got to find a way to reconcile ourselves to living in community, one group with the other.

On the belief that he has amassed a vast fortune from the Civil Rights movement:

I have rejected our board’s insistent recommendation that I accept some salary beyond the one dollar a year which I receive, which entitles me to participate in our employees’ group insurance plan. I have rejected also our board’s offer of financial gifts as a measure and expression of appreciation. My only salary is from my church, $4000 a year, plus $2000 more a year for what is known as “pastoral care.” To earn a grand total of about $10,000 a year, I keep about $4000 to $5000 a year for myself from the honorariums that I receive from various speaking engagements. About 90 percent of my speaking is for S.C.L.C., and it brings into our treasury something around $200,000 a year, Additionally, I get a fairly sizable but fluctuating income in the form of royalties from my writings. But all of this, too, I give to my church, or to my alma mater, Morehouse College, here in Atlanta.

On free time:

Tuesdays when I’m not out of town, I don’t go to the office. I keep this for my quiet day of reading and silence and meditation, and an entire evening with Mrs. King and the children.

On a week of uninterrupted rest:

It’s difficult to imagine such a thing, but if I had the luxury of an entire week, I would spend it meditating and reading, refreshing myself spiritually and intellectually.

Aside from the Bible, which book would he take on a desert island?

Plato’s Republic. I feel that it brings together more of the insights of history than any other book.

On Alabama's Governor Wallace:

He represents the misuse, the corruption, the destruction of leadership. I am not sure that he believes all the poison that he preaches, but he is artful enough to convince others that he does. Instead of guiding people to new peaks of reasonableness, he intensifies misunderstanding, deepens suspicion and prejudice. He is perhaps the most dangerous racist in America today.

On what he would do if he left the Civil Rights movement:

One time I dreamed of pastoring for a few years, and then of going to a university to teach theology. But I gave that up when I became deeply involved in the civil rights struggle. Perhaps, in five years or so, if the demands on me have lightened, I will have the chance to make that dream come true.

Take a look at this 20 second video of Bruce Lee performing a 2 finger pushup. Aside from the amazing strength and body control, notice the grace. Each movement is executed with control. There is no strain or tension. His body moves as one. Notice how cleanly he stands after the exercise. His feet move as if walking on water.  No stomping, no unnecessary noise.

A simplified definition of a professional is someone who makes an action look  easy. They give the illusion that they aren't trying hard. There is limited strain or tension, just grace. Bruce Lee's 2 finger pushup embodies this. The lightness of his movement masks the tremendous amount of strength and control he has.

I describe it as a strong soft touch. It's a paradox. A soft touch that requires a lot of strength. Consider a regular two handed pushup. For most, it's a matter of going down and  up. There is no rhythm, no attention to the breath, arms, or chest. Just do it and move on. Not a lot of strength required. You do the exercise just to do it. And thus you get limited benefits from the exercise and you even risk injury from poor form.

Yet consider a normal pushup with the elegance of Bruce  Lee's 2 finger pushup. Body moves in a fluid down and up motion. There is control. There is breathing. There is focus on form and the muscles compressing and expanding. You get the full benefit of the exercise by doing it with purpose and focus. Such control requires focus and strength. In order to appear effortless or soft on the surface, you must have a foundation of strength.

This is a mindset that can be applied in all facets of your life. Are you stomping through life with limited attention to what is around you? Do you complete your work with the intention of doing the exercise so that you can get to the next one? If you play an instrument or a sport, is there a lot of strain and tension in the actions you perform?

Walking is  probably the simplest way to test yourself. Take ten normal steps, pause, and for the next ten walk 20-50% lighter. Imagine that the dial of gravity is turned back. It's again a paradox, in order to walk lightly you must apply concentration and strength.

A  soft touch isn't just an approach for an exercise. It's a way to live.

One major appeal of New York City is the variety of social gatherings that bring people together for a mutual interest. I've discovered such gatherings for tech, classical music, and most recently, meditation.

Today I attended my first Medi Club gathering. The monthly gathering included a group meditation session, discussion, and time to socialize with attendees. The experience was very positive and I'm looking forward to attending another gathering in the near future.

Todays meditation was led by Sara Auster. Sara is a sound practitioner specializing in improvised meditative concerts known as sound baths. During the meditation Sara had everyone breathe in, and produce an audible note during the exhale.

It's a unique experience to be in a room with 100 other people breathing out and producing an "om" at a varying range of frequencies. Given the variety of tones being produced it's amazing how all voices intertwined to produce a beautiful tone. Had all participants been given instruments and instructed to produce a note, the result would not have been sonically pleasing. Yet the human voice has a predisposition to fuse and harmonize. It's a tangible metaphor that given all our differences, when we unite we produce something much greater than what we could do alone.