"Protein is over-rated and our bodies are not meant to eat it!"
I don't really like the saying "Everything in moderation" because I believe there are some things like cocaine which are toxic even in small doses, but when it comes to macronutrients, I don't believe we should be shunning (or completely ignoring) one or the other. We have adapted to eat these different macronutrients because our bodies need each and every one for proper bodily functions.
In the absence of any one of these macronutrients, our body has to scramble to use something else up for what it needs and I don't think this is adequate (more on that later).
Protein derives from the greek word "protos" (of course, it all comes back to us Greeks!) which means first. When we break down protein it is constructed of essential amino acids which build new cells, maintains our bodily tissue, and make new proteins to continue to perform functions. It makes our hair, nails and teeth strong, but more importantly, protein constructs enzymes which help us digest the food we eat. Without protein it would be hard to maintain muscle mass and leanness, a favored state for longevity. Many who choose not to eat meat may disregard protein, but it is vital to include a protein source in one's diet even if it comes from a non-animal source. Although the amino acids coming from meat are far superior and better utilized by the body, our body's are amazing at making use of whatever we provide it with, including a lower quality protein. From personal experience, when I minimized my protein intake to less than a pound a day, I lost body mass over all (fat too, but also muscle) and this took away from the lean appearance I think looks most healthy.
Next comes fat. This is the most phobic macronutrient of all, except in the paleosphere where some advocate eating coconut oil by the spoonful and drowning our vegetables in duck fat. While we should all love fat as I explain here, we need to understand that not every fat is created equal. Saturated fats (like coconut oil), also called short chain fatty acids, are most readily used by the body for energy instead of stored in fat cells. These are the most superior source. Next comes monounsaturated fats from sources like olive oil and avocados. And lastly, the polyunsaturated fats (a misnomer because they are called "essential"-- our body actually doesn't need them like the other two because our body doesn't create these fats we can only get it externally. If these fats were so important, our body would have adopted a way to make them too). Omega-3s are really the most neglected in American diets today as we favor vegetable oils, which are high in Omega-6 fats and lead to inflammation among one of the negatives. I don't think everyone needs to bless fat like it is the most superior macronutrient and make it the bulk of one's diet (I mean you can if you want to!), but I think it is important to remember that our very reason we are able to sit and read this today is because of our mother's intake of fat and our first intake of food, breast milk, which was so heavy in fat for optimum development. I think fat should be added to food so that it is satiating and the right fats should always be favored in cooking (whether vegetables or meat), but it shouldn't make up so much of the calories that we neglect other important macronutrients like carbohydrates.
Yes, carbohydrates are needed too! Too often in the paleosphere we completely disregard carbs at all for maximum weight loss efforts. In fact this does help a lot because by cutting out the bread and refined sugars, and adding in vegetables and meat, one's diet naturally goes to a more low-carb one. But if we are already eating foods from a whole, unprocessed source, it makes no sense to me to disregard carbohydrates. For one, they lead to fertility. Yes, for a baby to develop a woman's body needs to know there is adequate food available for another human being. Glucose, the main ingredient in paleo carbs, are required by the brain for proper functioning (hence why some low-carbers run in to brain fog). If we do not get enough carbohydrate, our body sends protein to the liver in a process called gluceoneogenesis which turns protein into glucose for the brain. This is how lions meet their glucose needs for their bodies, but we are not lions. We live in a world today with more toxins than ever before, so our livers are working harder than ever to constantly detoxify. Putting on the added strain of having to transform protein into glucose is not wise either. Which is also why glucose and not fructose should be favored as a carbohydrate source. Fructose, which is mainly from fruits, goes right to the liver for processing and then straight to adipose tissue (fat). Glucose on the other hand, especially after a hard work-out, goes right to replenishing muscle glycogen and being utilized in the brain (as I said before). Fruit shouldn't be completely disregarded as I think it is delicious and mother nature's dessert (I mean we literally pick it from a tree and munch!) and in a metabolically healthy human we can process fructose just fine. For someone following a paleo diet though, they also need to meet their glucose needs for proper brain functioning as I said before and to repair muscle glycogen which gets depleted daily. That is when we favor squashes (spaghetti, butternut, zucchini, yellow, acorn, you name it!) for those that want the glucose but not too much sugar and yams, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes for the lean trying to maintain their composition. There are other great sources of carbohydrates like turnips, parsnips, and carrots, but the latter will provide us with more glucose. I often see paleo followers complaining of feeling cold, having a hard time losing weight, or a low thyroid function. This is because our body needs the right carbohydrates for important functions like our thyroid to operate! If we are eating healthy, whole foods sources, we shouldn't neglect a macronutrient that is vital to our longevity! I could keep on going on why our body needs carbohydrate like for the production of testosterone in men and female hormones like estrogen in women which increases our rate of continuing the population-- by improving sex drive-- or else our species would have died out. Plus, we have hunter-gatherer cultures like the Okinawans where carbohydrates (from healthy sources like sweet potato and taro) make up the bulk of their diet and much of their population lived to be centenarians.
I just get scared when I read about the discussion around paleo blogs because most healthy, lean individuals opting to cut out carbs is risky. If one is trying to lose weight, limiting carbohydrate consumption (that means half a sweet potato instead of two a day!) is probably a good idea. But for athletes or lean women trying to have children, this view is just dangerous. Most of the blogs neglect to discuss the onset of amenorrhea (lack of menstrual cycles) in some women on this diet. It is all over the paleo internet if we look, but rarely discussed. This type of thing could be avoided if we increased carb consumption and stopped being afraid of one macronutrient over the others. I am not putting any one person to blame, but I just think it is in our American nature to restrict to reach a goal. Health isn't reaching something, it is an ongoing process for our entire life. Are we going to restrict and feel crappy forever? I don't think so. Therefore, on a whole foods diet embrace every macronutrient in moderation at each meal and enjoy the benefits that each one provides to your body.
We need each macronutrient for optimum functioning or else we would not have evolved to handle each one.
What about you? Do you embrace every macronutrient?