Nutrition is Bey: Beyoncé songs as nutrition basics

| November 29, 2023
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There’s no denying Beyoncé’s musical genius and artistry; following her evolution from lead singer of Girls Tyme to Destiny’s Child to iconic soloist, it’s no wonder she’s called Queen Bey.

With seven studio albums, five live albums, five EPs, one soundtrack album, three compilation albums, and a collaboration with her husband, Sean Carter (Jay-Z or Hov) on their EVERYTHING IS LOVE album, Beyoncé has sold more than 200 million records worldwide as a solo artist and forged a path unlike any other artist of her time.

Unashamedly, I am a Bey stan through and through, especially her most recent artistry: Renaissance. In honor of the December 1 release of her film Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, which will portray the Queen’s work, dedication, and creative mastermind behind her legacy and craft, we present to you some curated highlights of her work across eight of her studio albums as representations of my passion: nutrition.

Nutrition: “Crazy in Love

When thinking of nutrition and what it means to me, the only rightful song to apply is Bey’s hit, Crazy In Love from the album Dangerously in Love.

I often get the same question about my job: “Why nutrition?”

Whenever I get to thinking about it, I smile because, as Beyoncé might say, it’s such a funny thing for me to try to explain, especially in our diet-culture-driven society. But simply put, I am crazy in love with the mechanisms and biochemistry of nutrition and how it interacts with all human and body processes to ensure optimal functioning. To study how different molecules and properties of food such as antioxidants from fruits and veggies, fiber from whole grains, and essential fats from fish and nuts can work together to counteract diagnoses and prognoses is undeniably special and the remainder of this post will outline just that.

Carbohydrates: “I’m That Girl

Of course, we have to start off with the star of the show, carbohydrates, who are in fact THAT GIRL.

When it comes to nutrition and its fundamental purpose of providing nourishment and energy for daily living, carbohydrates must be at the top of the list. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred and primary fuel source. When someone reports feeling fatigued, lackluster, or brain foggy, chances are they’re getting insufficient carbs in their diet.

When broken down, carbohydrates provide glucose for the body, which is the brain’s go-to for energy and optimal functioning. Carbs are especially important at breakfast to replenish the body’s stores that might have been used overnight while sleeping. With insufficient carbs, all other bodily functions – such as the proper use of protein and fat metabolism – are delayed and in extreme cases ceased altogether. Carbs can be found in most food sources including starches like:

  • bread, pasta, and rice;
  • starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash, and corn;
  • and dairy.

So if ever you’re thinking about cutting carbs, remember the words of Bey:

From the top of the morning, I shine (ah-ooh)
Right through the blinds (ah-ooh)
Touching everything in my plain view
And everything next to me gets lit up, too

Fiber: “Formation

Fiber, although not a true nutrient (it’s the indigestible part of plants), is also a factor of nutrition that couldn’t be left out. Found in whole grains, the skins of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, fiber is essential in gut health via the formation of bowels. Fiber plays a key role in maintaining gut health, controlling inflammation, cholesterol, glucose, and regulating appetite. A high fiber diet (> 25g for women and >30g for men) is great for digestion and forming stools. It also helps to keep you feeling full longer.

Think of fiber as telling all other undigested food and waste products in the bowel to “get in formation” of stool for passing. Well-formed stools are easier to pass and decreases the chance of constipation, especially when paired with adequate hydration. Similarly, if you’re having loose or watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool by adding bulk for passing.

A food is considered to be high in fiber if it contains three or more grams per serving. Some high fiber foods include beans, peas, artichokes, sweet potatoes (with skin), blackberries, prunes, brown rice, wheat germ, and whole wheat.

Water: “Summer

Water regulates the entire body. It makes up 60% of the adult body; 90% of blood, 80% of lungs, 79% of muscles and kidneys, 73% of brain and heart, 64% of skin, and 31% of bones. It plays a vital role in all human processing systems. Water and adequate hydration are necessary for lubricating and cushioning joints, regulating water soluble vitamins, protecting the spinal cord, and getting rid of waste through urination, sweat, and bowel movements.

Summer, from the EVERYTHING IS LOVE album by The Carters, is an ideal song for water because that’s when hydration needs tend to increase. However, although we might be in cooler months now and overt perspiration might decrease, it is still important to hydrate adequately through drinking water (still and/or sparkling) and eating fruits like citrus and melon, and vegetables. A good rule of thumb for adequate baseline hydration is to drink half of your body’s weight in pounds in ounces of water daily.

Fun tip: if you’re feeling thirsty, chances are you’re already dehydrated.

Protein: “Ego

I chose Ego for protein because protein is a fan favorite when it comes to muscle building and weight management, especially for frequent gym-goers and athletes. In diet culture, there are tons of recommendations for achieving the ‘perfect’ body, and following a high-protein diet is one of them. There is a common assumption that ‘maxing out’ on protein is the ideal for building muscle and cutting fat; however, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t so.

Yes, protein is important for muscle repair and function, but it is not the cure all for body dissatisfaction, or maintaining long-term weight goals.

I can also let you in on a secret: the body cannot store protein.

That means once the body uses what it needs, it converts the excess to carbohydrates or fat, and disposes of the rest. Overconsumption of protein can also cause constipation, elevated blood lipids, and place a strain on your kidneys, which are responsible for excreting the excess that’s unused.

Outside of muscle repair, protein plays a vital role in gene expression, cell structure, regulating the immune system, and the functioning of enzymes (which catalyze virtually all chemical reactions in the body).

Fat: “Pretty Hurts

In this song from her self-titled album – and its associated music video where she plays a beauty pageant contestant – Beyoncé explores the pressure of being thin and perfect to satisfy others around her. She references a few fad diets (South Beach, sugar free, etc) that lots of people attempt in an effort to be thinner.

As a dietitian, I am here to say that dietary fat is not the enemy.

Fat the nutrient very often gets a bad rep because it is associated with body fat. But dietary fat is much more than that. Encompassing triglycerides, cholesterol, and other essential fatty acids, fats play a role as the body’s back-up energy source, built-in insulator, protector of internal organs, regulator of hormones, transporter of fat-soluble vitamins, and messenger for assisting protein in doing its job.

In fact, dietary fat, especially essential fats like omega 3s from salmon and olive oil, are required for brain development and heart health. When the body doesn’t get enough fat, it can result in dry rashes, hair loss, a weakened immune system, and vitamin deficiencies. To help maintain good health, it is recommended to consume mostly mono- and polyunsaturated fats, as well as omega-3s and omega-6s.

Vitamins & Minerals: “Run the World

I chose Run the World for our micronutrients because although the macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) are consumed abundantly in the diet and spearhead the major functions of the body, it’s truly vitamin and minerals that ensure everything is running smoothly.

I like use the analogy of macronutrients as makeup foundation, while micronutrients are the concealer, contour, and eyeshadow. Alternately, macronutrients are the body and engine of a car and micronutrients are the transmission fluid and oil.

Simply put: micronutrients enhance the function of macronutrients. Vitamins consist of A, D, E, and K which are all fat-soluble, C, and the B class which are water soluble. There are numerous minerals that play vital roles in the body but the six worth highlighting are sodium, potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron.

Vitamins and minerals are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Another fun fact: the body can produce two vitamins: D (in the skin) and K (in the gut).

Supplements: “Irreplaceable

I thought it only reasonable to give a (dis?)honorable mention to supplements. In the Queen’s iconic song from 2006, she outlines that while she’s irreplaceable, her partner is disposable and can be replaced in about one minute. Essentially, that’s what I think of dietary supplements.

Like Beyoncé herself, a balanced diet of carbohydrates, lean protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and dietary fat is irreplaceable. Supplements are more like the nameless guy in the song: largely superfluous. Although diet supplement therapy is used to offset deficiencies, it cannot replace a balanced diet.

Supplements are also not meant to treat or mitigate diseases and diagnoses. They are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so should be taken with caution and only at the recommendation of a medical professional.