It may be hard to believe, but the answer is ‘yes’! We’ve been made to believe that a high carbohydrate (60% of daily calorie intake), low fat (15%) and moderate protein (25%) diet is the way to stay healthy and slim. Clearly this is an outdated belief, since the world’s nations are eating less fat than they ever used to, but are experiencing greater incidences of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle diseases. Let’s take a look at the best way to achieve ideal body weight and wellness:
The role of carbohydrates
Of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats), carbohydrates are the only one able to alter blood sugar. This is because their starches break down very quickly into sugars in the body and are available to be used as an immediate energy source.
A few hundred years ago we were far more physically active through our day and our choice of carbohydrate would probably have been an unprocessed whole grain.
However, these days we’re a pretty sedentary species and our carbohydrate choice tends to be one of convenience and thus a processed one (e.g. supermarket bread, juices, crackers, muffins, crisps etc.).
These processed carbohydrates are broken down much more rapidly into sugar than their wholegrain counterparts, playing havoc with blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar becomes high, insulin is released, resulting in a signal to various cells to ‘open’ to receive the excess glucose.
Your muscle cells and liver are probably already topped up with fuel from your previous meal (except if you have exercised at a relatively high intensity since then), so the cells most likely to take this excess fuel are the fat cells, converting the glucose into fat very swiftly.
So, every time you eat a meal that’s high in processed carbohydrates, you’re setting yourself up for body fat storage.
Not only that, but high sugar-release carbohydrates also result in a release of serotonin (our ‘feel-good’ hormone), but they don’t supply adequate fuel because they are ‘burnt up’ so quickly.
Our brain’s subsequent cry for more fuel is ironically perceived as a need for more carbohydrates (due to the resulting seratonin release) and so – when we respond with carbohydrates – we perpetuate a vicious cycle.
How proteins and fats can help
Because people have been advised to consume low levels of fats, and have been made to fear certain proteins (e.g. animal meats) these foods tend to be overlooked when the choice is made for a healthy meal/snack.
Proteins and fats actually control blood sugar levels very effectively by ‘dampening’ the rising blood sugar. This is a concept that many struggle to understand and thanks to decades of mainstream media influence and resulting social perception there is a misconception that dietary fat causes body fat storage.
Certain fats and proteins should be avoided at all costs, such as trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats (both found in processed and fried foods), as well as processed meats, non-fermented soya products or meats from intensively farmed and medicated animals.
However, other fats and proteins are extremely beneficial to health. With regard to fats, these would include organic animal fats like butter or cream (raw, as opposed to pasteurized) and the fat on naturally-raised, grass fed animals (or grub fed, in the case of chickens). Also, cold-pressed plant oils (olive, flax, sunflower, hemp, avocado, nut oils etc.) as well as tropical oil like coconut fat. In the case of proteins, they would include raw nuts and seeds, naturally-raised (and fed) animal meats (this includes fish) and dairy products such as cheese (again, raw, versus pasteurized).
As mentioned, when you consume a meal or snack that consists of protein, fat and carbohydrate, the proteins and fats act to suppress the potential blood sugar spike, ensuring that you don’t produce the high insulin levels that lead to fat storage or sugar cravings.
The best way to stay lean and healthy is to avoid or eliminate altogether any processed carbohydrate from your diet and to eat some form of good-quality protein and fat with every meal (or snack).
In addition to the beneficial weight changes you may notice, you should start to see a big difference in emotional stability, increased energy and a reduction in sweet cravings.
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Tanya Wyatt, is the (surprised) author of two internationally released health fitness books, a nutrition lifestyle coach, a presenter and a health educator (and stand-up comedian wannabe). In the past two decades, she has been involved in developing training courses, lecturing and writing on behalf of educational institutions, contributing to a number of health and fitness magazines, and going grey while she does it.
Tanya served on the Advisory Board of Shape magazine for the duration of its license in South Africa, and writes monthly columns for two Port Elizabeth newspapers, Sport Elizabeth and Algoa Sun. She also writes for several online publications and is a regular guest on the city’s local television station, Bay T.V. (she loves the limelight!)
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