Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fats and Carbs: The Good? The Bad? The Confusing?

There is a lot of confusion out there when it comes to understanding good fats vs. bad fats as well as good carbohydrates vs. bad carbohydrates.  Really, what is the truth and what do you really need to know in order to have great health?   Are all fats bad or just the saturated fats like steak and eggs?  Are all carbohydrates bad or just the simple carbohydrates like sugar and high fructose corn syrup, or products like bread, pasta, rice, cookies and cakes?
Do we really need to memorize all of the different types of food groups and which foods fall into the “good” category, or is there an easier way to make choices that will serve our purpose.
Well if you believe the no-fat, low-fat supporters then all fat is bad and just about all carbs are good. That certainly makes it easy, and you can lose weight that way if you limit your calories.   But, history has shown us that eating very low levels of fat is very detrimental to our health.  It leads to decreases in brain and nervous system function, decreased sex hormones and libido,  decreases in lean muscle mass, and increases in diabetes, dry skin and brittle hair, just to name a few.
 On the other hand if you believe the no-carb, low carb groups and supporters, then all fats are good and all carbs are bad.  The research shows that there are some positives found in this claim like weight loss, decreases in cholesterol at least short term, as well as increased feelings satiety and more controlled blood sugars.   But, long term over exposure to only fat and protein is questionable for health, especially for the heart and has been shown to increase inflammation in the entire body.   Beyond that it is important to realize that the brain needs a minimum of 70 grams of carbohydrates a day to function properly, and your muscle and liver glycogen needs to be replaced each day or at least every other day if you want to keep your energy up.   Case in point; there is less than a hand full of athletes, especially professional and elite athletes who eat very low carbs.  The reason is because their bodies need energy from carbohydrates and so does yours to work well!
You might be able to get away with eating almost no carbs for a while but if you want;  unlimited energy, a high functioning brain and the ability to exercise, and at the same time don’t want to invite heart disease or chronic inflammation into your life then low carb is not the way to go.
So instead of looking at the extremes let’s look at the reality; humans need energy to function, energy is created out of both fat and carbohydrates.  Your heart prefers fat as its major energy source but your brain prefers glucose or carbohydrates.   Your muscles can operate satisfactorily off of either source of energy but prefers one over the other for optimum performance dependent upon the situation.     This means that we need to eat both.  But how do we do that if we are trying to be healthy and trying to lose weight?
Knowing the good fats over the bad fats can have value, just as the same applies to carbohydrates.  You can find the complete breakdown of this list in my free diet available at Michael-mountain.com.  Here is a simpler and more important point, we use both sources for energy but utilizing one source at any given time is easier on the body and more efficient for creating energy.  In fact, if you eat fat and carbs at the same time, it will usually result in fat storage.   So, start to realize the most important rule is not what is good or bad, but to try to separate the two sources at any given meal. 
We need energy but we don’t need a ton of it!  Eating fat and carbohydrates together nine times out of ten provides too much energy for the body to burn so it stores the surplus as fat.  The typical western diet and its ill effects is a perfect example of these fat-carbohydrate combinations that make us obese and destroy our health.  Pizza, hamburgers, French fries, meat pies, steak and potatoes…the list is endless.  To maximize weight loss, simply limit each meal to one source of energy.    It is a perfect beginning to know how to choose certain foods in healthy combinations.
Research has proven that the winning combination of foods for health and weight loss is lean sources of protein and high fiber, nutrient rich vegetables.  That is where you start.  To that you can add either a fat source or a carbohydrate source but not both together at a meal.  Here is an example using breakfast; you might begin with a vegetable, egg-white omelet (protein and vegetables) and to it you might add fat such as the egg yolk or avocado to the omelet and cream to your coffee.  On the other hand you might add a carbohydrate such as a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of whole grain toast, such as Ezekiel bread.  At each meal, just make a choice as to which energy source, fat or carbohydrates, you will be adding. 
   It becomes quite easy as a way to make healthy food choices.  Separating your energy sources will not only trim down your waist-line it will also increase your health because you will be giving your body both the energy sources it needs to function optimally!   Special tip: the best time to add carbohydrates to your protein and vegetable meal is right after your work-out!

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