Proteins, carbs, and fat all are essential parts of our diet, despite what you may have picked up from an endless stream of articles about low-fat versus low-carb strategies for losing weight. Healthy eating is all about appreciating the good proteins. Carbs, and fats should be the cornerstones of your diet, and their bad evil twins should be eaten only in moderation or reserved for the occasional splurge.
Good protein delivers those necessary amino acids (from which the body builds new cells and repairs old ones) with a minimum of high-fat, high-calorie baggage. Poultry (without the skin) is an excellent low-fat protein mainstay, as are low- or non-fat dairy products. But if you like red meat, theres no reason why you have to eliminate it altogether. A smallish five-ounce serving of a lean cut such as sirloin translates to fifteen grams of fat, which should fit almost anybodys daily nutritional budget. On the other hand, ten ounces of spareribs equals eighty grams of fat. You should do the math.
Good carbohydrates are for the most part complex carbs, such as grains, fruits, and veggies, which are packed with fiber and water, which slow down digestion. Not only do these goods provide a nice, even energy flow over the day, theyre packed with vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting compounds. Sometimes the term volumetrics is used to describe the weight-control strategy of eating high-quality, high-bulk foods that fill you up without adding too many calories.
The evil twin carbs are the simpler ones that your body can most quickly break down and use as fuel. Sweets, snacks, and drinks laced with corn-syrup sweetener are one example. Starchy food with fiber processed out of it white bread, white rice, white pasta is another. Simply put, whole foods are good; the refined, processed versions are not. When the simple carbs hit your system, blood sugar levels rise quickly and dramatically, stimulating your body to produce correspondingly high levels of insulin to clear the sugars out of the bloodstream and get them into muscle and liver cells for short-term storage. You may feel a boombust effect, a sugar rush followed by a feeling of fatigue or depletion. Over time, you can overstress your insulin system, leading to insulin resistance and, in serious cases, adult-onset diabetes.
As recently as fifteen years ago, all fat seemed to come in one flavor bad. Weight-loss gurus and academic experts alike agreed that dietary fat which packs nine calories per gram compared to four for carbohydrates and protein was the major culprit behind heart disease and the ever-expanding American waistline. That was then. Now we appreciate the role of good fats in the diet. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts, help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the so-called bad cholesterol, and offers protection against disease. Polyunsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids that the body needs but does not itself produce. The omega-3 fatty acids are the stars of this group they lower bad cholesterol and can reduce tissue inflammation, which explains why they seem to protect against diseases as various as heart disease, Alzheimers, and arthritis. The most plentiful source of omega-3s is cold-water fish, but because of well-founded concern about mercury toxicity, youre better off sticking with the small fry down on the food chain such as herring and sardines. Other options are the new fortified foods such as omega-3-fortified eggs and orange juice, or supplemental oil and gel caps.
The fats that deserve their nasty reputation are saturated and Trans fats, both of which raise levels of LDL cholesterol. (Interestingly, it turns out that the dietary cholesterol found in egg yolks doesnt have a pronounced effect on cholesterol levels in the blood and doesnt deserve most of its old bad rep.) You dont need a nutrition degree to know that chicken skin, beef fat, and dairy products such as full-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are heavy in saturated fats. But your body does need a modest amount of saturated fat, so unless youre on a strict low-fat diet for a heart condition, you can partake sensibly, from time to time. Bad saturated fat does taste good and does promote a feeling of satiety.
About Trans fat, we have nothing positive to say. Trans or partially hydrogenated fat is created when vegetable oil is hydrogenated or processed to stay solid at room temperature. Its in margarine and vegetable shortening, commercially produced baked goods, and junk food. It raises bad LDL cholesterol and lowers good HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Fortunately, Trans fats deservedly bad press has prompted quite a few manufacturers to reduce or eliminate it from their products, so its not as ubiquitous as it once was. Still, it pays to eat defensively check the labels in the supermarket or the convenience store, and not only for Trans fat. If the product in question has a laundry list of hard-to-pronounce preservatives and artificial flavorings, keep moving down the isle. Better yet, move over to the fresh-produce isle.