It may be hard to believe, but it’s true! 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 Clearly this is an outdated belief, since the world’s nations are eating less fat than they ever used to, but are experiencing greater incidences of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and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.