The article was about a pair of male identical twins who are both medical doctors and how they decided they would carry out an experiment about comparing low fat diet vs low carb diet to highlight all the speculation about which is best in terms of weight loss. The great thing about them doing this is that they are genetically identical, and in a world where genetics are so important, often listed higher than environment, they were the perfect candidates.
The article concluded that the results of a low fat diet or a low carb diet basically did the same thing for your health after a while and that the weight loss was the same, energy levels were similar etc etc etc. The final advice given was that to make a difference what you need to avoid is mixing carbs and fat. Well. Which carbs and which fats do you need to avoid mixing to ensure you maintain a healthy weight and keep healthy? That is the real question which the article failed to cover. To the general public, who forgive me for saying this if you do know what I’m talking about; this means nothing because the general public does not know which fats are actually good for you and which aren’t. Likewise with cabs/sugars. If they did there would be no type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular health would be better, there would be a much lowered percentage of obese and morbidly obese people, cancer diagnosis would be reduced, arthritis would be lower and so the list goes on. What the article should have stated to actually make it a valid and useful piece of research is what I am about to mention.
I do advocate the eating of meat and dairy if it is your wish to do so and you are not allergic/intolerant to it, just as I support you if you chose to have a vegetarian or vegan diet. As a Naturopathic Physician I don’t believe there is one specific diet that suits all as everyone is different, so when I talk about fats, I do mention animal fats as well as vegetable/legume based fats.
Let’s start with the bad fats. Trans fats which includes margarine and overly processed and therefore destroyed fats which you will find are in all of those delicious ready-made foods – crisps, biscuits, cake, chocolate . And probably hiding in most premade meals (depending on from where they are bought), fried food, pizzas, anything with bought pastry (and home-made if you use margarine rather than butter and lard). The reason these fats are bad for you is because they are mostly synthetic for example margarine which is actually grey and they dye it yellow.
Heating the fats in cooking means they denature making the molecules twist causing damage to our body when we eat them. Trans fats and oils/fats used in mass production have had the beneficial nutrition such as Vitamin E (an antioxidant) removed which renders useless an oil that was otherwise good for us. Manufacturers remove the Vitamin E from the fat/oil because it can be sold off as a separate product which means the company makes more money.
Eating a synthetic and/or processed food is never going to be as good for you when you eat the natural version which your body automatically knows how to metabolise and use.
Nature is clever and provides foods whose parts keep us healthy when eaten as a whole.
Low fat foods, especially dairy, have been mucked about with and had all the good nutrients removed and more often than not, replaced with sugar. So if you make JUST one change, stop eating low fat yoghurt and cheese and buy the full fat version. Organic if you can. Also, manufacturers can be cheeky and put low fat across the product when it doesn’t have any in to begin with as a marketing ploy to make you think you are making a healthier choice. Don’t believe it. (See my blog post on obesity and plus sized models for an example of this).
Good fat – this might surprise you. Every cell wall in our bodies and brains are made out of fat. We need it. Without it we are ill. And all that you have read in the press about how bad saturated animal fat is for you, well, that’s not entirely true. Too much of it and yes, you will put yourself at risk of heart disease, obesity and all that it entails, but the right amount keeps every cell in your body happy and healthy AND will keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range as well. When you cook, use butter or coconut oil or ghee. Fats that are solid at room temperature and melt with heat. They are much more stable and keep their structure at higher temperatures which means they do less damage to our systems. Fats which are liquid at room temperature – cold pressed, raw, virgin olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil are good for dressings and for splashing over cooked food for flavour.
Nuts, seeds and oily fish contain good fats including omega 3 among others which are anti-inflammatory and essential to health. I recommend if you don’t like fish to make nut butters or buy 100% nut butters and seeds like chia to get omega 3 into your diet. And if you have a nutribullet/blender you can nut butters!
CAUTION! Eating too much good fat can be detrimental to your health, and you should only eat something in moderation. You can make yourself really ill for example by having too much of a fat soluble vitamin or mineral; because the body stores it in every fat cell in your body it can be toxic to you.
Carbohydrates. When I think of carbs I immediately think of vegetables rather than sugar. When I think of sugar I think of cake. Carbs are essential to the diet because vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables contain so much good stuff that we need and without it we can become ill. I always worry when someone tells me they aren’t eating any carbs as it means that they won’t be getting enough fibre and going for a daily poo is very important. When someone says they aren’t eating carbs and they just mean bread, pasta, rice and potatoes, I don’t get the same alarm bells ringing.
The bad sugars. You know what I’m about to say. Refined cane sugar, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, any food that has had fructose added to it without containing fruit, or if it is listed in addition to the fruit. Here is a handy article if you want to know a bit more: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-spot-and-avoid-added-sugar
Bad carbs are usually the white ones – white bread, pasta and rice. They have been processed and bleached and had all the nutrients removed. Switch to brown bread, pasta and rice and you will gain a variety of benefits. Fibre, b vitamins and a more level blood sugar release than the inevitable spike and crash you get with the white stuff.
I would say that if you are going to have some sugar, it’s better to use good quality organic and raw honey, agave or raw cane sugar than the processed and refined version; you are more likely to be eating the sugar in its entirety which means it is metabolised slightly differently. I am also going to add at this point that I do eat cake and biscuits. I am not holier than thou, maybe I should be but I also believe life is for living so my diet is 75% fruit and vegetables which are mainly organic, 10-15% meat, 5% dairy and 5% naughty. I also exercise regularly.
Talking of fruit (which contain good carbs), if you have more than two fruits a day I would say that it’s not ideal. Even though you are having all the fibre and antioxidants and other nutrients that are in them – the natural goodness of the fruit that makes them so good for you, if you eat too much you are just adding in a lot of unnecessary to your diet. Try to only have two fruits a day. And don’t drink fruit juice especially if it doesn’t have pulp in it or it’s called fruit juice drink. Many fruit juices have sugar added to them especially if they are called fruit juice drink. Drinking lots of fruit juice is similar to drinking glasses of sugar.
They are often thought of as the enemy of the people but in actual fact, they aren’t as bad as you might think and do contain certain essential nutrients such as vitamin c if you leave the skin on and eat that as well when they are cooked. But out of all the vegetables they are among the most starchy so there will be a blood sugar spike with them. Sweet potatoes on the other hand actually create less of a sugar spike than white potatoes.
So really the bad news is when you mix the bad fats with the bad sugar. Not when you simply mix any sugar/carbs and fats full stop.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule because we are all individual and unique. No one else digests and processes food in the same way as you. That’s why I always say eat what suits you. If you are craving something you probably need it. And if you always want high fat sugary food, there may be something else going on. So listen to your body. And if you have any concerns or would like advice you are always able to contact me for a consultation.
image from halefitness.co.uk