The health industry has always tried to demonise single macronutrients (other than protein). It makes it easier for the consumer to understand and easier for them to sell you a single product.
There are huge food producers lobbying the US Food Authority to make sure that the public consider their product healthy. They used the US heart disease epidemic to make fats and, more specifically, cholesterol the enemy. The corn industry benefitted suspiciously from this as their starchy, low-fibre vegetable - that we turn into sugary syrup by stripping it of fibre and processing the starches - replaced the lost flavour in low-fat products.
Then you have the meat & dairy industry, who benefit if you believe carbs are terrible. It allows them to fill your plate with animal products over grains and vegetables.
In fact, both are actually a crucial part of our diet. The only way carbs and fats are unhealthy is when you eat processed versions of either of them… and especially at the same time.
We learnt in the previous article what insulin does; it’s your body’s system to distribute and burn digested carbohydrate (ie, glucose). Processed carbohydrates digest quickest and thus stimulate insulin the most. When we eat them it has the same effect as eating natural, unprocessed carbs in large quantities. Doing so often results in insulin becoming desensitised and can lead to diabetes.
Most of us don’t even know we’re doing it. Through breakfast cereal, bread, white rice & snacks we can end up eating them all whole day. In time, it damages our body’s sugar management system and we live with unhealthy blood sugar levels.
It also leads to addiction. Eating processed carbs that spike our blood sugar also sets off similar reactions in our brains to drugs. This causes us to eat more than we need to and, when you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, it stores them as fat. Like a drug, we are then also left feeling down and low on energy after our body has burnt the carbs. This makes us tempted to eat again sooner, and with more meals or snacking comes more calories. More calories results in weight gain. Simple.
Fats are great for controlling appetite as they’re very satiating and keep you feeling full. They’re also quite calorie-dense and this is usually increases when they’re processed. If you eat more of them than you need, they get stored as body fat, just like when you eat too many carbohydrates. Your stomach has sensors in it that gauge how much food is enough, but the calorie-density of processed food confuses it. Eating until you’re “full” goes from being 600 calories to 1000 calories.
The problem is your brain is working against you. Humans evolved in environments of scarcity, where landscapes and seasons meant you could end up not eating for long periods of time. This means that we’re programmed to want to store fat in case of emergency and our sensors identify and desire the most calorie dense foods. We’re made to enjoy eating as much as possible of the least healthy combination available to us. We want processed foods for all the reasons why they’re bad for us; they combine carbs for immediate energy and fats that we can store, whilst being dense in calories. It’s the main reason you’ll rarely find a personal trainer recommending them.
Think about it. Everything that is delicious combines processed sugar & fats. Potato chips – processed starch fried in processed oil. Nasi lemak, Kuala Lumpur’s famous breakfast dish – processed white rice cooked in processed coconut fat. The traditional peanut butter and jam – processed nut oils combined with processed fruit sugars. Even the healthy hipster breakfast of avocado on toast – processed wheat underneath a fatty fruit, often covered in healthy, but calorie-packed processed olive oil. You get the picture.
Now think about how many of nature’s offerings combine the two… That’s right, none. You could argue the case for coconuts, but even then the water is sugars and the flesh is fats. All simple carb sources are generally very low in fat and contain large amounts of fibre, and all fat sources are low in carbs.
So, the key to eating carbs and fats? Eat real, unprocessed food. Then you don’t have to worry.
In the next article from Joompa, Personal Training Kuala Lumpur, we look at the modern trend of removing carbs completely!
Head over to the next article to see us cover The Ketogenic Diet