Are carbohydrates and fat bad for you?

Other than protein, the health industry has always tried to demonise single macro nutrients, simply because it makes it easier for them to sell you a single product.

There are huge food producers lobbying the US Food Authority to make sure the public considers their products healthy.

They use the US heart disease epidemic to make fat, and more specifically, cholesterol the enemy.

The corn industry benefitted 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.

The meat and dairy industry also benefits if you believe carbs are bad as it allows them to fill your plate with animal products instead of 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 and the effects are worse if you consume both at the same time.

The link between carbs, fats and insulin

In a previous article, it was discussed that insulin is our body’s system to distribute and burn digested carbohydrates like 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.

In fact most of us don’t even know we’re consuming carbs and fat. Through breakfast cereal, bread, white rice and snacks, we can end up eating them the whole day.

In time, they damage our body’s sugar management system and we end up with unhealthy blood sugar levels.

Eating them leads to addiction. Eating processed carbs spike our blood sugar and sets off a similar reaction to drugs in our brain. This causes us to eat more carbohydrates than we need and when that happens your body stores it as fat.

Like the after-effects of a drug, we are then left feeling down and low on energy after our body has burnt the carbs. This makes us tempted to eat again and with more meals and snacking come more calories. More calories result in weight gain.

Understanding fats

Fats are great for controlling our appetite as it is very satiating and keeps us feeling full. Fat is also quite calorie-dense and this usually increases when it’s processed.

If you eat more fat than you need, it get stored as body fat, just like when you eat too many carbohydrates. Your stomach has sensors that gauge how much food is enough, but the calorie-density of processed food confuses it.

Eating until you’re “full” can range from 600 to 1,000 calories. This is because your brain is working against you. Humans evolved in environments of scarcity, where landscapes and seasons dictated that you could end up not eating for a long period 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 combinations available to us.

We want processed food for exactly the reasons why they’re bad for us; they combine carbs for immediate energy and fat that we can store, whilst being dense in calories.

Think about it. Everything that is delicious combines processed sugar and fats. Potato chips are processed starch fried in processed oil.

Nasi Lemak is processed white rice cooked in processed coconut fat. The traditional peanut butter and jam sandwich is processed nut oil combined with processed fruit sugar.

Even the healthy hipster breakfast of avocado on toast is processed wheat underneath a fatty fruit, often covered in healthy, but calorie-packed processed olive oil. You get the picture by now.

Now consider how many of nature’s offerings combine the two. The answer is none. You could argue the case for coconut, but then the water is sugar and the flesh is fat.

All simple carbohydrate sources are generally very low in fat and contain large amounts of fibre, and all fat sources are low in carbs.

So what is the key to eating carbs and fat sensibly? Eat real, unprocessed food and you won’t have to worry about any adverse effects.

In the next article, the modern trend of removing carbs from our diet completely will be discussed.

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