For a long time, we’ve been told to eat a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrate rich grains to be healthy. The food pyramid, found on school classroom walls and doctors offices, has breads, grains and other starches and its base. The message is eat more wheat, corn and other grains and we’ve been listening.
Wheat production alone has tripled in the last 50 years to try and keep up with our insatiable demand for ‘healthy’ grains. But is it working?
Just look around you any time you’re out walking on the street if you really wondered the answer to that question. During that same 50 year time period clinical obesity levels in American adults have risen from just under 10% in 1960 to over 35% in 2010. Children’s obesity rates are going up even faster. It’s estimated that by 2030, over half the US population will be obese.
To be defined as clinically obese isn’t just overweight, it’s life threatening. We are getting fat real fast. But how can this be when saturated animal fat consumption has actually fallen significantly over the same time period? Surely eating less saturated fat should have made things better, shouldn’t it? Actually, it’s made things much worse.
How Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates Affect Your Body
One of the hardest things for some people to get their head around is that it’s usually not eating fat that makes us fat. Yes fatty acids contain more calories than carbohydrates or protein. But the way our bodies process and use protein, carbohydrates and fats are very different.
Good protein sources like free range eggs, seeds and nuts, wild salmon or grass fed meat help to build and maintain your body and its muscles, organs and blood. Eating protein also provides a good level of satiety (that satisfied feeling of fullness you should get after eating a meal) and you would find it very difficult to get fat on a diet of natural protein foods combined with a variety of vegetables.
Healthy fats like those found in coconut, avocado, butter from grass fed cows, nuts and seeds and free range meats provide an even higher level of satiety than protein. These types of high-fat foods really fill you up and tell your body to stop eating. They level out your blood sugar and tend to stop our hunger dead in its tracks for many hours.
Certain fatty acids, like the saturated capric acid found in coconuts or the monounsaturated oleic fatty acid predominant in avocados, have also been shown to help reduce body fat and significantly aid in weight loss.
Weight gain really is a much more complex subject than simply calories in calories out. The evidence has been staring mainstream food regulators in the face for many decades. But they are either very slow, or have a very big grain industry to protect. This brings us to carbohydrates and grains. Bread, pasta and cereals are dealt with by your body much differently than protein or fat.
First of all, they’re digested much quicker. Even the so-called complex carbohydrates are rapidly converted into glucose and hit your bloodstream very fast. Whole wheat bread for instance completes its digestion only marginally slower than white bread. And as for those bleached burger buns or bright white slices of bread, they might as well be made of table sugar for all your body knows. The effect they have and the lack of nutrition they provide really isn’t very different.
Carbohydrates are sold to us as a quick source of energy. Sounds good but this is precisely the reason why they make us fat. Here’s why.
How Bread Makes You Fat?
Insulin is a powerful hormone that is responsible for storing fat. When a farmer wants to fatten up his cattle or a sumo wrestler wants to put on weight quickly, they don’t eat fats. That would fill them up and not have the desired effect. Instead they eat grain – wheat for the cattle, rice for the sumo wrestler.
They do this for the grains ability to spike insulin. It’s insulin that is needed to swell the body’s adipose fat cells and deposit even more fat. Without a spike in insulin you’d actually have a very hard time gaining weight.
Eating a diet high in carbohydrates will prevent stored body fat being used as fuel. There is never a chance for your body to switch to using it as an energy source. Even if you were to cut out fat completely (which is extremely unhealthy as fatty acids are involved in many vital bodily processes), you would still be unlikely to lose weight as long as you continue to eat grains. In fact, you’d probably get fatter even faster.
Your body isn’t actually very good at dealing with large amounts of carbohydrates. Any meal high in carbs converts quickly to significant amounts of glucose and is actually seen as a threat. Your blood sugar levels must be maintained in a fairly narrow range. As soon as they get too high your body releases insulin to deal with the danger.
A small amount of glucose can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (and this would be helpful if you intend to run a marathon the next day). But the rest is shuttled away into the adipose tissue designed to store fat, at first around the waist and hips and once that starts to get full, pretty much anywhere it can.
This is a protective mechanism we’ve developed over many thousands of years and would have been useful in the past when food was scarce. But that’s no longer the case and now it’s our relentless consumption of fattening grains that is making so many of us obese and leading to a huge rise in diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are killing us.
Low-Fat Versus Low-Carb
Low-fat diets haven’t worked. They make us hungrier and much fatter as a result. We need healthy fats. They are a vital part of both good health and weight loss.
There’s one important exception, sometimes still marketed as good for you or ‘heart healthy’ but definitely not so. The processed vegetable oils like corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower and canola oil that are added to a high percentage of processed supermarket foods and hydrogenated into toxic margarine.
These heated and altered polyunsaturated fats are highly inflammatory and linked to heart disease and many other health problems. Avoid them at all costs. Avocado oil or coconut oil are far healthier cooking choices in your kitchen. Olive oil is a source of good fats too as long as you don’t heat it as it breaks down easily.
Ideally, carbohydrates in your diet should come from vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots, peppers, leafy greens and many others and lesser amounts of fruit. These contain the fiber to slow down carbohydrate digestion as well as high levels of nutrients and enzymes for better health.
There’s a growing movement of people who have given up grains completely and many have been amazed at the changes in their health and energy. If you really need to lose some weight, cutting out grains for a while will be likely to have a far greater effect on your body weight than the old counting calories. Starving yourself just doesn’t work. You actually teach your body to get better at storing fat as food is suddenly restricted.
Once you reach your ideal body weight, you may be able to tolerate some grain foods without provoking too much of a spike in insulin. Even then, nutritional experts who’ve actually looked deeply into the effect foods like wheat and corn have on our physiology (rather than just chanting the old ‘carbohydrates for quick energy’ mantra) generally believe grain based food should not be more than 20% of your daily intake.
They also consistently say healthy fats have an important place in your meals if you want to lose weight and be fit and healthy.
In the meantime, check what other benefits bread has!
Have you been trying to lose weight with the old cutting calories, low fat, more grains prescription? Has it been working? Why not try a different way?
While it may be hard to believe, you probably need more, not less, of the right kind of fats. Couple that with a reduction in insulin spiking grains and you’ll be well on your way to weight loss, better heath and more energy.