There seems to be a bit of disconnect with the information fed to us about calories. We’re told, “A calorie is a calorie” and “a calorie in equals a calorie out.” In other words, if you eat it you better burn it or you are going to gain weight. On the other hand we have also been told that certain nutrients and calorie sources are “bad”. Just look up some of the popular diets out there, the infamous Atkins, South Beach Diet, High-Carb Low-fat, 80-10-10 and the list could go on and on. Most of them have one thing in common; they single out a particular nutrient and tell you to eat a lot of it, very little of it or none of it at all.
In the 70s the finger was pointed at fats; cholesterol, trans and saturated fats to be exact. Studies linking the consumption of these fats to higher rates of heart disease, stroke and diabetes effectively got the public asking for more low-fat options. Food companies responded but unfortunately fats were simply replaced with more sugar in most cases. Take a look at the non-fat/low-fat options in your local grocery store they may have more sugar than you think.
A bit more recently, researcher and pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig has been fighting childhood obesity and early on-set type II diabetes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has spent years researching the cause of what these children face and is now convinced that fructose (a component of table sugar) is the culprit. He has gone so far as to call fructose a poison. This is because fructose is metabolized differently than its carbohydrate comrades leading to several deleterious effects like elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance in the liver and elevated blood lipid levels. This is why Lustig says, “A high sugar diet is a high fat diet. They are one and the same.”
The hard part about both of these issues is that they are both correct. Eating a lot of foods high in fat will increase your blood lipid levels increasing the chance of forming plaque and clogging your arteries aka heart attacks and strokes. When a high amount of fructose is present in the diet you may see the effects listed in the paragraph above. So what tasty things can we eat?. Well the answer is everything; in moderation.
What we need to remember is that all of these food stuffs (except perhaps trans fats) are nutrients that our bodies need. Fats are essential to the proper function of our bodies and sugars consumed in whole fruits and other whole foods provide necessary energy for daily living. The problem really comes when we eat too much or too little of a specific nutrient or food group. Singling out one thing in particular can be problematic in a couple of ways. It can create an imbalance in your diet if you decide to try and cut it out entirely or it may create a false sense of security so you feel healthy if you don’t eat it but in reality there are other imbalances present. So how do you know what to eat and how much? You can check out the new dietary guidelines on myplate.gov. There are new recommendations about sugar consumption and great visuals and advice for how to load your plate and plan your meals. You can also schedule an appointment to meet with a dietician for more individual feedback by visiting PEAK Health and Fitness. Remember, a general rule is to eat a variety of foods from each food group.
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