While thankfully the Atkins Diet has fallen mostly to the wayside, many of it’s concepts have not, unfortunately, and carbohydrates are still being cut too drastically from diets in an attempt to lose weight. And guess what? You will lose weight if you cut out carbohydrates, as you would if you cut out any calories from your diet. But just because you lose weight, doesn’t mean you will keep it off, and the method you choose may be detrimental to your health. As a joke states, if you want to lose weight, just cut off a limb (it’s a bad joke, not mine though). But the point is you can lose weight the wrong way.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are not the same, they are each unique macronutrients with unique properties. Combined with minerals, vitamins, and water, you can provide your body with all it needs to sustain itself optimally. The problem is that many people don’t know the chemistry behind the foods they eat, so they simply lump it all together into one category of “calories”. Not a good idea. People need to recognize the differences in each nutrient and the value they bring to our health.
Here is what you get from each:
They provide the main source of energy (B vitamins from carbohydrate-rich foods are a precursor to making ATP, your body’s energy “currency”). Some tissues of your body, such as red blood cells, the brain, and the central nervous system, can only use simple carbohydrates for fuel. If there are little to no simple carbohydrates available, the brain can use ketone bodies which come from the breakdown of fats. However, this can be dangerous as excessive amounts of ketone bodies (from a diet restricting carbohydrates) alter the pH level of your blood, and can cause cell death and biological processes to be altered. Also, when the body doesn’t get sufficient carbohydrates, it will break down both muscle (including organ tissue) and fat, but prefers muscle to fat. Your body is designed to preserve fat for survivial, whether you like it or not.
Also, the effectiveness of fat metabolism is dependent on carbohydrates being present. Without carbohydrates present, it is difficult for fat to be broken down and used properly and at an effective rate.
Aside from fat metabolism and energy production, carbohydrates provide fiber which helps to keep blood glucose levels balanced, keeps your bowel healthy, and helps the body rid itself of excess cholesterol.
The problem is that people are primarily consuming refined carbohydrates, which are not healthy. Rather than cutting out carbohydrates from your diet, eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Fat in your diet is very important, and research shows that consuming healthy fats will help you maintain a healthy weight. Dietary fat doesn’t make you fat, it is too much food and too little exercise that does. While you do need to be careful about how much and what type of fat you consume, healthy fats have many important roles in the body.
Fats also provide energy. They are responsible for fueling muscles while at rest, including the heart muscle. They also provide energy for later-use, therefore, storing energy in the body. However, in order to process fatty acids for energy, you need carbohydrates.
Fat insulates the body helping to maintain body temperature as well as protecting organs. Fat also is needed to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. A certain type of fat, phospholipids, form the cell membranes of the cells in your body.
All of your cells contain proteins and you need them for muscles, tissues, enzymes, antibodies, certain hormones, and bones. Proteins are needed for breakdown and repair of tissues within organs, such as the heart and liver, and without sufficient amounts proteins in these organs will breakdown and not properly rebuild.
Proteins help maintain fluid balance and pH balance within the body, are important in maintaining the immune system, they also help provide energy (though this is probably the least of their functions), and the provide satiety more than any other macronutrient. Satiety is the feeling of fullness from eating. This is why I recommend protein as an important component to breakfast as well as lunch and snacks. It will help you feel full and avoid overeating.
Remember, the key to successful weight management is not cutting out food groups or nutrients, but learning to eat more wholesome, natural foods that include variety, as well as getting plenty of daily exercise.