Where obesity is concerned, eating carbs just might be more of a problem than eating fat.
The insulin response is triggered more and more when blood sugar levels rise, and carbs make this happen much quicker than fat consumption does. Discover why a balance between carbs, protein and fat is necessary to be in optimal health and lose weight.
What’s the Issue With Carbohydrates?
Ancient civilizations before us existed on diets that included protein, fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Grains, which are the main source of carbs in today’s diet, were unknown or unused until agriculture came on the scene some 10,000 years ago.
Eating carbohydrates tends to cause a significant spike in blood sugar levels, and the body’s natural response then is to produce more insulin to get those blood sugar levels back under control.
Simultaneously, the insulin hormone signals the brain and metabolism to store any remaining calories as fat. So if you’re in the habit of reaching for carbs whenever your hunger cravings set in, you’re perpetuating a cycle of weight gain rather than weight loss.
When there is an abundance of insulin production, all types of medical issues crop up in response, including high blood pressure, compromised immunity, clogged arteries due to blood platelet clumping and other serious conditions.
Should Carbs Be Avoided Altogether?
All this aside, you shouldn’t run from carbohydrates like the plague. You just have to be wiser and more careful in the types of carbs you consume, how often, how much and learn what foods to balance and pair carbs with.
Every time you eat carbs, you should combine them with protein. Protein serves as the building block for every single cell in your body, but more importantly here, protein consumption causes the release of glucagon – a hormone that counters the effects of insulin and keeps blood sugar steady.
All you need is about 3 or 4 ounces of protein per meal, which translates to about the size of the palm of your hand. Your best protein sources are poultry, fish, wild game, tofu and low-fat dairy.
To help insulin and glucagon balance each other out, you should have about 4 grams of carbs for every 3 grams of protein. Carbs to safely choose from include fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes that are absorbed slowly into your bloodstream. Whenever possible, you should steer clear of carbs like bread, rice, pasta, tropical fruit, starchy or sweet veggies (like corn, potatoes, squash, beets, peas and carrots), which spike blood sugar. Whole grains are okay carbs, since they are also absorbed more slowly. Occasional desserts are also okay in moderation and with sufficient protein to balance it out.
Fat also plays a part in your diet. You shouldn’t totally exclude it. In fact, fat in moderation also slows the absorption rate of carbs, which keeps insulin steady. Like fiber, fat also gives you a full feeling that makes you less likely to overeat. The fats that are okay to eat are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, including foods like olive and canola oils, nuts and avocados. For every gram of fat, you should have 3 grams of protein.
So, again, at each meal the ratio of carbs to protein to fat should be 4 to 3 to 1. This balance should ensure that you stay at optimal health and a healthy weight over time.