Photo credit: Adam Wiles
What to eat and what not to eat has been a confusing situation for anyone who wants to eat healthfully and either lose or maintain weight. The prevailing wisdom for the last 30 years has been that eating foods high in fat will make us fat. So in an effort to either lose weight or stay slim, we’ve been avoiding foods that we perceive as being high in fat.
We drink our coffee with skim milk, order egg white omelets, use salad dressings with no oil and spread a chemical-laden fake butter on “whole” grain breads. For snacks or breakfast, we grab fat-free yogurt with fruit-ish stuff and when we eat cheese, it is low- or no-fat and tastes more like plastic than cheese. Parents even give their kids low-fat peanut butter, even though young children need fat for healthy brain development. Number one, these foods don’t satisfy us and number two, they sure aren’t making us thin! In fact, the nation gets fatter and fatter as we consume more and more of these highly processed low-fat foods that line the supermarket shelves in appealing packaging and oft-misleading labeling.
With new research by the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center, we may be able to put the nail in the proverbial coffin of the failed advice that eating a low-fat diet is the way to permanently lose weight and to achieve good health.
After conducting a study of three types of diets, the low-fat diet (with around 20% of the calories consumed as fat) was the least effective at sustaining long-term weight loss. The most successful diet for long-term weight loss was similar to the Mediterranean Diet that is closer to 30% fat, but contains the good fats found in olives, olive oil, salmon, mackerel, nuts, seeds, eggs and avocados.
Photo credit: Desert Health
Many in Integrative Medicine have been recommending the Mediterranean diet for many years, because the Mediterranean countries experience a much lower incidence of heart disease than the United States. Physicians like Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mark Hyman with the Ultra-Wellness Diet and Barry Sears of the famous Zone Diet have been laying the way to follow the formula of the Mediterranean Diet in books, lectures and their websites for a couple of decades! These physicians have also been warning of the dangers of food additives and the addictive nature of processed foods.
Still confused? Here’s what you need to know to wrap your head around this seemingly contradictory information:
1. To feel full, or satiated, we need 25 – 30 percent of our total calories to consist of the good fats. We feel hungry when we eat a diet that is 20 percent or below. When we eat good fats up to 25 – 30 percent of our total calories, we often end up actually eating less because we aren’t starving and fighting off cravings all day.
2. Most of those “low-fat foods” are highly processed and contain sugar, bad carbs and salt. These are not the good carbs found in fruits and veggies that are loaded with anti-oxidants and fiber. Fruits and veggies are naturally low in fat, so feel free to eat copious amounts of them, especially veggies and lower-sugar fruits like berries and cherries.
3. The bad carbs found in most of the low-fat processed foods trigger our pancreas to release high levels of the fat-accumulating and fat-storing hormone, insulin. We girls have enough hormonal issues without consuming foods that make our bodies produce high levels of the fat accumulating hormone insulin!
Here’s what you need to know about this important hormone, insulin, and how it can make you fat and keep you fat. When we eat food, it is all turned to sugar in our blood, it’s known as blood sugar, or glucose. Our blood sugar fuels our brains and bodies. Look at it as the fuel needed for life energy. It makes sense that we benefit from a constant flow of energy to help our organs to function well. Insulin’s job in your body is to keep your blood sugar level by shuttling sugar into your cells so you can burn it as energy. The sugar in your blood that you don’t or can’t burn right away because there is too much sugar that quickly rushed into your blood to be used for immediate energy ends up turning to fat, which is stored for long-term energy. Wouldn’t it be nice NOT to be storing away this extra fat?
It’s critically important how quickly the food we eat turns to blood sugar in this fat storing story. Most processed foods turn to sugar quickly in our blood. This raises our blood sugar rapidly. When our blood sugar spikes, our pancreas is signaled to put out a rush of insulin to push the sugar into our cells to be burned for immediate energy. The sugar in our blood that isn’t used for immediate energy is stored for long-term energy as body fat. If this cycle continues regularly, your cells can become “insulin resistant” and this can be the genesis of type 2 diabetes.
Here’s how we accumulate that rascally belly fat. The rapid release of insulin causes blood sugar to drop rapidly. That’s why we crash and get hunger pangs after eating foods high in bad carbs like most cereals, breads, muffins, cookies, white rice and pasta. Here’s the clincher. Where do you think the high levels of blood sugar that has been pushed down by insulin goes? It turns into a fat known as triglycerides that turns into the body fat that accumulates around our tummies. Yuck. Belly fat looks bad and is linked to many health concerns including cancer and heart disease.
The solution is really darned simple. Eat real whole foods that turn into fuel, or blood sugar, evenly and will sustain your bubbly self and give your organs the constant source of fuel they need. Those foods are known as low-glycemic foods that, when combined in a balanced meal, will keep your blood sugar and fuel level and keep insulin, the fat storing hormone, from rising rapidly in your blood. By following a diet like the Mediterranean Diet you will be including and combing these low-glycemic foods. There are many ways to adapt this way of eating to your lifestyle and preferences. If you still want support in implementing a food plan that is right for you; take advantage of my free “health breakthrough session” by emailing me.
Try picking foods that aren’t wrapped in plastic and have fewer than five ingredients. Foods like organic whole or 2% dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, plant proteins like beans and brown rice, organic non- genetically modified tofu, nuts like walnuts or almonds and most fruits especially berries and apples, almost all vegetables, especially greens except white potatoes, which if you eat the fibrous skin and drizzle with olive oil is still better than processed low-fat foods. Use olive oil on your salads with either fresh lemon and vinegar of your choice and slice up some avocado too. If you want bread and can tolerate wheat, try the sprouted grain breads that aren’t made with flour they are lower glycemic choices than most of the breads out there. I like the Ezekiel products found in most health food stores.
Of course, even these foods need to be consumed in a balanced diet that is right for your bio-individuality. Some people even have to be sure they are eating the right types of vegetables so they don’t create kidney stones. Also, some medications can interact with certain fruits and vegetables. So be sure to check with a health professional before starting any new eating regimen if you have any health concerns.
Food is powerful stuff; choose it wisely for great health and optimal weight! Here is an even more complete article on my blog.
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