Our bodies are designed for balance.
We need a balanced diet to have optimal function. Any diet that requires you to cut out an entire food group will not keep your body working at its best. While it seems as if completely cutting out carbs might be a quick way to lose weight fast, it is not the best for your body! Despite providing quick weight loss, over a long period of time your body cannot continue to function properly without receiving the sugars and fibers it gets from carbohydrates.
A true balanced diet is one that will give your body all the nutrition it needs to function properly. Balanced nutrition comes from a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Not all carbs are created equal! While carbohydrates are an important part of your diet, that doesn’t mean that you can eat a bunch of pasta, cupcakes, chips, and chocolate chip cookies.
There are two different types of carbs: simple and complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs have a higher fiber content that make the body work harder to digest them, providing energy over a longer period of time. Simple carbs are usually processed foods that are higher in sugar and lower in fiber.
How can you eat carbs and not gain weight? Make some simple changes, eat brown rice instead of white rice. Have an orange or an apple instead of drinking a glass of processed juice. Eat a whole grain English muffin instead of a white English muffin. Instead of having chips try eating air popped popcorn.
It is ok to eat simple carbs every once in a while, but a diet full of simple carbohydrates like cookies, pasta, white rice, and white bread is what leads to weight gain and being unhealthy.
Don’t just take my word for it. Here is what the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois has to say about it in their handout called “Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat”…
“WHY DO WE NEED CARBOHYDRATES?
Carbohydrates are the macronutrient that we need in the largest amounts. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA, 45% – 65% of calories should come from carbohydrate. We need this amount of carbohydrate because:
- Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel.
- Carbohydrates are easily used by the body for energy.
- All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy.
- Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly.
- Carbohydrates can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.
- Carbohydrates are important in intestinal health and waste elimination.
- Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.
Fiber refers to certain types of carbohydrates that our body cannot digest. These carbohydrates pass through the intestinal tract intact and help to move waste out of the body. Diets that are low in fiber have been shown to cause problems such as constipation and hemorrhoids and to increase the risk for certain types of cancers such as colon cancer. Diets high in fiber; however, have been shown to decrease risks for heart disease, obesity, and they help lower cholesterol. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.
WHY DO WE NEED PROTEIN?
According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 10% – 35% of calories should come from protein. Most Americans get plenty of protein, and easily meet this need by consuming a balanced diet. We need protein for:
- Growth (especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women)
- Tissue repair
- Immune function
- Making essential hormones and enzymes
- Energy when carbohydrate is not available
- Preserving lean muscle mass
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables.
When we eat these types of foods, our body breaks down the protein that they contain into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Some amino acids are essential which means that we need to get them from our diet, and others are nonessential which means that our body can make them. Protein that comes from animal sources contains all of the essential amino acids that we need. Plant sources of protein, on the other hand, do not contain all of the essential amino acids.
WHY DO WE NEED FAT?
Although fats have received a bad reputation for causing weight gain, some fat is essential for survival. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA 20% – 35% of calories should come from fat. We need this amount of fat for:
- Normal growth and development
- Energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy)
- Absorbing certain vitamins ( like vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids)
- Providing cushioning for the organs
- Maintaining cell membranes
- Providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods
Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown decrease the risk of developing heart disease.”