Low Fat, Low Cal, Low Carb? What’s the Right “Low” For Me?
When it comes to diet, if you want to lose weight, you’ll have to reduce your food intake – period. However, in some cases, a specific dietary approach could be more effective.
The 1990s saw a low-fat craze in the fitness world. The prevailing wisdom was that as long as you cut out the fat, you didn’t have to watch carb intake or even calories all that much. That was decidedly proven wrong when those on low-carb plans like Atkins and South Beach were slimming down faster than anyone else.
Fats and Carbs: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
That said, the words “fat” and “carbs” aren’t inherently good or bad. There are healthy versions of each, and eating too much of one while cutting the other too severely can be a problem. As with many areas of life, the right solution is often about balance and will vary for each individual.
For example, while trans fats should be avoided across the board, saturated and unsaturated fats can be healthy in small to moderate amounts. Unsaturated fats are those found in oily fish, flax, walnuts, almonds, olive oil and avocados are some examples of healthy fats. Healthy fats are loaded with life-sustaining nutrients and compounds crucial to organ health and other key functions. However, moderation is key, as too much of them can cause weight gain.
Trans fats are in many fried, deep-fried and processed foods like French fries, onion rings, potato chips and other snack foods. Saturated fats are found in meat, cheese and dairy products. Trans fats are the worse kind of fat and should be avoided entirely if possible. Lean meat and dairy protein can be healthy for you but should be eaten in moderation. That said, if your goal is to build muscle, then more protein can be consumed.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates and the Glucose Effect
Carbohydrates have been trickier to navigate over the years. Again, the prevailing wisdom not too long ago was that as long as a food was low-fat, it was good for you.
Not so. Low-fat processed carbohydrates found in bread, white rice, pastries, sodas, juices, and starchy foods like white potatoes, corn and corn syrup are quickly converted to sugar in the body, which spikes blood glucose. This in turn, triggers processes in the body that can lead to excess fat storage. So in these cases, those “low fat” foods can actually make you fat.
Processed carbohydrates are different from complex carbs. The complex kind can be very good for you and are found in whole grains, brown rice, oatmeal, beans and legumes, green vegetables, squash, sweet potatoes, quinoa and other ancient grains. They can and should be part of a balanced diet.
Find the Ideal Diet for Your Goals and Lifestyle
The bottom line? Avoid processed simple carbohydrates and trans fats. Go for plenty of green, leafy vegetables, some complex carbs, and healthy fats in moderation. Of course, organic and minimally processed foods are always best.
As for calories, take steps to ensure that the food amounts you eat each day are in line with your weight and fitness goals. There are plenty of excellent online tools and mobile apps to help you stay on track. Look for features like a food journal and database of nutritional information.
Still not sure about the best eating plan for you? Contact Arlington fitness center TexasFITT for expert nutritional advice to support your health and fitness goals.