Viewing Popular Diets through the Macro-Nutrient Lens

Last week we covered an important premise of holistic nutrition. Always strive to eat a properly prepared, nutrient dense, whole foods diet.

We also covered 3 foundations of a holistic healthy lifestyle: the macronutrients of protein, fat and fruit/vegetable carbohydrates. We learned we should strive for a caloric balance of these macronutrients using 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30 % healthy fats. It is through this lens that you can properly assess any eating plan that comes your way.

Today we are going to look closely at a couple eating plans: low fat and low carb. The assessments found here are based solely on macronutrient status and how they affect the body.  Several popular diets can be found under these category labels.

Popular LOW FAT diets are Weight Watchers, Dean Ornish and Jenny Craig. These diets are based on the premise that eating fat makes you fat.  This has been proven false. The facts are clear that eating sugar makes you fat.

Low fat diets encourage whole grains, fruits and highly processed fat free products.  Low fat and fat free products typically have added sugars to replace the lost fat and flavor. Sugar over consumption can result in hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  Fat creates a feeling of fullness and satisfaction because it is a slower burning fuel source than sugar. Sugar burns very quickly causing your energy to spike and drops. With sugar you will feel hungry often.

The body requires a good amount of fat to function properly.  Healthy balanced fats promote healthy hair, vibrant skin, strong nails, bile for digestion, metabolic energy, hormone production and cardiovascular health to name a few. As a side note, your body requires cholesterol to function properly. Cholesterol does not cause heart disease. (I’ll save that research for another article.)

The typical macronutrient ratio for a low fat diet is 70% carbs (including grains and sugars), 20% protein and 10% fat.

Popular LOW CARB diets are Atkins, Paleo, Keto, Whole 30 and South Beach. The focus of these diets is to balance carbs, protein and fats (macronutrients). Sound familiar? Keto (Ketogenic diet) is a VERY low carb diet that should only be used short term for weight loss and fitness as it limits carbs to 5-10%.

Remember not all carbs are equal. Grains, veggies and sugar are all considered carbs. BEWARE! Some of these diets promote unhealthy grains and processed fats as well as packaged snacks. Refined grains and sugars can lead to blood sugar imbalances, adrenal fatigue, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems.

These diets are continually adjusting to new research and tweaking their plans.

Proteins need fats to be used by the body. That’s why they occur together in nature. Again, always strive for local pasture raised or wild caught proteins and healthy fat sources like avocado, fresh eggs, coconut oil, butter and extra virgin olive oil. You will want mostly veggies that are home/locally/organically grown and a rainbow of colors. Low carb eating is considered a “lifestyle diet” because it is sustainable once adapted to each individual’s needs.

Low carb macronutrient ratios vary but average 40% carbs, 30% proteins and 30% fats.

These are only 2 diet categories out of many but you can use your new macronutrient knowledge to make educated judgments on your own eating plans. Respect yourself enough to make great choices for your body so you can live a long energetic life!

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