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The Long Standing Debate For What’s Worse: Fats Or Carbs?

posted on 7/6/2016 Facebook Facebook

If you’re on a mission to lose weight, or just want to stick to your New Year’s resolution of eating a healthy diet, choosing a low carb or a low fat diet should be the biggest hurdle of your lie right now. The question that has been creating a divide amongst dieticians, nutritionists and dieters alike—Which are worse: calories from carbs or fat? At a molecular level, different types of carbs and fats have significantly different effects in the body and both kinds of diet are said to benefit people looking to shed pounds.

However, the recent meltdown on clogged arteries, shooting blood pressure levels and dodgy hearts have led doctors and nutritionists to recommend a low fat diet. However, the devil is not out of the shadows yet since obesity is leading the ranks for the newest health hazard. A high carbohydrate diet increases fat in the body—particularly around the middle. So, it’s acceptable to be confused between these diet fads.  In this article, we will help you define the boundaries of your diet—whether low fat or low carb and help you understand the pros and cons of both.

Let’s take a look at fats first…..

Fats are definitely higher in calories as compared to the same portion of carbohydrates or protein. Typically, saturated fats which are amply present in red meat, poultry and dairy products have been linked with high cholesterol levels that is a high risk factor for cardiovascular problems and stroke. High consumption of fatty foods is also linked to higher incidence of liver disease which is diagnosed in every 1 out of 5 Indians.

The food industry spotted a golden opportunity when we began to realize the health hazards of high fat diets and thus emerged “low fat” or “lite” products that are so popular on the shelves these days.  Although, as the food manufacturers took out the tasty fats out of our meals to make them “light”, carbs and sugar found its way in these products fooling our brains into forgetting the absence of  fats.

While all these facts hold ground, we cannot forget that fats are indispensible for our bodies—essential for cell growth, making hormones and absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Healthy fats present in fishes like salmon, tuna, and trout can actually protect you against heart troubles. These healthy fats are also present in whole grains, seeds, certain vegetables and oils. Because our bodies process fats, they keep us satiated for longer periods of time.

Let’s turn the focus on carbohydrates now….

Carbohydrates consist of different starches and sugars found in a number of foods such as whole grains, pasta, rice, potatoes, fruits, beans, chocolates, sweets, carbonated drinks and the different versions of sugar added to processed foods. Carbohydrates are converted in the body to glucose—the primary source of fuel which keeps you going. However, if you are eating more carbohydrates than burning for energy, the excess is converted by the body into glycogen (complex chains of glucose) and mainly stored in the liver. Do not mistake this for fat though.

Just like certain fats, some carbs get the nutritional thumbs up and health professionals suggest that one-third of our calories should actually come from starchy foods preferably wholegrain varieties of bread, cereal, rice and potatoes. These food items contain complex carbs which keep us full for longer periods of time and are seldom converted into fats.  Complex carbohydrates also retain all their nutrients, like fiber and B vitamins unlike its refined relatives mainly white flour. However, the nastiest of them all is refined sugar which is majorly responsible for the rising number of obese people. Simple sugar (junk and processed food, fizzy drinks, and alcohol) can be easily converted into fat and get logged around our middles if we eat more than required. Obesity is te number one reason behind the increasing incidence of type II diabetes, which accounts for about 90 % of the total cases worldwide.

So what’s better—low fat or low carbs?

Well, it all depends on the type of fats or carbohydrates that we are eating. But if you’re looking to shed those extra kilos you definitely need to cut down on carbohydrates as they help the body to retain fluid. Likewise, if your intention is just eating healthy, then you need to refined carbohydrates on your casualty list and compensate from complex sources like whole grains, fruits, beans, and vegetables.

Similarly, trans fats, are particularly harmful and increases your risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats are healthy and can cut down your risk of chronic diseases. The key to long term weight loss or healthy and balanced eating is to make changes in your diet that your body is able to cope with and are nutritionally balanced. So should I cut back on carbs or fat? We say do both but in healthy proportions.

References:

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2.Yancy WS Jr, Olsen MK, Guyton JR, Bakst RP, Westman EC. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004 May 18;140(10):769-77. PubMed PMID: 15148063.

3.Hu T, Yao L, Reynolds K, Whelton PK, Niu T, Li S, He J, Bazzano LA. The Effects of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet vs. a Low-Fat Diet on Novel Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 17;7(9):7978-94.doi: 10.3390/nu7095377. PubMed PMID: 26393645; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4586572.

4.Malhotra A, DiNicolantonio JJ, Capewell S. It is time to stop counting calories, and time instead to promote dietary changes that substantially and rapidly reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Open Heart. 2015 Aug 10;2(1):e000273. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2015-000273. eCollection 2015. PubMed PMID: 26339496; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4555071.

5.Alexandraki I, Palacio C, Mooradian AD. Relative Merits of Low-Carbohydrate Versus Low-Fat Diet in Managing Obesity. South Med J. 2015 Jul;108(7):401-16.doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000308. Review. PubMed PMID: 26192936.

6.Bazzano LA, Hu T, Reynolds K, Yao L, Bunol C, Liu Y, Chen CS, Klag MJ, Whelton PK, He J. Effects of low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Sep 2;161(5):309-18. doi: 10.7326/M14-0180. PubMed PMID: 25178568; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4428290.

7.Hu T, Mills KT, Yao L, Demanelis K, Eloustaz M, Yancy WS Jr, Kelly TN, He J, Bazzano LA. Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 1;176 Suppl 7:S44-54. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws264. PubMed PMID: 23035144; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3530364.


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