There’s two big villains in the health and obesity problem: carbs and fat. Depending upon the side of the fence you stand, either carbohydrates and/or sugars are making us fat and sick or fat is still the problem, as we had condemned it for years. Which is the biggest problem and it is really a problem?
Rethinking Carbs vs. Fat
For decades we blamed fat for all our problems. Unfortunately that didn’t really pan out as being the right approach. Subsequently, we shifted the blame to sugar and refined carbohydrates, or just carbs in general, for a majority of our health and obesity woes. This latest phase is still taking shape but I’m going to make a prediction: it’s not going to work.
Why? Because we can’t blame carbs, refined carbs or sugar, just as we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) blame fat. As soon as this happens, people default to that meaning the other is innocent. When fat was demonized, people took that to mean that carbohydrates (including refined carbs and sugar) were not only fair game but healthy. If it was fat free, it was good for you. Now, with the blame turning 180 degrees, people are already starting to think that if something is low in carbs/sugars it’s healthy. This is a recipe for repeating all the same mistakes we are finding we made with fat-phobia.
What’s The Answer?
Hopefully, you’ll already know that I don’t know the answer. There is no “definitive answer” to this. We don’t know who to blame. But, as usual, I do have some thoughts…
1. Maybe it’s not fat or sugar, maybe it’s both. When you consume both in excess of your tolerance you have a problem. People who eat lower fat but eat more carbs and end up eating more calories are going to get in trouble. People who eat lower carb but eat more fat and end up with more calories get in trouble. Fat and carbs eaten in excess, regardless of what proportion, means more energy in to your system. Without an adjustment in lifestyle the body will get heavier and sicker.
2. Many people reduce(d) fat too low, which has it’s own set of problems. Similar in carbohydrate reduction, too low and there will likely be problems. There are ways to keep fat or carbs low and do it smartly and healthfully but it takes special direction and knowledge. Most people can’t and won’t do that, meaning most people who go too low fat or carbs will suffer some health problems.
3. Blaming fat or carbs (or both) leaves out food quality and processing, which plays a role. Better quality food means, for most people, that both the macronutrients and total calories matter less. It’s hard to place blame on carbs or fat without looking at the context of food quality.
4. Timing matters. Both fat and carbohydrates are energy sources for the body and are utilized at different rates and for different purposes at different times of the day, both in general and in response to what each individual does. There’s a vastly expanding realm of study in this realm that might help us understand more about this very soon.
5. It’s not just food. It’s everything else too. Genetics/epigentics, activity, stress, sleep, medications, outdoor time, screen time, fun, love, intimacy, laughter, chemicals/toxins, hydration and much more all contribute to health and obesity problems. This is probably the biggest set of contributors, potentially much greater than diet, and particularly the simplistic issue of carbs vs. fat.
What Does It All Mean?
– Don’t fear fat or carbohydrates. If anything, look at them together as energy sources and manage the total intake.
– Food quality makes everything easier. The more whole, fresh and old fashioned food you eat the less all this will matter.
– Manage your lifestyle. Taking care of the rest of your life will make carbs and fat much less problematic.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!
P.S. Protein isn’t a free for all just because we haven’t blamed it for anything yet.
I don’t think sugar should be condemned, but I think that people who eat a lot of it need to manage their health pretty closely. Sugar and fat are also a very powerful combo so people who do this in great amounts also need to be conscientious.