Though this link is on the older side, it does get me thinking. I feel like different foods or food groups are either vilified (get rid of fat!!) or put on pedestal (This superfood belongs in everyone’s pantry!! Go out and buy it now or the world will end!). I know I’m being a bit hyperbolic when I put it like that. However I think that when talking about foods and supplements, it’s better to take a data driven view that is more even keeled. Not all fats are bad. Trans fats definitely fit into the bad category. Fats are essential in our diet, without them there are key nutrients that we couldn’t absorb such as vitamins E, A, K, and D (though this last one we can make ourselves).
Aside from needing some fats in our diet, some fats are necessary for our diet since we can’t make them ourselves. N-3 and N-6 fatty acids are in this category. Also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they’re used by the body to make prostaglandins and leukotrienes, which our body uses to help regulate many processes. The help regulate the immune system: in fact omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation and omega-6 promote inflammationFatty acids make up the walls of our cells as well as the organelles inside cells. How much of our diet fats should make up is something people can debate – some (like Dr. Dean Ornish) advocate a low fat – 5% of calories – diet. Others are at the other end of the spectrum. I won’t get into arguing who’s correct, though Dr. Ornish does has data to show what he suggests helps reverse heart disease. Though to be fair, his program/views also advocates exercise, meditation, and other lifestyle changes, all of which affect heart disease and longevity so one can’t totally point to the low fat aspect and say that is the sole determinant of his success and data. I think most would suggest 20-30% of calories come from fat. It’s important to get enough of what are called N-3 (or omega-3) fatty acids as well as N-6 (omega-6) fatty acids.
People trash carbohydrates a lot as well. My view of this is that refined sugar should be used sparingly. If one puts sugar in his/her coffee and only occasionally has something else that is sugary (donuts anyone? Ice Cream?), the world won’t end. If having something that is sweet helps keep someone eating healthy but not feel like they’re denying themselves, then it’s ok.
The big danger is to lump all carbohydrates together. Yes, having some refined sugar is ok, and simpler sugars are ok in moderation: if you’re getting them by eating an apple or an orange, that’s ok. But when we talk about fiber, we’re actually talking about complex sugars which our bodies can’t digest or breakdown. These are actually healthy sugars! If I haven’t done so already, I’ll probably talk more about the specifics in a future blog.
My whole point of this particular blog is to use the above link to have people think about what they hear or read about nutrition, especially if what they hear is lumping all of a particular food/food group together for good or bad!