« Health & Fitness

The Three Elements Of Healthy Eating

by Mark Evans

It never stops amazing me how people react when you say the word "Carbs" or, God forbid, you say the word "Fat." 

I was eating a little homemade concoction today and one of the people at the station asked about what I was eating because it looked "different."  I explained that it was my usual "Lunch Trio" and that it had all three elements to eating a healthy diet.

"Three elements" I was asked.  I went on to explain to this person the three types of food needed to get and stay healthy are Proteins, Carbs and Non Saturated Fats.

"Carbs are bad for you," was the response I got.  "Do you know what Carbs ARE?" I asked.  So, lesson underway...here we go:

What are carbohydrates?

Your body uses carbohydrates (carbs) to make glucose which is the fuel that gives you energy and helps keep everything going. Your body can use glucose immediately or store it in your liver and muscles for when it is needed.You can find carbohydrates in the following:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Breads, cereals, and other grains
  • Milk and milk products
  • Foods containing added sugars (e.g., cakes, cookies, and sugar-sweetened beverages).

Healthier foods higher in carbohydrates include ones that provide dietary fiber and whole grains as well as those without added sugars. What about foods higher in carbohydrates such as sodas and candies that also contain added sugars? Those are the ones that add extra calories but not many nutrients to your diet.

Some diet books use "bad" carbs to talk about foods with refined carbohydrates (i.e., meaning they're made from white flour and added sugars). Examples include white bread, cakes, and cookies. "Good" carbs is used to describe foods that have more fiber and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are carbohydrates that take longer to break down into glucose; such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

"OK" my co-worker said, "I can see that; but isn't all Fat bad for you?  The answer of course is a resounding NO!!

What counts as fat? Are some fats better than other fats? While fats are essential for normal body function, some fats are better for you than others. Trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol are less healthy than polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

How much total dietary fat do I need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend that Americans:

  • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats.
  • Replace solid fats with oils when possible.
  • Limit foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fatty acids (such as hydrogenated oils), and keep total trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
  • Eat fewer than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
  • Reduce intake of calories from solid fats.

Polyunsaturated fats can also be broken down into two types:

  • Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats — these fats provide an essential fatty acid that our bodies need, but can't make.
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats — these fats also provide an essential fatty acid that our bodies need. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly from fish sources, may have potential health benefits.

So, when people say they're going "Carb Free" or "Fat Free" they are really taking away key and necessary elements of their diet.  Add Proteins to the mix and you're on your way to eating much, much better,