Let’s explore 3 food groups which the diet dictators often tell us to avoid. Should we??
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Dieting. We’ve all done it. Somewhere in our minds, most of us think the only way we can achieve the body or health we want is by eliminating certain ‘food culprits.’ When we are overweight or struggling with poor health, it’s easy to want to place the blame somewhere. A food villain of sorts that we can point to as the root of all our problems.
Folks, it’s not as simple as that. You may not realize it (I sure didn’t!), but cutting out real foods from our life can have real consequences. Let’s take a look at the top 3 food groups we’ve had a tendency to hate… and why they’re vital to a body that functions properly. The first one most of us know about by now, but the last 2 may be a bit of a surprise.
The low-fat dieting craze has lost much of it’s momentum, and I’m so glad. You’ve probably heard in recent years that fat is actually good for you and vital for a plethora of things in the body. When you reduce your fat intake, you are going to have to consume less protein (since protein and fat go hand in hand) and more sugar/carbs to make up for it. Not that sugar and carbs are necessarily bad (you’ll see in the next 2 points), but your intake of nutrients will be imbalanced.
Why is fat necessary? You need fat to produce energy in the body, for digestion, healing, and much more. Plus, if you don’t eat fat, you’ll never get that “full” feeling which is going to contribute to eating too much of the wrong things.
Not all fats are created equal, however.
Bad Fats: PUFAS (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids) such as those found in processed vegetable and peanut oils are NOT healthy for the body – they contribute to free radicals, inflammation, and other yucky things. I know that whenever I eat too many foods fried in this type of oil (chips, fried chicken, etc.) I always get bloated and uncomfortable because I’m not digesting it well. These types of fats are relatively “new” and not part of the traditional diet our ancestors ate. For more information on this, read this article by Butter Nutrition.
Good Fats: So what kind of fats SHOULD we be eating? The answer is SATURATED FATS. Yes, please! These kind of fats are found in butter, coconut oil, and lard and have been consumed for centuries. Olive oil is great too, as long as it’s not being heated (it goes rancid at high temps). I love using this coconut oil to fry things in – it doesn’t have a coconutty flavor.
There’s a spreadable butter I’m in love with right now by Land of Lakes (pictured above). The only ingredients in it are sweet cream, olive oil, and salt. It’s delicious! You can find it in most grocery stores. Use this in place of that mystery “buttery margarine spread” you’ve been using.
The takeaway: Replace refined vegetable oils with coconut oil or lard. Replace margarine with REAL butter. And replace skim milk with WHOLE MILK!! Yay!
I know, I know. You are loving me right now because you’ve been surviving too long WITHOUT BREAD. Don’t you think there’s a reason Jesus referred to Himself as “the Bread of Life”? There has to be some goodness to carbohydrates that we’re missing out on.
You may be skeptical though. I mean, “low carbing it” is all the rage right now. Whether Atkins, HFLC, or Paleo, low carb diets seem to be a major fad – the way low fat diets were in the 90s. It’s true that initially on a low-carb diet, you’ll probably see a significant drop in weight. That’s because this type of diet depletes the glycogen stores in the liver/muscles. This causes you to lose fluids and muscle, but not necessarily fat. When you first go low carb, your blood sugar drops which activates stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This can make you feel great for a little while… but not for long!
This type of dieting is appealing because it produces quick results, but at what cost? Here are some of the dangers of low carb dieting:
- Slowed metabolism
- Decreased thyroid function (glucose is necessary in order for the thyroid to function well)
- Messed up hormones
- Digestive issues due to decreased fiber intake
- Burning fat instead of carbs for energy activates the stress response
It may take awhile for symptoms to manifest, but your body can’t stay in this state forever! If you’re low carb, stop the madness before you experience symptoms. Read more on this topic from Forefront Health here and here.
I know that personally, whenever I go on a “low carb” diet of any kind, I start to feel anxious and stressed. I tried to do this recently, just as a 2-week cleanse. Not cool. And so not worth it!
Before you go out and buy a bunch of Pillsbury biscuits, there are good carbs and bad carbs, just like there are good fats and bad fats! Here’s a basic rundown:
Good carbs: all fruits, all vegetables (especially starchy ones like potatoes, squashes, and beans), brown rice, sprouted or whole wheat grain breads and baked goods, and other sprouted/whole grains.
Bad carbs: processed white rice and white flour, which strips all the nutrients out of the grain! Also, any bread products with “mystery ingredients” like dough conditioners, preservatives, and the like.
Now to tackle the elephant in the room when it comes to carbohydrates.
What about all the gluten intolerant people out there??!
It’s true, gluten intolerance is a real issue for some people. However, it’s possible that it may not be as widespread as we’ve come to believe. The sensitivity may be due to poor nutrition (not enough nutrients makes you react to certain foods) or to the chemicals that are sprayed on the wheat. Apparently, it’s common practice to drench the wheat crop with Roundup just before harvesting (read more here). To quote Robin from Thank Your Body,
Maybe your body just doesn’t like poison.
To combat this, try making your own bread from organic whole wheat flour like this! If you do so in the bread maker, it couldn’t be easier! Note: It is recommended to perform one of the 3 S’s – either Soak, Sprout, or Sour your bread for maximum nutrient absorption. Read more here. I’m excited to try this Soaked 100% Whole Wheat Bread Machine recipe by Kitchen Stewardship!
The takeaway: Add healthy carbs, like fruits, veggies, and properly prepared/soaked whole grains to your diet. And ditch the processed breads, cereals, and baked goods. Pronto!
This one might come as a bit of a shock. Everywhere you look, people are blaming sugar as the #1 culprit for poor health.
So why do I (and many others, experts alike) think it is vital for health? Basically, every cell in our body needs energy. Sugar (glucose) is the best source of energy for those cells.
When our cells don’t have enough glucose to do their job they find alternative means by which to get their energy, particularly through either Lipolysis (fat breakdown) and Gluconeogenesis (new sugar creation from our own body tissue).
These processes require the release of adrenaline and cortisol—our “fight or flight” hormonal responses.
This is why so many people have sensations of clarity, easy weight loss, and boundless energy when turning to a no-sugar or low-carb diet. Their bodies are thriving off of adrenaline and cortisol. And while these positive effects can last many months or longer, ultimately the body is not designed to live off of these stress hormones (Robin at Thank Your Body)
Obviously, our bodies don’t need just any sugar. We need the right kind. Don’t go out and fill your shopping cart with M & Ms and Oreos. Yet again, there are good sugars and bad sugars. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Bad sugars: High fructose corn syrups, artificial sweeteners…. basically any “fake” sweetners.
Good sugars: Honey, maple syrup, ripe fruits, not from concentrate fruit juices, pure cane sugar.
For additional reading, I recommend this post from Butter Nutrition about the importance of real sugar in a balanced diet.
The takeaway: Throw out processed desserts, sodas, cookies, candies…. anything with corn syrups or fake sweetners. Replace with real sugars in the list above. Make your own desserts, savor fruit with your meals, add honey to your tea… the list is endless!
P.S. – On my quest for the perfect natural ice cream, I finally found it (because I’m too lazy to make my own). It’s called Turkey Hill “All Natural” ice cream (pictured above). I found it at Kroger. Please comment below if you find it somewhere else! The only ingredients in it are milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Seriously! For the perfect bowl, check out my post on super-easy Homemade Chocolate Magic Shell.
I hope you’ve learned a few things about how important it is to step away from the fads and take a balanced approach to nutrition. In every scenario, there are good and bad varieties within each food group. The common thread is that if it’s good, its natural and made by God. If it’s bad, its either man-made, altered in a lab, or full of yucky additives.
At the store, I hope you’ll start reading ingredient lists on the foods you buy. If your great grandparents wouldn’t recognize an ingredient listed, it’s best to steer clear! But there are so many things you don’t need to steer clear of for a healthy body!
My philosophy: “If God made it for food, I’m eating it.”
Plus, a word of wisdom from my Daddy: “All things in moderation.”
And from my Mama: “Listen to your body.”
And, most importantly, let me leave you with this incredible wisdom from our Heavenly Father:
They [false teachers] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
The key in this passage to me is that everything *God created* is good. We shouldn’t forbid certain foods, as they have a purpose for us. But if God didn’t create it — that’s another story!
If you enjoyed this post, please share! Do you steer clear of any food groups or follow a certain diet?
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