One of my biggest pet peeves is low-fat foods. I don’t mean naturally low-fat foods such as lean meat, eggs or veg. I mean artificially low-fat foods such as low-fat chocolate, lite cereals and the plethora of other low or 0% fat foods that are being thrown at us.
The reason I hate them so much is the association between the fat on our bodies and the micronutrients fat. Although the two are very separate things, because they are explained using the same word the media has convinced everyone that becoming fat is directly related to eating food that has a high fat content. Today, I’m going to go through exactly how our bodies digest food and explain to you why you would be better off drinking coconut milk, which is 87% fat according to this website, rather than your low-fat cereal bar.
First off, what is a macronutrient and what are each for?
There are three main micronutrients. Fat’s, proteins and carbohydrates.
Proteins are basically long chains of molecules called amino acids that are strung together. These amino acids have the nickname of being the “building blocks of muscle”, and rightly so. Muscle tissue is constructed from amino acids and when the body breaks down protein, the amino acids are sent to repair and grow muscle tissue.
To put it very basically, carbohydrates (such as spuds, veg, grains, pasta etc) are all sources of fuel for the body. When we break them down they are all, regardless of type, converted to glucose. This is a fuel used by the body and is effectively sugar. Glucose is required to get us up and moving and doing our thing!
Within this there is another sub class called “Complex carbohydrates” which again, basically are broken down to glucose. So at the end of they day, they are no different from normal (simple?!?) carbohydrates, the one difference being that they are harder to digest and usually contain high amounts of fiber. Other than that, they are no different from your run of the mill carbs and are definitely not the magic carb that is only present in nesquik cereal!
Fats are very important in our diets. They are used to repair cells (such as membranes and structure) and create other structure building components of the body. They aid in the function of our immune system, our nervous system and also internal fat is used to protect organs from harm!
They are generally made up of, like protein’s, chains of various molecules and have a number of sub categories (Monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, trans, etc. There’s far too much to go into in this blog post on them!)
When our bodies break them down they are converted into triglycerides (The name given to fats when contained in the blood stream) and sent to where they are needed in the body.
Now that we know what each micronutrients is, lets see how the body deals with it, or more importantly, deals with excessive amounts of it.When we eat our bodies digest the food we end up with three things in our blood stream. Glucose from the carbs, amino acids from the protein’s, and triglycerides (fat from here on out) from the fats.
Starting off with the easiest, the amino acids are sent to the muscles around the body to do their thing. Generally, it’s quite difficult to overeat your protein allowance without taking a protein shake. When consuming protein from eggs and meats, Peoples normal servings tend to be in the right ballpark. If they do however overeat a bit, the body’s muscles can store small amounts of amino chains for later for a short period of time, so there’s no harm no foul here!
Moving onto the carbs, they are in our blood in the form of glucose. This glucose is needed by the muscles to move and when present in the blood stream sends a host of signals to the body!
The first and main one is to the liver. When the liver detects glucose in the blood stream, it starts to allow it to be absorbed into muscles by telling our pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream along with the glucose. The insulin acts as both a messenger and as a hormonal key, telling the muscles that there is glucose to be had, but also opening up the previously closed pathways into the muscles by which the glucose can be absorbed.
If we have a healthy amount of glucose in the blood, the muscles will absorb it all and there will be none left in the blood stream. The liver now no longer detects glucose in the blood, tells the pancreas to stop releasing insulin and the process is ready to start again next meal time.
However, if we over eat our carbs and we have too much glucose in the blood, then we have some issues. The issues arise because the muscles can only take on so much glucose (Stored as glycogen) and soon become full. If the muscles are all ‘full’ but there’s still glucose in the blood, the liver has a little panic attack and says to itself “shit, there’s still glucose in the blood, here pancreas dump ALL THE INSULIN”. Now we have excessive glucose in the blood, excessive insulin in the blood and both of which are toxic when in the elevated state. At this point the muscles give way and absorb it anyway.
However, they will only absorb a bit more because, well, they’re already full. If we still have more glucose in the blood, we get more insulin and it just gets worse and worse. After a while the muscles just go “fuck this shit” and require more and more insulin to even absorb glucose when they aren’t full at all. This is what we call “insulin resistance” and is the basis of Diabetes.
When someone is insulin resistant and eat some carbohydrates, their body doesn’t want to use them as there supposed to. This means that they are converted into fat and stored by the body in the fat cells, making you overweight. Chances are that if you have excessive body fat your some what insulin resistant and this is the case for you.
Fats however, have absolutely no effect on insulin sensitivity or release into the blood stream and when we overeat them (which is rare today with all our “low-fat foods”) are used to coat cell linings, improve immunity (Omega 3 comes into play here) and all the other things that fats are needed for.
The main difference between fat’s and carbs is the hormonal effect’s they have. Hormones are very powerful in terms of hour our body acts, far more powerful than 20 or 30 extra calories of fat that we might eat. This means the major player in being overweight isn’t the “excess fat source in people’s diets, it’s all the grains, pastas and starch’s that there eating driving their insulin resistance through the roof that’s doing the damage.
At the end of it all it boils down to this. Eat healthy amounts of proteins carbs and fats. Don’t remove fats from your diet only to replace them with carbs. Plus, the only way they can make fat-free products is by striping fat off them. The easiest way to do that? Pump that shit with chemicals that make the fat come off. Hardly healthy, is it?