Why we need carbs, protein, and fat for a healthy lifestyle
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Our food contains three main components: Carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
All three are essential to have in your diet in specified amounts.
They all have their function in your body.
So what do they do and how do they relate to weight loss, appetite, and hunger?
I’ll explain all in today’s post.
Spoiler: carbs are healthier than you think.
As you can see in the image below, carbohydrates suppress hunger, have a low-calorie density, and can bring eating to an end.
The big mistake people make is to see carbohydrates and sugar as the same thing, but it’s not.
I’ll explain the difference both in structure and functioning.
1. Why we need carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary energy source. They also help your body to regulate its blood sugar level, reduce body fat percentage, and cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, it helps to reduce hunger and increases satiety.
However, this only happens when you eat the right kind of carbohydrates.
There are three kinds of carbohydrates:
- Dietary Fiber
A carb is called a saccharide. It builds out of carbon, water, and oxygen. Sugar forms out of one or two saccharides, which is called a monosaccharide or disaccharide.
Starch forms out of more than nine saccharides. That is why these are called polysaccharides.
Polysaccharides have to be broken down to monosaccharides first to be able to release their energy.
Dietary Fiber is also a polysaccharide, but these cannot be broken down by your body. Their primary function is to slow down the emptying of your stomach and to improve the function of your intestines.
Dietary fiber is, therefore, essential for losing weight.
One of the problems of following a low carb diet is constipation. That is because people don’t get enough fiber from their food because they fear it causes them to gain weight. Eating enough high fiber vegetables can be a great low carb diet constipation cure.
Scientists always thought that all carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, but research conducted in 2007 shows that dietary fiber only contains two calories per gram.
Current guidelines recommend that 55% of total dietary energy should come from carbohydrates.
By definition, it doesn’t matter from which source these carbohydrates come from, as long as it meets the right amount of calories.
However, it does matter when it comes to satiety and body function.
That’s because your body has a hard time recognizing the calories that come from high sugary drinks, like soft drinks and fruit juices. That’s how drinking these won’t reduce your appetite or give you a full feeling.
They are also called “empty calories.” These are calories that count but don’t give you a full feeling.
That is the reason you can consume a lot of calories without feeling it, resulting in obesity in the end.
These calories are also responsible for spikes in your blood sugar level.
I’ll explain how this works right now:
When you eat complex carbs, it takes your body a long time to process them. The polysaccharides first need to be broken down into monosaccharides. Because of this, your body has enough time to send a signal to the brain about the number of calories taken in.
It also helps to control the rising of your blood sugar level. Since it’s broken down slowly, your blood sugar levels rise slowly and also drops gradually after a while. When your blood sugar levels drop, your brain receives a message that you have to eat again, which causes you to get hungry again.
A study conducted in 1967 (!) already showed that eating more fibers reduces satiety and increases fullness. The researchers did an experiment where they fed to groups of people the same amount of calories divided equally by carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
However, in one group, the carbohydrates came from sugar, and in the other group, they came from resistant starch.
That is how eating a high fiber diet results in weight loss and lower body fat percentage.
Eating more fibers also helps in reducing satiety. Since it takes a long time for your body to process these fibers, the food stays longer in your stomach and your intestines.
It is where the signal comes from when you have to eat again. When these areas fill with food for a more extended period, it will take longer to regain your appetite, resulting in consuming fewer calories.
Eating fibers also release fatty acids in your intestines that helps to burn body fat and preserve your muscles.
You can find dietary fiber in fruits, vegetables, potatoes, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta.
I eat bread, rice, and pasta all the time. Make sure that you don’t eat more than 50 gram per serving, despite what the package says. Otherwise, the calories will add up.
So to lose weight by cutting out your empty calories, you have to look at sugar.
Sugar has a relatively low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a way to see how fast your blood sugar level will spike after eating. Complex carbs have a high glycemic index, whereas sugar has a low glycemic index. Research shows that food with a low glycemic index causes your blood sugar level to spike and drop like a rock shortly after. This drop in blood sugar level causes you to feel hungry soon after eating.
Research also shows that when your insulin level is very high, your body stores the fat from your food instead of using it directly for fuel.
So it doesn’t just increase your hunger, but it also increases the fat storage of your body.
At the nutrition facts label, sugar and fibers displayed separately.
So you want to look for products with a low amount of sugar and high amount of fibers. The total amount of carbohydrates is less critical.
But sometimes it’s quite hard to see if there is sugar added to the product.
There are 61 different names for sugar.
To reduce your sugar intake, you should eat whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables and reduce your consumption of soda and fruit juices. That is an excellent way to start eating healthier.
Also, cookies, cake, and pie contain a lot of sugar.
Even many energy bars contain a lot of sugar. That is how they can give so much energy so quickly.
But don’t abandon sugar entirely or get scared of it.
Cutting out sugar or your favorite sugary drinks is not a sustainable way to lose weight. If you are too strict to yourself, you will fail eventually and give up.
It’s much better to reduce your intake of these types of foods to a minimum but still enjoy them.
My strategy is to eat clean during the week and eat these things only at the weekend and in small quantities. This way you can enjoy your favorite foods without failing to your goals.
It tastes better this way as well.
The bottom line is not to be scared of carbs, but to look out sugar.
2. Why we need protein
A protein contains about 20 different amino acids. These amino acids provide the caloric value from proteins.
Since your body can’t produce all the essential amino acids by itself, it relays to this protein to get all the essential amino acids.
Your small intestine digest the protein from your food.
Since protein is a complex nutrient, it takes a long time for your body to digest them, which increases satiety.
The digestion provides your body with essential components which your body can’t produce by itself and also can’t obtain them through other macronutrients.
The primary function of a protein is to renew the cells in your body. They are the building blocks of your body.
They are also essential for the formation of hormones like dopamine, serotonin, glutamine, and even your DNA.
These are also hormones that play an essential role in feeling full and reducing cravings.
That’s why it’s recommended to get about 10-15% of your calories from protein.
A general rule of thumb is to eat about 1-1.5 gram of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight per day.
They are the building blocks of your body, making sure your hormones are in balance, and they are also the main compounds of muscles.
But when you eat more protein then you use, it stores as fat and functions as an energy resource.
So drinking a protein shake is not a good idea if you want to lose weight. These shakes contain too much protein for ordinary people and are only necessary for professional athletes.
Furthermore, protein helps to transport fat through your body for burning.
Eating too little protein as well as eating too many proteins causes serious health issues.
When you don’t eat enough protein, your body turns to your muscles for extra protein. It breaks down muscles to make sure it can still produce the hormones it needs.
A high protein diet has also shown to help you to lose weight.
When you’re eating healthy, you should have enough protein in your diet to sustain your body and have it functioning correctly.
Good protein sources are eggs, lean meat like chicken and turkey, beans, seeds, nuts, and soy products.
But when the calorie deficit of your diet is too high, your body also breaks down your muscles to use the proteins stored here for energy. It causes weight loss because muscles are heavier than fat, but it’s not the weight loss you want. That’s why eating too little can cause serious health issues.
3. Why we need fat
We need fat as a fuel source for our body. We also need fat to rebuild our body cells, especially for optimal functioning of your eyes, brains, and muscles, to keep our body warm and to protect our organs. It also reduces sanity.
Fat contains nine calories per gram and is, therefore, a great way to store a lot of energy.
The daily recommended amount is about 30% of your daily calorie intake should come from fat.
In your food, you can distinguish three types of fat:
- Unsaturated fat
- Saturated fat
- Trans fat
The difference lies in the number of bindings between the molecules.
Saturated fat has only single bindings, and unsaturated fat has double bindings between the molecules.
Unsaturated fat has some excellent health benefits, but you should avoid saturated fat as much as possible.
Trans fat is a form of unsaturated fat.
Usually unsaturated fat is the healthy one, but trans fats are inflexible, which makes them harder to digest by your body. Junk food contains primarily trans fat.
These types of fat are broken down by your body into three different forms.
- Essential fatty acids
Triglycerides are used to provide the energy to your body.
Cholesterol can divide into high density and low-density cholesterol.
Low-density cholesterol is needed to repair damaged tissue in your body.
You only need a small amount of it. If you have too much low-density cholesterol in your body, it can clog your artery’s. Low-density cholesterol is one of the significant causes of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attacks.
Saturated fat and trans fats are the primary sources for low-density cholesterol.
These types of fat are mainly present in various kinds of fast food, pie, cake, and cookies. But also meat and full-fat milk contain low-density cholesterol.
So to protect yourself against cardiovascular diseases, you should limit the amount of these foods.
Don’t ban them out entirely because you can’t live that way forever. Just restricted it to an absolute minimum.
High-density cholesterol transports the low-density cholesterol from your blood to your liver, where it’s broken down and removed from your body.
High-density cholesterol protects you from cardiovascular diseases.
Unsaturated fat is the primary source for high-density cholesterol.
These types of fat are mainly present in fatty fish, eggs, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.
Make sure not to overdo it though. Too much-unsaturated fat is still unhealthy and ads up to your daily calorie intake.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are fats that your body can’t produce by itself but are crucial for it’s functioning.
There are two essential fatty acids necessary for your body: alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).
Fatty fish, olive oil, walnuts, and leafy greens all contain high amounts of fatty acids.
Eating enough of these will increase your health, fight inflammation, improve your mood, and protect your heart and blood vessels.
In de end….
In the end, it’s about making the right choices when it comes to what you eat.
So what are you going to do to eat healthier and eat enough carbs, protein, and fats?
Will you eat more vegetables and drink less soda to consume the right kind of carbohydrates or will you eat less junk food to protect your heart?
Please leave a comment to let me know.
Let’s make the world healthy again!