It’s the combination of dietary sugar and fat.
First of all, this is not a discussion of meat. Meat is rarely a contributor to weight problems. The blame for your excess body fat can be placed squarely on the combination of dietary sugar and fat. Not just sugar alone. Not just fat alone. Both together!.
Body fat is storage of excess energy. The two sources of energy for the human body, the stuff that keeps your brain going, lets you walk down the street, etc.are sugar and fat. Too little of both and you will lack energy. Too much of both and you will eventually be fatter.
Sugar actually comes in four (4) versions In the American diet. All four versions originate in plants growing in the ground. Everything that grows in the ground is chock full of sugar, called carbohydrates, along with varying levels of vitamins, minerals, fats, etc.
Version one includes the simple vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, avocado, etc. These are vegetables that can be eaten raw or cooked and the best sources of fiber. Generally speaking these are very low carb (sugar) vegetables that digest very quickly.
Version two includes starches like potatoes, beans, and various grains which require cooking to be edible. Starches have lots of sugar in complex form and, when eaten whole, take longer to digest.
That’s it for natural, whole plant food. Now we swoop down on the other two versions.
Version three is the commercially processed version of the starches (usually grain) in Version two. The processing consists of extracting certain parts, grinding the food up; applying high heat, chemical treatments/additions; thus creating a whole new product that has lost the initial value. Vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in food are very sensitive to heat and the nutrients tend to be lost. These food products would primarily be the wheat and corn products contained in almost every sack and box at your grocery store. Extractions of grain and sometimes potato starch are also found in various jars, cans, and bottles – stuff like soups, soy sauce, etc. The stuff is everywhere.
One advantage of Version two starches is longer digestion time which prevents the automatic hunger that occurs with rapidly digesting sugar. That advantage is lost in Version three. Thus we have a lot of carb (sugar) digesting very quickly with little nutritional value.
Version four is refined sugar, usually but not always extracted from beets. No redeeming value whatsoever in refined sugar but lots of it gets added to the processed products in Version three as well as the stuff you bake at home. Think sweets..
Think about it. Fat is always needed to make sugar Versions two/three/four really tasty,
Add cream/milk/eggs/etc. to flour, it rises beautifully, fluffy and light. Then you ADD more fat. Do you put butter on bread? Have you ever cooked pasta and eaten it straight up? Even your favorite marinara sauce will have oil in it. Macaroni isn’t much punk unless it has cheese. Thicken fat with flour or corn (starch) and you get gravy. Do you eat grits, rice, or potatoes (all starches) without fat of some kind? Unlikely.
Bottom line is that the real danger to a slim/trim body is the COMBINATION of starch and fat — because these are the true southern comfort foods.
The government and American Diabetes Association (ADA) say the way to lose weight is to cut calories, eat lots of carbs and low-fat. That approach will work for many people, at least for a while. Sugar and fat are the essential calorie (energy) sources in food and fat has more calories per gram than sugar. So on the surface that seems to make sense.
But I assure you that high carb and low-fat isn’t comfort food. And high carb digesting quickly will keep you hungry. When you are hungry what do you do? You eat, even if there is plenty of spare energy wrapped around your waist. And the comfort value in the low-fat food you might eat is minimal..This explains why most people won’t stick to it forever. The fat is just too important. So eventually you are back to high carb and high fat.
So if high carb/low-fat isn’t very satisfying, leaves you hungry, and tends to fail long-term, what is the answer? The answer is the reverse – low carb and higher fat. What that really means is eating mostly Version one simple vegetables with a smattering of Version two and enough healthy fat to make the food tasty. This is easier than you might think.
Cheesy cauliflower (or practically any other vegetable) casserole. Mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. Smaller portions of red potatoes. Oven roasted vegetables tossed in olive oil. Spaghetti squash instead of pasta. These can all be seasoned your favorite way, just as you would the “real thing”.
Does this mean that birthday cakes are out? Not necessarily so long as you realize that these are useless high carb/high fat calories with essentially no nutritional value. As long you just have cake on a birthday (in small portion) and not daily or even weekly. This would be an occasional “treat”. How many birthdays do you have per year?
Does that mean that cereal and honey buns are out? Yes it does. Because those will inevitably become daily staples.
Commercially processed fats, primarily those extracted from grain and legumes such as corn, soybean, canola, peanut, etc. are unhealthy. They fit into the category of “processed” at high heat including application of toxic chemicals. They are unstable and very susceptible to oxidation. And there are other good reasons not to use them. If you want to know more about this, please read my book, It’s All about the Food.
The healthy fats are extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil – preferably extracted without heat. Avocado oil has a high smoke point and is best for cooking above medium (350 degrees) temperature. .
Will this be a Hard Diet Change?
Anything different takes some effort. Any particular difficulty will depend on whether you are carb “addicted”, susceptible to feelings of withdrawal. If this is you, you probably get a knot in your throat even thinking about not eating bread. Thing is, your weight is tied to your diet and you have to change that.
Alcoholics are addicted. They would like all the problems associated with alcoholism to go away without giving up alcohol. Won’t work for them and won’t work for you. Give me a holler if you need suggestions.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR: president of Ouachita Village, Inc .board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry): chairman of the Tasty Acre project: and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.