Fats have a poor reputation. Our culture shuns the idea of “fatness,” so what if a macronutrient shares the name? Eating a high-fat diet can lead to weight gain, but there’s a lot more to it. The type of fat is a big deal.
The same goes for carbohydrates. Pasta, rice, and bread get a bad rap, but the specific kind also matters. It’s no secret that refined grains get gets a bad name.
Yet, as two major macronutrients, fats and carbs are essential. We need them to live! But when it comes to cutting back calories, is one more significant than the other? According to a 2017 study in the journal The Lancet, there actually is – and the answer might surprise you.
Carbohydrates Versus Fats
Let’s look at the macronutrient recommendations. Of your daily calorie intake, you should be eating the following amount.
- 45–65% carbohydrates
- 20–35% fat
- 15–20% protein
Specifically, in a large global study involving 18 countries, researchers looked into how carbs and fats affect heart disease risk and mortality. The study included 135,335 people and lasted over 7 years. Using a food frequency survey, eating habits were compared to the total mortality and major heart-related events like heart disease, non-fatal myocardial infarction, stroke, and heart failure. Nutrient intake was divvied into macronutrient percentages.
The outcome of that was, diets with 60% of calories from carbs had a 28% higher mortality rate than diets with 35% of calories fats. Note that these percentages are in line with the recommendations. Meanwhile, people who ate the most fat of any kind were more likely to die than those who ate more carbs. These findings were consistent with every type of fat.1
Moderation is always key, but when it comes to overall health, place the focus on carbohydrates. Based on this study, its power is monumental! Get to know the “bad” and “good” carbs, and choose wisely.
Carbohydrates And A Healthy Diet
Carbohydrate is the body’s first source of fuel.2 Without enough, you’ll feel like you’re running on empty, so don’t completely cut it out. Here’s what you should choose when you eat carbs.
1. Brown Rice
Replace white rice with brown. You’ll get more fiber, a type of carbohydrate that encourages healthy bowel movements. It’s also slowly digested, helping you stay full for a longer time.
2. Whole Grain Bread
Steer clear from refined, “airy” bread. This is a tell-tale sign that the grains have been severely processed. On the other hand, whole grain bread contains fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E.3
3. Whole Wheat Pasta
Avoid white pasta whenever possible. The whole wheat version might cost a bit more, but it’ll be worth it. Fiber, phytochemicals, and minerals are just some of the benefits.4
Quinoa is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s actually a seed, but the nutrients are similar to grains. Plus, as a carb and protein, quinoa also provides antioxidants and potassium. Eat it in soups, salads, or as a side.5
Forget the processed cereals. Reach for oats, a fiber-rich source of carbohydrate. Pair it with fruits, dark chocolate chips, or nuts for a healthy breakfast.
Fats are not the enemy of your health but an essential macro-nutrient. Try to include these complex carbs into your diet as they are the primary source of energy for your body.
|↑1||Dehghan, Mahshid, Andrew Mente, Xiaohe Zhang, Sumathi Swaminathan, Wei Li, Viswanathan Mohan, Romaina Iqbal et al. “Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study.” The Lancet (2017).|
|↑2||Carbohydrates. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3, ↑4||Whole Grains. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑5||Healthy food trends – quinoa. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|