There’s a stigma around the health world that can’t seem to be shed, and it has to do with fats, sugar, carbohydrates, and sodium. Over the decades, there has been a shift back and forth as to whether or not these things, in any amount, are good or bad for you. First there was the craze that egg yolks were bad for you, which has now been debugged with the awareness and existence of good cholesterol.
Then there was the hype around Atkins diet, which is little to no carbohydrates, because they were deemed “bad” in all ways possible. However, we now know there’s a little thing called a complex carbohydrate that allow you to consume the right kinds of carbs.
Luckily for you, we’re here to debunk the stigmas in the constantly evolving world of health that we find ourselves getting swept into, and educate on what’s actually good for you, and what you should leave behind in 2016.
There is so much fear around eating fatty foods that many are blinded by the fact that we need fat to maintain a healthy, balanced diet for a prosperous living. Just like the fact that there is good and bad cholesterol, there are good and bad fats.
The good fats are the unsaturated ones—monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These types of fat are essential to any diet due to their ability to lower cholesterol, aid in the combat against heart disease, and help the process of mineral dissolution in the bloodstream.
You can get your healthy fats from nuts, avocados, and even ghee, which is where butter is clarified by removing all of the milk proteins (and also paleo-friendly). Experts suggest that 20-30 percent of your daily caloric intake should be from the healthy fat category. Because this is based on your caloric consumption on a daily basis, there is no fixed number here.
Just know what you eat in a day, and replace some of those calories with filling and healthy fats, and stay clear of saturated fats and trans fats. These are fats found in foods such as margarine, beef fat and vegetable oil.
Trans fats are exceptionally unhealthy, as they contain double the amounts of bad cholesterol and cause inflammation. Saturated fats can be on the fence between healthy and unhealthy. They’re typically found in animal products such as meat and dairy, and if taken in moderation, they can add similar beneficial health factors to that of unsaturated fats.
This can be a tricky one, as we’ve been coerced into believing that all sugar is bad for you. While this is typically a statement based in truth, a stigma still remains around the amounts of sugar you should have, if any.
The main thing that’s important to remember with sugar is to check the labels. On the label, you’ll see a gram or milligram count of sugar, and the ingredients. Pay attention to the ingredients, because added sugar is close to your worst nightmare.
These added sugars are refined, such as that of high fructose corn syrup, meaning they have no nutritional value, making them empty calories. Fruits or bars, such as Larabars, do contain sugar, but it’s of the natural variety, meaning it carries minerals, vitamins and other essential nutrients into the body.
A good number for sugar intake on a daily basis is about 37.5 grams, or 9 teaspoons, for men, and 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, for women.
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This is where things can get tricky and stigmas rise. Carbohydrates exist in sugars and starches, and can be simple or complex. Stick with us through the confusion and we’ll break it down. See, carbohydrates are meant to give you long-lasting energy without the crash of say, a sugar high or a caffeine overload.
It’s a natural energy that propels your body and brain to get whatever task is at hand done. The issue with carbohydrates is the consumption of simple carbohydrates; those found in baked goods, soda, juice and cereal. These simple carbs are the ones that are typically added into foods after the fact, not ones that have natural carbs, such as bananas.
Complex carbohydrates are the ones that are made up of sugar molecules, but they’re held together in long, complex chains. The reason these are the carbs you want to consume is because unlike simple carbs, complex carbs are high in fiber and contain more good-for-you nutrients than simple carbs.
For these reasons, they’re also ideal for weight loss as they fill you up with less caloric intake due to their nutritional composition. To maintain a well-balanced diet, it’s best to eat around 60 grams of complex carbs per meal daily.
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Like carbohydrates, sodium can be tricky. Sodium is an essential part of a healthy diet, but if used or added in excess, it can cause inflammation, bloating, and weight gain.
So how do you know the amounts of sodium, or salt, that’s in the food you eat, both at home and at restaurants? At home, measure out your salt distribution rather than just free-pouring it onto your eggs or to season that beautiful strip streak you’ve been dreaming about.
Sodium is an essential nutrient in your diet because without it, your body’s electrolyte balance will be thrown off, thus creating the possibility of cramps, dizziness, and even nausea. However, too much sodium in your diet can increase your blood pressure and raise your risk for heart disease.
It’s best to keep your sodium intake at around 1,50o milligrams, or 3/4 of a teaspoon. If this number is shocking, it’s time to bust out those measuring sticks the next time you consider adding salt to any foods, especially those which naturally contain sodium.