Where Does Fat Come From?
Many of us want to lose
weight. But where did we find it in the first place?
Thanks to the Atkins diet there is greater public awareness about the
negative ill effects that simple and refined carbohydrates have on
health—people are eating less white bread, white pasta and sugar. This
is good news.
But there are too many health risks associated with low-carb diets and
the long-term health effects are not yet known—we must be cautious.
The general understanding of fad diets tends toward overgeneralization.
Previously we believed that fat was bad and carbohydrates were good. We
became obsessed about low-fat and fat-free foods. We increased our
consumption of carbohydrates indiscriminately -- not necessarily only
the “good carbs” like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans. We also
increased our consumption of refined carbs like white bread, French
fries, white flour, sugar and soda. Not surprisingly, such foods lack
nutritional value and lead to weight gain and increased health risks.
We gained weight because we put too much emphasis on avoiding fat. In
the process we stopped eating good forms of fats and instead increased
our consumption of “bad fat” (saturated and trans fat) found in French
fries, other deep fried foods such as fried chicken, baked goods,
store-bought snacks, chips, baked goods, doughnuts and fast foods in
A diet comprised of highly refined carbohydrates in the form of overly
processed foods combined with unhealthy forms of saturated and trans
fats is unhealthful.
But such a bad diet coupled with a peculiar absence
of healthy forms of fat from nuts, seeds and vegetable oils and complex
carbohydrates rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and important
antioxidant is the biggest culprit of our obesity, diabetes,
cardiovascular disease and cancer epidemics.
Once again we are making the same mistake. Because of the Atkins diet
and other low-carb diets, the oversimplified belief is that carbs are
bad and fats are good – or at least acceptable.
We have not learned our lesson about the problems associated with diets
that eliminate or limit a specific food group.
We are designed to consume a balanced and diverse diet—a diet that
includes the nutrients naturally found in plant foods. Our evolution as
hunter-gatherers is a good indication—we’re not meant to eat mainly fat
and protein. We need to eat a healthy combination of all the basic
nutrients: Protein, fat and carbohydrates. And the sources and forms of
these nutrients do matter.
Again, the food industry is following our lead. If there is demand, they
will supply. These days you can find Atkins products everywhere, even
big chain restaurants have incorporated Atkins approved menus and
low-carb friendly meals. It’s a huge industry and the big winner is the
Let’s not forget that excessive weight is not the core problem – it’s a
symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle. The other symptoms are disease,
discomfort and early death.
Rather than becoming slimmer at the expense of health, let’s actually
become healthy. Weight loss will follow, along with a much better life.
Yes, we eat too many carbs. But, more to the point, we eat too many bad
carbs. And, yes, we eat diets that are too high in fats. But more
importantly, we eat too many bad fats.
A low-fat diet – ignoring all other factors – is not the solution, nor
is a low-carb diet that ignores other aspects of a healthy diet.
Rather than ignorantly cutting down on fats or carbs, we should cut down
on ignorance itself and embrace healthy organic vegetarian diets that
give our bodies what they need without polluting them with overly
refined, processed junk food, fatty meat and other ingredients of a diet
that made the majority of Americans so heavy and unhealthy.
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You did a good job with the Atkins issue, I thought. But I
just read a new study that tried to find out if it was true that people
lost weight on low carb diets because they ate less. And they found out
it wasn't true. One of the groups ate 300 calories MORE than the people
with the "balanced" diet, and they lost more weight. The contention of
the low-carb people is that the problem is insulin. They make a good
argument that our bodies have not evolved with a lot of carbohydrates in
the diet, and so our bodies are producing far more insulin than they
ought to be, and it has a cumulative effect, including a slow, steady
weight gain. That doesn't seem to be happening to you, however. You look
A. K., Bellevue, Washington
The Atkins diet places too much emphasis on the fact that
insulin enables the body to store fat. Insulin offers vital functions
such as enabling our cells to take up glucose from the bloodstream to
use it for fuel. Low-carb diets adhere to the idea that carbohydrates
are the main stimulant for insulin production. In fact, all the foods we
eat stimulate the production of insulin.
Another false belief is that insulin stores fat only when carbohydrates
are ingested. Nothing could be further from the truth—the body will
store anything as fat only when too much of any food is eaten and it
doesn't matter whether it's in the form of fat, protein or carbohydrate.
When it comes to storage of fat, it is the body’s biochemistry what is
at play. Consuming more calories than we burn in a day forces the body
to store the excess calories consumed as fat (no matter what the source)
resulting in gradual and steady weight gain.
The study conducted by the Penelope Greene of the Harvard School of
Public Health presents interesting data and we do need to be
open-minded. Nonetheless, we also need to consider other factors about
this research, which was paid by the Atkins organization (though it is
claimed it had no input in the study’s structure or analysis).
In this very small and short-term study that lasted 12 weeks, 21
overweight volunteers were randomly divided into 3 groups. The first two
groups consumed 1,500 calories per day and followed either a low-carb or
low-fat diet and the third group followed a low-carb diet and consumed
300 extra calories (1,800).
At the end of the 12 weeks everyone lost weight, the first two groups on
the low-carb and low-fat diets lost 23 and 17 pounds respectively and
the third group on the low-carb diet with the additional calories lost
The first finding is that of the two groups who consumed the same number
of calories, the low-carb dieters lost 6 more pounds than the low-fat
The second finding is that the low-carb dieters who consumed the 300
additional calories still lost 3 pounds more than the low-fat group.
It’s all very intriguing indeed.
It’s very common, however, for people on the Atkins diet to lose more
weight more rapidly than people on low-fat diets, though losing weight
too rapidly does possess health risks.
Carbohydrate intake is essential. The most important function of
carbohydrates is to provide a constant supply of energy to the body. The
body takes the energy it needs for immediate use in the form of glucose,
then it stores what it can for times of famine or starvation in the form
of glycogen and all the excess is stored as lipids or fat tissue beneath
The breakdown of carbs as well as the reserves of it for later use
require a lot of water retention in the body, which add up to body
weight. The Atkins diet pushes restricted eating consisting mainly of
animal fats and proteins and limited amounts of low-carb foods,
especially in the initial induction phase of the diet.
Low-carb diets starve the body from it’s preferred form of energy,
carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose in order to enter the
bloodstream, forcing the body to tap into fuel reserves called
“glycogen” stored in the liver and muscles.
When glycogen is depleted by dietary restriction, as is the case with
carb-restrictive diets, or intense, strenuous exercise, glycogen must be
broken down and reconverted to glucose. Glycogen requires several grams
of water for every gram that is stored in the liver and muscles. The
reconversion process of glycogen to glucose as a result of lowered
carbohydrate content in the body puts demands on body protein so lean
muscle tissue is lost.
The rapid weight loss low-carb dieters experience over dieters on
“low-fat” diets is because of the significant loss of water and muscle
tissue prompted by the depletion of glycogen.
Glycogen depletion is a major reason Atkins dieters lose more weight
faster than people on other diets. Muscle and water are denser than fat,
so the weight comes off fast -- at the expense of health.
The body is made of about 70 percent water, all of the body functions,
organs, tissues and cells require lots of water to occur so the Atkins
diet instructs dieters to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
Low-carb diets literally deplete the body of necessary water and energy
reserves that are designed to be stored in muscles. Probably the same
reason the Atkins diet gradually increases the intake of complex carbs
dieters are allowed to take--not doing so could be a major health
hazard. In addition to the over consumption of animal fats, the problem
with the Atkins diet is that carbs are consumed in neither the right
proportions nor sufficient diversity.
The Atkins diet contradicts the overwhelming majority of large scale and
long-term nutrition studies on how to lose weight in a healthy manner.
Many health experts and professionals believe the Atkins diet to be
The Atkins diet is popular because it exploits our desire for instant
gratification. The promise is that you can lose weight quickly, while
continuing to indulge in greasy steaks, sausages and the like.
The bottom line is that there are many factors yet to be studied for the
low-carb diets to be considered truly successful. For me, it will be the
test of time, when dieters adopt this diet as a permanent way of eating
and can sustain it for life without health complications as a result of
Words of Wisdom
“The most solid comfort one can fall back upon is the thought that the
business of one’s life is to help in some small way to reduce the sum of
ignorance, degradation and misery on the face of this beautiful earth”.
Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the
Click on the picture for a closer look!
Brown Rice Pilaf (vegan)
This is a basic rice dish that can go with many dishes including the
pinto beans soup recipe on last week’s issue. Though this is a simple
recipe, it is very tasty and can be used not only as side dish but also
in recipes that call for cooked rice. It can also be made simply plain
or with more vegetables, baked tofu cubes, beans and nuts for a complete
one dish meal.
Preparation time: 3 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes
Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
1 fresh garlic clove, crushed or pressed
½ small onion peeled and finely chopped
1 cup Basmati brown rice
2 cups vegetable broth or stock
1 cup water
1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
1 cup frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large pot heat oil over low heat. Add garlic and onions to oil
sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Add rice and sauté for 3
minutes. Add water and broth, lightly cover with lid and cook for 30
minutes. Without stirring, if it looks too dry, add a couple of
tablespoons of water then add corn and peas. Let it simmer covered for
another 5 minutes and turn heat off. Add salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook’s tip: sometimes brown rice can take more time to cook. Simply add
a ¼ cup of water and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Adding too much
water, however, will make it mushy.
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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.
Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.