Fats, Carbs, & Dietary Guidelines

Over decades of dietary guidance, the focus on lowering fat intake has resulted in an increase in carbohydrate intake, especially intake of refined grains and sugar. This shift is clearly related to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as other chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The science, politics, and marketplace influences behind the Dietary Guidelines have been on my mind, especially as related to the health effects of dietary fat and carbohydrate food choices. A recent post and video by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz, author of THE BIG FAT SURPRISE, were particularly thought-provoking.

Teicholz points out that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans “are the single most powerful influence on American food choices,” affecting nutrition programs and guidance provided to those with and without nutrition-related diseases. “Yet at the kickoff meeting for the next Dietary Guidelines [due out in 2020], government officials made clear that this policy is only appropriate for healthy people” … thus, excluding the 60% of our population diagnosed with nutrition-related diseases, including obesity and diabetes.

So, as we focus on this whole issue of dietary fat — how much is healthy, animal vs. vegetable source, saturated vs. unsaturated ratio — here’s a recipe to consider. Yes, this recipe contains a little red meat — lamb (very saturated fat and definitely a challenge as related to greenhouse gas production) — but in this recipe, lamb is a minor ingredient, while the many healthy carb plant food ingredients predominate. And since this dish features plant foods with BIG color and STRONG flavor, it also provides lots of plant protectors.

The bottom line when it comes to fats vs carbs is that the best choices are those least refined and lower on the food chain. For example, choose fats mainly from whole foods, including nuts, seeds, olives, avocadoes, smaller animals [like poultry] and fish [like sardines]). When possible choose free-range eggs, grass-finished [on pasture throughout their lifespan] animals, and wild-caught [as opposed to farmed] seafood. For carbs, try to get most of these from vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Limit grains, including whole grains, especially in the form of flour. And minimize/avoid sugar and sweeteners and foods listing these as one of the first three ingredients on the food label. And taking all of this into consideration, the bottom line as related to food and health remains the same: Eat mostly whole, fresh, unrefined foods and minimize/avoid food products.

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