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The Big Goal Should be Balancing Carbohydrates and Proteins

Many fad diets advocate cutting as many carbohydrates out of the food intake as possible. The claim is that this will help people to lose weight. However, this approach is not only unwise, it is also unhealthy. The goal should be to balance the intake of carbohydrates with the intake of proteins.

Needed carbohydrates

For proper health, people need to consume carbohydrates. These are the main fuel our bodies use to perform everyday tasks. It isn’t an accident that there are carbohydrates in most of the available food we can consume, especially those that come from plants.

The unfortunate part is that most of the most palatable food choices are also those that are highest in carbohydrates. This can easily lead to people overindulging in high carbohydrate foods. Excess carbohydrates are often converted to body fat. Fat intake doesn’t cause people to become fatter, consuming a very large amount of carbohydrates does.

Needed proteins

Proteins are needed for building and repairing muscle tissue, especially during physical activity. People who aren’t getting enough protein often experience muscle and joint pain, lack of energy, mood swings, they often have difficulties sleeping, and interestingly, a lot of times they experience hunger, particularly for sweets.

Sweet foods tend to be high in carbohydrates, so it may not make sense that people who aren’t eating enough protein would crave them. Protein digestion ‘shuts off’ the hunger impulses in the brain, though.

A long time ‘trick’ that Native Americans have used for a great length of time has been to eat some jerky or pemmican a half hour to 45 minutes before dinner, to curb hunger, particularly during times when there isn’t much to eat. This actually works. The protein in the jerky and pemmican starts getting digested, which begins to turn off the hunger impulses the brain is sending out. By the time the person actually has a meal, they aren’t as hungry as they normally would be and usually won’t eat as much.

It might be surprising to learn that most people who are treated medically for being overweight or for protein deficiency are vegetarians or vegans. This isn’t necessary since there are many plants that are high in protein, but more of them need to be consumed to make up for the main source of human dietary protein; red meat and fish.

High-level sources of protein

Increasing your protein intake isn’t as difficult as a person might think. Here are some foods that are high or very high in protein:

Cottage cheese

eggs

dried beans

lentils

low-fat or no-fat milk

nuts

peas

tofu

edamame

quinoa

wheat germ

meats, poultry, fish, seafood

Proper balance

In a properly balanced and typical 2,000 calorie diet, right around 40% of the calories should come from carbohydrates. That is to say that between 400 and 600 calories of the 2,000 calorie diet should be carbs.

In that balanced diet, if you are getting 200 to 300 calories from protein, you are doing great. Notice that the carbohydrate to protein balance is about 2:1. This is a goal.

The role of fats

For health, humans must also consume fats. These are also found in plant foods, as well as in meat, fish, poultry, and so forth. However, fats shouldn’t make up too much of the balanced diet. For the 2,000 calorie diet, fats shouldn’t make up more than 400 calories.

The fats should also be primarily of the healthy sort. These are unsaturated fats. Common sources of unsaturated fats are fish, olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts. (Note: Peanuts aren’t nuts.)

Sedentary vs. active lifestyle

Doctors also recommend at least five hours of moderate physical activity per week for people on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. Moderate physical activity is any activity that makes you sweat and that causes your heart to beat faster.

What the activity actually does, besides burning calories, is convert more of the balanced dietary calories into muscle, rather than letting it become body fat. Don’t worry if there isn’t a change in actual weight. Muscle tissue weighs more than fat, so as a person becomes more fit, they may weigh the same as when they were fatter.

The point of all of this is that most people don’t get enough protein in their diets, so their diet isn’t balanced. The key isn’t to cut out carbohydrates, it is to increase the protein intake while maintaining the same number of calories in the diet.

This, combined with moderate exercise, is proven over and over to help people get to their ideal weight and to maintain it. It is also helpful for people who are battling illnesses such as diabetes. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to explain this in an understandable way, so many doctors tell their patients to cut their carbohydrate intake. It is easier to tell them this than to explain about the 2:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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8 Comments

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    • You’re right in regard to people not knowing what they are eating. That goes for people in general; schools, company cafeterias, assisted care kitchens, and private homes. There are way too many people who don’t understand that just because something says “healthy” on the box doesn’t mean that it is honestly healthy. Still, most people would be better off if they at least increased their protein intake. Doing so would also produce fewer overweight people. :))

      • Really? They don’t know what you mean by “balanced diet”? We’ll, that’s not had to understand. It’s in the word. Silly people. I don’t know much about food, which is I wanna learn how to balance my diet better. You mentioned foods with source of protein, but which foods have carbs? There was this individual that decided to eat less, but she was still gaining and when she went to the doctor, they told her that the foods she picked to eat, even if it was little, was nothing but foods full with carbs. I wanna what foods have that so that I don’t eat more of it than I should.

        • Foods that are very high in carbs include sugar, wheat and other grains like rice, corn, bread, and virtually anything made with flour. Drinking alcohol is also exceptionally high in carbs and these are “empty” carbohydrates because they contain almost no nutritive value other than the carbs. In the US, the biggest problem with carbohydrates is probably the use of refined sugar in so many different foods. Honey is far better for a person’s health, though it also contains a lot of carbs.

          • Oh, okay, I gotcha now. Thank you so much for the information. I knew sugar was a huge problem. I still rememeber the first time I learned that when I was young and watching the show “That’s So Raven” and the episode revealing that was when schools wanted to serve junk food because people liked it more, and then they revealed all the bad stuff we eat everyday in bags, and when you physically see it, it’s crazy.
            I also notice I eat a lot when I am sugaring up my oat meal to make it sweeter. Spoon after spoon because it never tastes good. Ha ha!

          • A trick with oatmeal is to put a spoon of butter in it, then sweeten it with either brown sugar or honey. The butter brings out the sweetness and even brown sugar is better for you than regular white sugar.

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