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Carbohydrates and fat have both been bad boys in the dieting world in the last couple of decades.
Fat used to be the enemy – the name itself implies negativity. No one wants excess body fat, so to lose fat, you should cut fat from your diet. This sounds sane enough, and it was with great gusto that nutritionists, fitness magazines, bodybuilders and celebrities promoted the low fat diet for weight loss.
Then we got a little smarter, and realized that a diet devoid of fat is far from a healthy diet and that in fact, restricting fat may actually result in the body holding on to excess fat stores – definitely not good news.
After this, it was the low carb craze, centered mainly around the Atkins diet. The theory was that carbs raise levels of insulin in the bloodstream, and insulin blunts fat loss. While the first part of this is absolutely true, the role of insulin is a little more complex than simply preventing fat loss. Stable levels of insulin are vital for general health, and when you’re eating in a calorie deficit (ie. consuming fewer calories than you burn, elevated insulin levels will have no negative impact on fat loss.)
Now there thankfully seems to be a more balanced approach. The mainstream media and dieticians, while still slightly holding on to their old beliefs, generally recommend that any healthy diet should include both carbohydrates and fat.
We realize the importance of carbs for energy, and the health benefits they offer – mainly fiber from wholegrains, beans and pulses, and vitamins and minerals on fruits and vegetables. Likewise, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ve probably heard of EFAs, or Essential Fatty Acids. These are the fats our bodies can’t do without. The most common one is omega 3 – the fat found in oily fish, but nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and tropical fats such as coconut and palm oil all contain these vital fats.
While these newer recommendations are fairly solid, and would work for general weight loss and health, it still doesn’t answer the question about what is the optimal ratio for fat loss.
Low carb zealots will say that any fat loss diets should contain as little carbohydrate as possible, even restricting the consumption of vegetables, while the low fat warriors will insist that your diet should be mainly based around grains and plant foods, with very small amounts of fats and animal products (much like the food pyramid.)
To get optimal results though, you need the unbiased facts on what is the optimal ratio of carbs and fat for fat loss.