Understanding Fats and Carbohydrates
and Their Role in a Healthy Diet
By Nishanth Reddy
In recent times it would give the impression that fats and carbohydrates
have both gotten a bad rap. First it was fat that was the culprit
in all dietary ills, and low fat diets were all the rage. Then
the two switched places, with carbohydrates being the bad guys
and fat reigning supreme.
Both fats and carbohydrates play an important role in nutrition,
and both are vital to a healthy diet. It would be impossible
and unwise to remove all fat from the diet, since fat is important
for the production of energy, and for carrying valuable fat soluble
vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K, throughout the
body. In addition, fat plays a very important role in regulating
various bodily functions.
Even though some fat is essential to a healthy body, too much
fat can be harmful. Excessive levels of dietary fats have been
implicated in heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol levels and
even some cancers. Most nutritionists suggest limiting daily
fat intake to less than 20% of calories, although taking that
level lower than 10% is not recommended.
The type and amount of fat in the diet makes all the difference.
A diet high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol has
been associated with a variety of ills, including heart disease,
stroke and other related diseases. In addition, many long-term
chronic problems, such as obesity, are associated with high levels
of dietary fats.
Food labels do make the complex process of choosing the right
fats somewhat easier. For instance, trans fats will be listed
on the ingredient list of foods that include them. In general,
trans fats are found mainly in processed foods. When limiting
your daily intake of fat and cholesterol, it is good to have an
understanding of nutritional labels. This government mandated
labels could be a huge help to those who take the time to read
and be aware of them.
Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet as well,
and carbs are necessary for providing energy and many vital nutrients.
Carbohydrates are found in fruits and vegetables, in grains and
in milk and dairy products. It is important to choose carbohydrates
carefully, however, since not all are equally healthy.
Keeping saturated fats and trans fats to a minimum is important
to a healthy diet. Trans fats, which are solid at room temperature,
are most often found in highly processed foods like cookies, cakes
and other baked goods. In addition, trans fats are often found
in fried foods and in salty snacks like potato chips. While these
foods are fine in moderation, it is best to avoid large quantities
of such snacks.
As with many products, less is often more when it comes to choosing
foods rich in carbohydrates. For example, less refined whole
grain bread is generally more nutritious than white bread, which
has gone through a greater amount of refining. That is because
the refining process tends to decrease nutrient content over time.
Of course, there are some elements in the diet that should be
limited. Two of these elements are sugar and salt. Most Americans
consume too much salt and sugar, and this has led to epidemics
of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other ills. Limiting
sugar and salt, while choosing good fats and unrefined carbohydrates,
is a great way to make the most of the nutritional value of the
foods you eat.
There's a lot to understand about fats and carbohydrates. We
were able to provide you with some of the facts above, but there
is still plenty more to write about in subsequent articles. •
Copyright © 2006 Nishanth Reddy
About the Author
Nishanth Reddy, is an author and publisher of many health related
websites. For more information on how to choose healthy diet visit