“You are what you eat” is a popular phrase which emphasizes the importance of what we
eat makes the kind of body and health we have. I will further add something to this phrase, “You are what you
eat on a regular basis”. The kinds of food we have on a regular basis are responsible for the kind of body and
health we carry.
The father of ancient
medicine Hippocrates said:
“Let Food be
thy Medicine and Medicine be the Food”.
propagated that disease was a product of environmental factors, diet and living habits. That holds true now also.
Proper diet plays a key role in promoting good health and an unhealthy diet plays a role
in promoting disease.
Let us again define our
healthy lifestyle equation:
WEIGHT LOSS + GOOD HEALTH = (PROPER EXERCISE + PROPER DIET + PROPER REST) X
A human beings diet comes from the following category
sources: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. Whatever kind of diet
we eat or drink (except water) comes from either one or a combination of any of the above three food category. Each
food category holds its importance in the human diet. Understanding the relevance of each is essential especially
from the perspective of an overweight human being trying to lose weight
Carbohydrates: are best defined as the “premium fuel that provides energy to the body”. The human body uses up energy through
various physical activities and most of this energy is supplied by Carbohydrates since all the carbohydrates turn
into glucose in the body. Too many theories exist as what type of carbohydrates to eat what not to eat. An
overweight human on his/her journey towards weight loss should restrict to the following knowledge about
carbohydrates. Complex Carbohydrates: also called poly saccharides
consist of the good quality carbohydrates which are categorized as Fibrous Complex Carbs and Starchy complex
carbs. Green vegetables constitute the Fibrous complex
carbohydrate category. Potatoes, wheat, grains, oats, brown rice, cereals, bread constitute the Starchy Complex
The production of blood
glucose inside the human blood is much slower through the consumption of quality complex carbohydrate food choices.
The production of glucose in the blood stream is managed by a hormone called insulin. Insulin gets the glucose out
of the blood stream to the cells of the body to be used as energy. Glycemic Index (GI) is the factor which measures
the effects of carbohydrates and determines the production of glucose inside the human body. The more the GI of a
particular carbohydrate food, the more fast the glucose is produced inside the human body which is not good. The
lesser the GI value of a food, the slower the blood glucose production and the better for the human body. An
overweight human being should try to eat quality complex carbohydrate food choices (Fibrous and Starchy) which have
a lower or medium GI value and they also offer other health benefits. Most of the natural fruits and vegetables
comprise of the complex carbohydrate food sources. Starchy carbohydrate food sources like potato, rice, beans and
whole wheat bread should be eaten on a daily basis in combination with vegetables, lentils and fruits. Starch based
foods are a good source of energy and provide nutrients in our body. The notion that starch based foods is
fattening and not good for losing weight is false. It will only be true when you cook starch based foods in bad
fats. For example Potato is a starch based food which can be eaten the healthy way by steaming or boiling. It can
be eaten the unhealthy way by producing French fries out of it deep fried in oil consisting of the bad fats (Tran’s
fats, saturated fats).
Carbohydrate food sources offer the following benefit in the human diet:
Complex Carbohydrates provide energy to the human
Complex Carbohydrates provide fiber to the human diet. The many benefits
of fiber are it helps in constipation, helps in preventing diabetes, lowers cholesterol and is heart
Eating fiber rich complex carbohydrates gives a feeling of eating to the
full and reduces in overeating.
Complex Carbohydrate food sources such as vegetables and fiber rich foods
have lesser calorific value which aids in weight loss and weight maintenance. Fibrous fruits and vegetables
also consist of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are very essential for the human body as they keep
the body well nourished.
By eating a quality complex carbohydrate diet, the production of blood
glucose is slower in the body since complex carbohydrates are slowly absorbed in the body. The slower the
glucose production, the better the insulin response and the better for the human body to get rid of
Simple Carbohydrates: can be termed as
fast acting carbohydrates and should be restricted when a person is on a weight loss program. Simple carbohydrates
get absorbed very fast into the blood stream and hence produce glucose fast. Simple carbohydrates also come in two
forms, natural and processed.
Natural simple carbohydrates exist in fruits and should be
eaten as a part of a healthy diet lifestyle. Fruits contain simple sugars (fructose) which can be taken in
moderation. Though fruit is a natural simple carbohydrate, it offers tremendous benefits in the form of
antioxidants, fiber, essential vitamins and minerals and also comes under the anti-inflammatory diet umbrella.
The other natural simple sugar is lactose found in milk and milk products which is also good to have in
Processed simple carbohydrates are mostly human created and
have nothing of the natural form. The many simple carbohydrates food can be listed as cakes, pastries, biscuits,
ice creams, chocolates and many processed sugar products. The GI of all simple carbohydrates is very high.
Eating foods with a high GI value especially processed sugar products is a major cause of diabetes.
Proteins: is one of the food sources apart from carbohydrates and fats
which form a significant part of the human diet. Proteins are the raw building materials for the human body and
this material comes from amino acids which are building blocks of protein. In the weight loss circle a lot of
emphasis is given on a high protein low carbohydrate diet. Well, from my own example I can tell that what needs to
be known is having a balanced diet. A proper balanced diet includes healthy food sources of proteins which should
be eaten with a combination of the right type of Carbohydrates and Fats. Proteins can be categorized into Complete
and Incomplete proteins. The difference between complete and incomplete proteins is that incomplete proteins lack
all the essential amino acids which the human body requires which are found in complete protein which the human
body cannot produce on its own.
Complete proteins mostly come from
Non-Vegetarian food sources such as chicken, fish, and red meat. Complete proteins consist of all the amino acids
that are required by the human body to build muscle tissue.
Incomplete proteins come from
vegetarian food sources which are majority plant based (vegetables, grains, beans, legumes). Apart from providing
proteins, a plant based diet also provides good quality carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals.
That does not mean that one should be a non-vegetarian eater. Complete proteins are
also found in sources such as eggs, milk and milk products (cottage cheese.) Whey protein is also an alternative to
have in the form of protein powder in limited amounts only if the daily human diet isn't getting sufficient
quantity of whole food proteins.
Just like Carbohydrates and proteins, fats also constitute some part of the human
diet. The food category Fats hold a bad reputation as the word has FAT in it. There is a common misconception that
anything associated with the word fat will make you fat. Well, the truth behind this must be learnt. The truth is
that there are food sources consisting of good fats and food sources consisting of bad fats. Good fats heal the
body whereas bad fats harm it.
Bad fats: Food sources consisting of bad fats are mostly human made with unnatural methods of preparation. And
these human made foods consists of bad fats which are not good for the human body and in due time harm it.
Saturated fats and Trans fatty acids are the two major types of bad fats which are not good for the
human body. These fats are usually formed by the unnatural methods of food preparation and also in some natural
food sources. Deep fried foods, hydrogenated and partially refined hydrogenated oil products, processed baked
products; butter, ghee etc. are sources of bad fats. Other sources of bad fats are whole dairy products, palm and
coconut oil. If taken in the human diet, the percentage of these fat food sources should be very minimal. And an
overweight person on the journey towards weight loss should completely eliminate them from their diet. These bad
fats eaten regularly for a period of time are responsible for creating disease in the body like high cholesterol,
Good Fats: Food
sources consisting of good fats are mostly natural. Unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and mono
unsaturated) comprise the good fats category. The good fats consist of essential fat nutrients called essential
fatty acids (EFA) omega3 and omega 6 which are not produced by the human body and the body requires. These
essential fatty acids are very good for the human body. Eating fats with carbohydrates and proteins helps reduce
the hunger crunch.
Polyunsaturated fat sources of food are fish, almonds, flax seeds, wall nuts, pecans, Canola oil, Olive oil;
sunflower oil (safely is a good brand to use). Wall nuts consist of omega3 EFA. Fish consists of omega6
Mono unsaturated fat sources of food are cashews, peanuts, cashews, olive oil.