In the battle of the bulge, fats and carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap. The truth is that fats and carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Fats support the immune system and assist vitamin absorption. Carbohydrates provide fuel and nutrition to the body. But not all fats and carbohydrates are alike. "Bad" fats and carbohydrates can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. "Good" fats and carbohydrates offer a variety of health benefits including lowered risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Eliminate or reduce saturated fat from your diet. Saturated fat is linked to health problems such as heart disease. It is found in beef, high-fat cheeses, whole-milk dairy products, butter, palm and coconut oils. If you enjoy dairy products, choose low-fat or skim options that have lower saturated fats.
Eat lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish, which are lower in fat. Remove skin and marbled fat from cuts of meat before cooking.
Cook with healthy monounsaturated fat oils, such as olive, canola, safflower, sesame and soybean oils. According to a study in the "Journal of Clinical Nutrition", monounsaturated fat reduces visceral fat and the risk of heart disease.
Reduce or eliminate your consumption of refined or sugary foods such as white breads and pasta, cookies and sodas. These foods have little to no nutritional value and increase your blood glucose levels, which can lead to belly fat and related health problems, such as diabetes.
Limit starch intake. Starchy foods such as potatoes and corn have nutrients, but they also have greater impact on blood glucose related to unhealthy belly fat. If you enjoy potatoes, eat sweet potatoes, which have less starch and greater nutrition than white potatoes.
Eat whole grains. You can eat pasta, bread and rice, but choose the whole grain option such as whole wheat. Whole grain foods have more nutrition and fiber than their refined counterparts.
Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes, which have fiber, healthy carbs and other nutrients important for good health.
Combining Good Fats and Carbs
Combine a lean protein with whole grain for each meal. According to the USDA's Choose My Plate, protein and whole grains combined should take up half your plate.
Use healthy oils such as olive oil to saute or roast your vegetables or lean meats, such as chicken. Choose butter-like toppings that are made of monounsaturated fat and are low in saturated fat and cholesterol for your carb-rich pasta, toast or rice.
Combine a lean protein with a healthy carb. For example, fix yogurt with oatmeal and fresh fruit for a healthy breakfast. Or add lean protein such as chicken or fish to brown rice or whole grain pasta. Include vegetables to add more healthy carbohydrates and nutrients.
Eat nuts, such as almonds, with fruit for a healthy snack containing good fats and carbs in addition to protein and vitamins.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate suggests that your meals include one-half fruit and vegetables, one-third protein, two-thirds whole grain, plus a serving of low-fat or fat-free dairy.
- Consult a doctor before changing your diet.
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.