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Being a busy mom to a family with a husband who is looking to lose some weight and a new baby, I decide our family might need to adjust our usual eating patterns to get healthier. I've heard so much about different diets like carbohydrate free diet, ketogentic diet and paleo diet I want to investigate further. What is the carbohydrate free diet? I read a weight loss magazine and find out it involves eating a lot of meat, seafood, cheese, eggs and vegetables.
Wait, what are carbohydrates anyway?
I open a chemistry textbook to find out carbohydates (saccharides) are molecular compounds made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Monosaccharides and disaccharides are called sugars and are small molecules. Other carbohydrate molecules are big and called polysaccharides, such as starch and cellulose. I read on to find out why we need to consume carbohydates in the first place. The book says that carbohydrates provide the body with the energy it needs and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals.
So, for our bodies, carbohydates are the preferred fuel source of many cells. During pregnancy, I developed gestational diabetes and I remember that I had to really control the amount of carbohydates in my diet and had to check my blood sugar before and after every meal. That was because my body wants to maintain a specific level of glucose in the blood. To help maintain the optimum blood sugar level, it uses the hormones insulin and glucagon and the processes glycogenesis and glycogenolysis.
The body is able to detect blood glucose levels through the pancreas. If the pancreas detects high blood glucose then it will secrete insulin which is a hormone that will help the liver and muscle cell uptake more glucose and convert it to glycogen, thus lowering the overall blood glucose levels. If the pancreas detects low blood glucose, then it will secrete glucagon which is also a hormone, but it has the role of breaking down glycogen and releasing glucose from the liver and muscle cells which in turn increases the blood glucose.
I remember having some problem with constipation so my doctor recommended some foods rich in fiber, including whole-grain bread, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds. My husband thinks the best way to lose weight is to go on a low fat diet. What are fats? He tells me that by definition, lipids are substances that do not dissolve in water. Some common examples of lipids in our foods are triglycerides (fats, oils), sterols (cholesterol), phospholipids (lecithin). He is being a little extreme about this low fat diet so I explain to him why we need to consume essential fatty acids. What are essential fatty acids? They are defined as fatty acids that we must ingest because the body requires them for good health but cannot synthesize them. Only two fatty acids are known to be essential for humans: an omega-3 fatty acid and an omega-6 fatty acid. Fatty fish, walnuts and some eggs are high in omega-3 fatty acids and supposed to be excellent for our hearts and may be just as important for our brains too.
My husband wants to know if oil is considered a fat. I tell him the main difference between fats and oils is that fats are composed of high amounts of saturated fatty acids which will take a solid form at room temp whereas oils are composed of mainly unsaturated fatty acids which will take a liquid form at room temp. Fats increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases while oils lower the cholesterol level and lower the risk of cardio diseases. Examples of fats are butter, cream, meat and lard. Example of oils are coconut, olive and corn oil. Healthy fats, like in nuts, oils, and peanut butter, help to increase the "good" cholesterol in the body. Now that he is paranoid about fats and oils, I have to remind him that there are some good fats so we shouldn't elimate fats from our diet. I tell him that we need some fat because it is a major source of energy and helps absorb some vitamins and minerals. Also fat is needed to build our cell membranes, and myelin sheaths surrounding our nerves. Finally, fats are essential for blood clotting, and inflammation.
I have my eye on something called a paleo diet which entails eating a lot of protein. I wonder what is a protein and find out proteins are long chains of amino acids and are important for normal cell structure and function. The tricky part is there are complete and incomplete proteins. Overall there are twenty different kinds of amino acids, eleven of which our bodies can produce on their own. The other nine, called "essential amino acids," we can only get through our diet. So a complete protein has all nine of those amino acids that our bodies need. So these complete proteins are generally found through animal sources, such as fish, poultry, meat, dairy products and eggs. On the other hand, incomplete proteins do not contain all nine of those essential amino acids. Beans, some nuts, and tofu are some examples of incomplete protein sources.
Well, I've gone through some extreme diets like the carb free one, low fat and the paleo diet. Another diet to consider is the ketogentic diet. It is a low carbohydrates diet sometimes known as the Atkins diet. So you basically cut back on most carbs found in processed foods and sugar but not all carbohydrates. Cutting back on carbs means your body will run out of fuel in the form of blood sugar it uses up quickly so then your body will start to break down protein and fat for energy which can make you lose weight. My husband is interested in this but ultimately decides that this would only work out in the short term and we, as a family, are interested in long term health.
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