Often we hear that the first step to losing weight is to eliminate all carbs and fats from your diet.

The mantra of “cutting out all carbs” is repeated so often, that it has almost become cliché. Fats have become synonymous with rapid weight gain and poor eating. Once you decide to begin a weight-loss routine, it’s highly likely that you will be inundated with advice telling you to drastically reduce or even eliminate your overall carbohydrate or fat intake.

Before you declare a war on fats and carbs, take a moment and consider what they actually are and what they do for your body.

Carbohydrates are essential for your body to make and store energy. This “storage effect” is why diets high in simple carbohydrates are often associated with weight gain.

Fats have their benefits as well, as certain fatty acids can support coronary function, brain functions, and even help maintain cholesterol and triglyceride levels already within a healthy range.

Get the right kind of carbohydrates
At first glance, it might make sense to eliminate all of your carbs to get rid of that stored up energy so you can get to the challenge of burning calories. However, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel. In fact, your brain and your red blood cells rely on carbohydrates exclusively for their fuel and energy. Eliminating carbs entirely would deprive your body of this vital fuel.

Like with anything else, the key is balance. Instead of fearing carbohydrates and cutting them all out, try to consume a balance of simple carbs with the rest of your diet.

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products are all excellent sources of simple or “good” carbohydrates. These will aid your body with storing the energy you need throughout your day.

The carbohydrates to avoid are called “refined carbs.” These can be found in white bread, white rice, pasta, cakes, cookies and similar foods. Start with these refined carbs to reduce your carbohydrate intake.

The right kind of fats
Getting the right kind of fats is important to the balance of your nutrition as well. Fatty, fried foods are not the way to go when trying to eat healthier. This does not necessarily make “fat” a scary term, though. Some fats have their place in a healthy nutrition plan.

While a diet high in certain fats will make it difficult to lose weight, adding omega-3 fatty acids can support your heart, brain and other functions. Try adding more salmon, olive oil, avocados or walnuts to your diet, as well as an omega-3 supplement.

It’s all about balance
It’s important to take all of these ideas into consideration before embarking on any diet based on “cutting out all carbs” or “eliminating fats.” Your body needs the energy it gets from simple carbs, and a reduction in refined carbs has its place in a weight-loss program. And don’t deprive your body of the benefits of fatty acids to your overall health.

The next time you’re told the only way to lose weight is to cut out all carbs or go fat-free, stop and think about what that means. Consider what role carbs and fats play in your diet and overall health, and then consider moving forward with a more balanced approach to your weight-loss routine.