Low carb diets are all the rage again,
and authors are selling books by the millions claiming that people will “be healthier” if they eat more meat, load up on fats (to include saturated fats), and cut out certain fruits and vegetables.
I’ve been hearing the phrase “bad carbs”a lot lately.
And, many more people these days tell me they’re “not eating carbs, and they feel so much better because of it”.
When someone tells me they aren’t eating carbs anymore, one of the first things I ask is if they’re aware that our bodies and brains use carbs only for fuel. It’s called blood sugar, A.K.A. blood glucose, and we’d be dead without it.
Secondly, I ask them if they’re aware that carbs are in all fruits, vegetables and legumes (to include nuts). It’s impossible to eliminate carbs and get all the nutrients your body needs for optimal health and energy (because all you’d be eating is meat and fat).
So, is it the carbs that do harm
or is it that we don’t eat them in a healthy way?
While I was growing up in my North American family we did our best to eat healthy,
and we only knew so much about what healthy eating actually meant.
I grew up on boxed cereal, breaded fish sticks and chicken, mac and cheese, hamburgers and hotdogs, pizza and sometimes frozen dinners as the norm.
Pretzels, and chips were the go-to snack.
French fries were the desired way to eat potatoes.
Cake and doughnuts were luxuries and I ate them (and sometimes overate them) whenever I got the opportunity.
Once an adult, like many people I turned to media and magazines to learn more about good nutrition.
I’ve tried every mainstream diet that’s come around
(And they keep coming back around- different names – same diets.) I drastically cut my calories for several years. For a while I gave up meat. Another time I gave up bread and pasta.
I was told by a holistic nutritionist that I was gluten and dairy intolerant, so I shunned those for several years.
These diets plus the exercise I was doing left me constantly tired and hungry, and I never lost the few extra pounds I felt I was carrying.
I went to school for dietetics and my food repertoire expanded, rather than contracted.
I learned how the body uses food for fuel and repair, and the chemistry behind food, digestion and metabolism. I got a handle on what healthy eating really is, and began crafting a healthy, sustainable way of eating for myself (and inevitably, for my clients). It looks nothing like these diets that come and go.
The bottom line is – We need to eat a large variety of food, in it’s most natural state, in order to get the nutrients that our body needs to be optimally healthy. We especially need lots of healthy plants (more than most of us eat) in their most natural form. The plant foods we need includes grains which have their own unique combinations of nutrients: B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid), iron, magnesium, and selenium, and they’re by far our best sources of fiber.
Now, when I eat grains I eat them as whole grains, without the added fats, salts, sugars, and chemicals that come in packaged, processed foods or at most restaurants. I buy animal products from farms that take good care of their animals (no rBGH, free range and organically fed) because that’s the most healthy meat. I eat vegetables mainly raw or slightly cooked. I use fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth (most of the time).
I went from a person who eliminates food groups to one who eats all foods, but in the most natural and clean state possible.
Did I blow up like a ballon?
On the contrary. I’ve been at my ideal body weight and low body fat percentage ever since – and maintain it with ease. I feel great and have energy. I workout with power and get results. I do not have reactions to gluten or dairy.
At the same time – fast food pizza, white breads, boxed cereals, chips, pretzels and other bagged snacks, coffee cakes, doughnuts, and pancakes are no longer a regular part of my menu.
Of course I exercise and keep within my allotted calorie range, which also plays a big part in maintaining my weight and youth. And that allows me to have a cupcake or pancakes now and then without backlash from my body.
If you feel that not eating carbs makes you feel better
it may be worthwhile for you to take a look at the kinds of carbs that you used to eat, and how much of those you were eating. Since food containing carbs is an essential part of the human diet, and is especially necessary if you are going to exercise with intensity.
Besides eating high quality food in it’s most natural state there are a few other guidelines that make a big difference in how good we feel and maintaining our weight:
- Make half or more of every meal or snack fruits and/or vegetables.
- When eating starchy vegetables like corn or a potatoes keep the dressings to a minimum.
- Choose whole grains instead of boxed, bagged, processed or bleached grains.
- Make more meals at home so you can avoid overdoses of industrial-strength preservatives, colors, and thickeners that can be in food when eating out.
You might find that carbs are not really the problem
– and you might feel excellent in more ways than one.
Diets get you to buy more books.
Extreme media headlines get you to click to the story, which brings advertising money.
Just this week the Washington Post said “Low carb diets are better for hearts than low fat ones (1)” and the New York Times posted “A call for a Low Carb Diet that Embraces Fat (2)”. Both articles were talking about a small study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (3) which was released on Sept 2 – which compared “a diet that was just barely low-carb (with added protein) and a diet that could barely be classified as low-fat”. See a detailed, unbiased review of that study here: (http://examine.com/blog/is-low-carb-really-the-best-weight-loss-diet/) By now you know that one study doesn’t provide enough evidence for anything.
Let’s not give our time and money to those promoting another diet fad.
Most people need to eat more high quality foods and more plants (fruits and vegetables) in their most natural form. Once my clients do this, almost all of them start to drop weight immediately. When they stick to the plan, it’s amazing how much better they feel and how many illnesses fall to the wayside.
Are you still struggling
to find the ideal diet that gives you energy, helps you to feel great and maintain your ideal weight, or have you found it?
I’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
- Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/low-carb-diets-more-than-low-fat-ones-may-help-protect-against-heart-disease/2014/08/29/3941510e-2ed0-11e4-9b98-848790384093_story.html
- New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/health/low-carb-vs-low-fat-diet.html
- Annals of Internal Medicine – http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694