Mother Nature’s Antidote for Carbohydrates
“Carbs are the single most important thing you can eat for health and weight loss.” – Dr. Mark Hyman
“A controlled carbohydrate lifestyle really prevents risk factors for heart disease.” – Dr. Robert Atkins
“Wait just a damn minute! Carbs are bad for me! They are the macronutrient most responsible for elevating blood glucose and insulin levels …and insulin is a hormone that regulates fat storage, I can do that kind of math myself. Why in the hell would I want to eat something that will make me fat? I’m going to just eliminate them all together!”
This is the attitude many people take when they discover that the carbs they are eating are responsible for fueling their weight gain. Often, without any further investigation, many folks will label all carbohydrates as “bad” and then set out to completely eliminate them from their daily menus. They go on the assumption that “if less is better, than NONE is best!” Our bodies are much more complicated than that, unfortunately it’s not that simple. It is imperative that we recognize the flaw in this logic and not fall into a state of “Carbo-phobia.” After all, the last time we (as a country) collectively demonized an entire food group (Saturated Fat), it led us to an obesity epidemic 4 decades strong. One that we are still fighting our way out of. In an effort to learn from our mistakes, perhaps we should seek a more in-depth understanding of the carbohydrate before we throw them out with the bath water.
Carbohydrate is not a four letter word. All plant foods are carbohydrates. They contain phytochemical nutrients that have numerous, powerful anti-cancer effects. Carbohydrates provide for the healthy construction of cells, not only in the brain, but in the entire body. Fortunately for all of you carb-counters out there, your body does not require many. It is not actually the carbs themselves that our bodies crave, but the phytonutrients surrounding them that are beneficial to our cells. Eliminating carbs entirely would not only be a cumbersome undertaking, but also a disastrous one.
Carbohydrates in and of themselves are fattening, in that they start a chain of hormonal reaction that lead to the storage of fat. They cause a surge in blood glucose levels which cause the over stimulation of insulin (the hormone most responsible for fat storage.) Surprisingly, what most people fail to realize is that the carbohydrate’s toxicity lies in the way they are processed by our bodies, as well as by how they are processed (or over-processed) in preparation for our consumption.
Did you know that there is a healthy way to metabolize carbohydrates? This is not a process that was invented by a doctor, a procedure contrived by a research scientist, or something cooked up by some diet guru. What I’m talking about is a process that was created by none other than Mother Nature herself. That’s right, Mother Nature has provided us with the antidote for Carbs! This substance of which I am referring is fiber.
Fiber is the “Anti-Carb.” Fiber’s coexistence with the carbohydrates in green-leafy, cruciferous vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and some whole non- hybridized fruits, come just shy of completely negating the adverse effects that a carbohydrate alone would have on your blood glucose levels. Thus, keeping the over secretion of insulin in check and lowering the net carb effect. The existence of fiber in these foods also contributes to the satiety of your meals. Fiber is instrumental in improving gut flora and helps with both digestion and elimination. These carbohydrates that coexist with fiber are often referred to as “slow” carbs.
The carbohydrates that can be detrimental to your health are the “fast” carbs, often referred to as refined carbohydrates. These refined carbs are easily digestible and found in processed foods, sugary treats, grains like breads, flour, cereals, rice, pasta, starchy hybridized potatoes, corn and several other root vegetables. Though some of these foods contain a modicum of fiber, most of them are completely unbalanced and a detriment to your efforts at weight loss or weight maintenance. Refined carbohydrates do indeed spike your blood glucose levels, increase insulin production and fat storage. In fact, their repeated daily consumption over months and years, can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity.
Another reason that carbohydrates are often demonized is because of their associative relationship with the causation of insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Patients diagnosed with these diseases often transition to low carb diets (as they should), but without being properly educated on how insulin works in the body. They often look at carbs as the bad guy and stop eating their veggies. You’d be surprised by how many people do not realize that you can actually achieve dietary ketosis while simultaneously eating meals that have plenty of vegetables, berries and nuts. You can eat up to 50 grams of these fiber rich carbs and still remain in dietary ketosis. Trust me, I have the almond breath and the keto-sticks to prove it. You can fill each meals plate with 50% vegetables and still be eating as little as 20-30 grams of these healthy carbohydrates per day. There is no need to fear these carbs!
It’s so important that we learn to differentiate between the good and bad carbohydrates. A good glycemic index chart can serve as an adequate* guide to help discern between the carbohydrates are good and those which are counterproductive. I find this link from the University of Sydney to be most useful.
*A glycemic index provides a measure of how certain foods affect your blood glucose level. Though insulin levels operate independently of blood glucose, they mirror each other more often than not. (But that’s a topic for another day)
As another side note, it is important that I mention the protective factors of vinegar. Just as the presence of fiber can lessen insulin production, vinegar can also exert a protective effect on the serum insulin response. The existence of vinegar in your diet can reduce the glycemic effect of higher glycemic foods by as much as 20% to 40% in some cases.
In this Information Age there’s really no excuse not to take charge of your fitness. Please be beware, there is a bevy of misinformation on the Internet. We must all make an effort to check the reliability and accuracy of online sources. In case you are wondering, the content of this article was inspired by information provided from “The Obesity Code” by Dr. Jason Fung and “Eat Fat, Get Thin” by Dr. Mark Hyman. Both published earlier this year (2016)
While Carbohydrate is not a four letter word, “REFINED Carbohydrate” is the real culprit, worthy of your scrutiny. You need not fear the few carbs that accompany a healthy amount of fiber in low glycemic vegetables and fruits. Adding good slow carbs to your diet will add variety and an endless wealth of benefit. There’s really no reason to be a rebel without a carb.
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