- Carbohydrates are a macro-molecule the body uses for fuel most commonly known are breads and glucose/sugar
- There are good and bad carbs, your body does really well with unprocessed carbs such as fruits and nuts
- Carb-eliminating diets have a couple of challenges in that it cuts out some needed nutrients and when carbs are re-introduced it can cause weight gain
- There are tips to reducing your carb intake such as focusing on the good carbs
Despite the numerous warnings and diets telling us to stay away from carbohydrates, these are actually good for you if eaten sensibly. First off, you hear a lot about carbohydrates but let’s talk about exactly what is a carbohydrate. A carbohydrate is is a large biological molecule, or macro-molecule, consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, usually with a hydrogen:oxygen atom ratio of 2:1. I know that’s a pretty fancy explanation. Simply put it’s fuel for the body. The most common is sugar, real sugar found in fruit for example not the white processed stuff in the bag at the grocery store. It’s also found in bread, popcorn, milk, so on and so forth. Most foods contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar, fiber or starch. The primary purpose of carbs is to provide fuel to your cells.
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation in the past 20 years because of their potential for high caloric content. Thus the rise of diets such as Atkins that sought to completely element this fuel source from a person’s diet. Much like anything there are good carbs and bad carbs. The issue with carbohydrate elimination diets is that you forgo the good foods such as unprocessed nuts, beans and fruits. These guys didn’t do anything wrong and in fact they provide essential macro- and micronutrients. The culprits in this scenario are the high-calorie processed foods with lots of extra calories that don’t provide fuel to the cells. The extra calories then get stored as fat along with any other additives the body doesn’t recognize as food.
There is another issue with a carb-free diet, the rebound when you add them back in. People who fully eliminated carbs did see significant weight loss but once they re-introduced this food their weight skyrocketed back up. The body can get by without sugar (glucose) it simply switches to another type of fuel that comes from releasing energy from the fat stores. This is essentially how you lose weight. But when you add the glucose back in the body will want to store that glucose for the next time you decide to take away an energy source. By significantly reducing your intake of bad carbs and focusing on good carbs you maintain a balance in your body’s energy supply. So when you decide to eat a few more carbs than normal your body won’t freak out.
Tips for reducing your carbohydrate intake include:
- Eat whole grains for breakfast – it will say whole grains on the package. Steele cut oatmeal is the best. Go for old fashioned and skip the instant which is loaded with extra processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Top off your old fashioned oats with a little brown sugar or honey, no artificial sweeteners please. Enjoy that with some green tea or an oolong tea which is known for its weight management properties.
- Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks – you can avoid the bread all together and opt for a salad. If you made your own sandwich it’s probably better because you can choose a low-calorie whole grain option such as thin or flat bread (it will say it on the label). If you’re going out to lunch chances are you have no control of the type of bread being used which may contain additives you don’t want. If you’re a Subway fan they just recently announced they will stop using a chemical used in rubber in their breads.
- Look for bread substitutes such as brown rice or quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Quinoa especially packs a high nutritional punch, lasts longer than bread and is more economical if you’re on a budget.
- Cut out the fruit juice – but if you must opt for whole or 100% fruit juice. If it says fruit drink avoid it like the plague. Drink means it’s loaded with processed sugar. Instead of a glass of orange juice just eat the orange. Why cut out fruit juice since fruit is so good for us? Fruit is good for us but it can contain a lot of sugar. Eating a single piece of fruit has far fewer calories than drinking a glass that contains 4-6 pieces of fruit to get that eight ounces. You can also juice the fruit yourself at home.
- Reduce or eliminate potatoes and opt for beans instead. I love potatoes but they can raise blood sugar pretty high. I wouldn’t say cut them out completely because they have a health benefit to our respiratory system.
Run through your daily meal plan and decide where you can cut out the bad carbs and replace with the good. No need to feel guilty about eating those goods carbs.
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