Whether we are talking about the quality or the quantity, the North American society is obsessed with carbs. With popular diets like The Atkins diet, Paleo, and Ketogenic Diet, many modern day diets put an effort on lowering your consumption of carbs. Why is this? Let’s stop and consider the amount of carbs someone could be potentially eating if consuming a typical Standard American diet. Breakfast foods include: floury pancakes, toast, croissants, or breakfast cereal – all carb centric. Lunch is maybe a sandwich, or if you’re feeling healthy, a bowl of noodle soup. Then dinner rolls around and some options may be pizza, pasta, or a deceptive serving of rice or potatoes.
It’s safe to say that the most successful diets for our bodies are typically lower carb because it takes us from thinking about bread all day to considering vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Let’s dive deep into what we need carbohydrates for and how we can all learn to change our macronutrient focus.
On a personal note, moving towards a low carb diet changed the way I eat completely and helped transform my body in many ways. Not only did I notice a shift in the amount of bloating I experience but my energy stabilized, my moods improved and my meals became much smaller. I no longer eat until I can’t move, and I can go longer periods without any food at all.
Why are carbs the bad guy?
They aren’t, is the short answer. Carbs are easy, fast, fuel for the body and brain. Carbs contain fiber, which is hugely beneficial for our digestive tract and regulating blood sugar levels, and carbs can contain many of the vitamins and minerals that are essential nutrients for our body. However the carbohydrate molecule itself is not essential for human survival. One study found that when starved, the central nervous system was still able to function through ketogenesis (breakdown of fats) and gluconeogenesis- both processes that breakdown non carbohydrate compounds for energy sources. [i] That being said, our bodies still require the vitamins, minerals and fiber that are mostly found in vegetables and fruits, which are still carbs.
So why cut carbs?
Over consumption of carbohydrates has the ability to cause diabetes, obesity, and dental problems to say the least.[ii] This list doesn’t even touch upon the spastic moods, fatigue, headaches, weight gain and poor sleep that irregular blood sugar levels cause, resulting from the over consumption of refined carbohydrates. Our bodies don’t need bread, pasta or sugar to survive and we are consuming these at ridiculous amounts. Simple carbohydrates especially cause erratic blood sugar levels, which is contributing to the epidemic of diabetes in North America. [iii]-[iv]
How many grams of carbs do you need per day?
Research says at min 50g/day (only to prevent the body from going into ketogenesis) and at most we absolutely need 150g/day (beyond the ages of 3-4). (This number will look different for athletes obviously.) This isn’t a lot of carbs.
If we are considering this amount in grains; one cup of quinoa is about 100g of net carbs.[v] Ideally however we would be getting the majority of our carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables because that’s how we consume those essential-to-life micronutrients, as listed below:
“The currently established human essential nutrients are water, energy, amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), essential fatty acids (linoleic and α-linolenic acids), vitamins (ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron), trace minerals (zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium), electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), and ultratrace minerals (4). (Note the absence of specific carbohydrates from this list.)” [i]
How you can easily start cutting down your carb intake:
1. Cut out all refined carbohydrates: bread, pasta, and replace with only whole grains.
This is a pretty simple first step. Alongside this step begin to increase the amount of vegetables you are eating instead. Aim to eat vegetables with every meal, and try to fill up on vegetables.
2. Quit sugar.
I won’t lie, this is probably the hardest for all of us but it is the most rewarding for your body. The consequences of eating too much sugar – in all forms – include things like obesity, inflammation, diabetes, suppressed immunity, etc. You need to remember that sugar has you brainwashed, it is the ultimate addiction. Giving up sugar is not easy but if you want to prevent disease, lose weight, or simply have more energy and enjoy a better mood than it’s worth the effort.
3. Increase healthy fats and protein for cravings.
Healthy fats keep us full and provide nutrition for our hormones! Protein is endlessly important (building blood, repairing muscle and making your DNA to name a few!), and can offer our body some energy in the form of glucose if needed. Sometimes when we are craving sugar our bodies actually require more protein. Give it a shot and see if abolishes your craving!
4. Now, cut out whole grains.
In all honesty our bodies don’t need whole grains, especially in the amount that we are consuming. Some very successful studies have been done on the effects of the Paleo Diet (grain free) on improving many health conditions. [vi] You can simply replace whole grains with sweet potato, squash, carrots, root veg or more leafy greens (you can never have enough leafy greens).
At the end of the day all you need to do is focus on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables, because most of the time that’s enough for the majority of people. This tradition of over eating sugary, floury foods is turning the nation into overweight, undernourished and fatigued individuals. You will never know how good you can feel until you stop filling your body with foods that don’t serve you.
By working with me you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your body and the best foods for it. I can offer simple and easy recommendations that will help you feel more energetic, happy, balanced and calm, along with meal plans suited to your lifestyle.
[i] Eric C Westman. Is dietary carbohydrate essential for human nutrition? © 2002 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
[iv]Lee Gross, Li Li, Earl s Ford, and Simin Liu.Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type two diabetes in the United States: and ecological assessment Â© 2004 American Society for Clinical Nutrition