Confused about carbs?
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about food journaling. How I, as a health coach, start my clients off right away tracking what they eat daily by writing it down. It is so helpful to identify what our diet is really made up of, not the fantasy stuff where we leave out complete meals, desserts or second helpings. The worst of it, I confided to her, is that I wasn’t following my own advice and I was wondering why I couldn’t lose some weight. Girl, you know what to do!
I am journaling, using MyFitnessPal, everything that goes in my mouth and the portion size (so important), and I can quickly see how I need to make some minor changes in my diet and the weight will come off. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, promise.
I explained to her that I wasn’t getting enough carbs, and my fat intake was a little too high. I needed to modify my macro percentages to get to my optimal eating pattern to healthily lose the weight I desired.
Macros, for those of you not familiar, are macro-nutrients, or the building blocks for our body and are made up of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. These are all necessary to keep us healthy, support our cells, our bones, our muscles, and feeling good.
My friend was confused when I told her I needed to increase my carbs. What? I started to explain to her that yes, that is what my body needed, and it was so evident when I looked at my food journal. I needed more vegetables, whole fruit and whole grains. She shot back – “Vegetables are carbs? I thought carbs were the white bread, white rice, cakes, cookies and French fries. You need to share this in your blog.”
So let’s clear the confusion surrounding carbs, my friends. Carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber, which naturally occur in food. These are converted to glucose (the body’s fuel) in the digestive tract and the fiber, which isn’t broken down through digestion, finds its way through to the exit.
To simplify things, there are “good” carbs and “bad” carbs. They are classified by fiber content, meaning good carbs are the foods that have a high fiber content, and digest slowly.
Conversely, the bad carbs have low fiber content, or are highly processed, are quickly digested and convert to energy. The problem with this is that if we don’t need the energy (glucose), it becomes stored as fat. And hence, weight gain. And that is why my friend thought carbs were only white – sugar, potatoes, bread – and were bad.
It’s all about the messaging. Making one type of food group like carbohydrates the enemy, when in reality it is the food industry offering us highly processed “food products” with little or no nutritional value. Carbs in their whole state are a vital part of the macronutrients we depend on to perform optimally.
This a simple method to make better choices and by no means scientific. Consider it a guide. And here is another guide. A visual. Imagine a plate. Half of the plate is vegetables and fruit, one-quarter is protein and the other quarter is whole grain. It is a simple guide to eating healthfully. And yes, this is something I do share with my clients too.
Best Carb Award: High fiber whole grains are a tremendous source of energy, vitamins and minerals, and fiber. They reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes when you eat these on a regular basis.
Fiber is so important to our digestion, keeping us regular as it keeps things moving through our digestive tract. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The soluble is found in fruits and some vegetables and helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol. Insoluble fiber aids with bowel movement regularity and reducing blood clots. These are found in brown rice, most vegetables, whole wheat and whole bran, and couscous. Both are invaluable and are found in carbs.
In my case, I chose to increase my good carbs, which will naturally reduce my protein intake (hence extra fat from mostly animal protein) and take in more protein via plant-based sources, such as tofu and lentils.
If you are “carb sensitive” which is often the case with a person who is needs to lose a lot of weight, or has type 2 Diabetes, or has been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, it might be wise to try a low-carb diet to get the weight down and get more healthy, more quickly.
If you just trying to stay healthy, making sure the carbs you eat are whole foods will do the trick.
And if you are naturally lean, or highly active, you may find that extra carbs in your diet is the best way of eating for you.
So you see, carbs in their natural whole state are good, and overly processed (bad) carbs that have no nutritional value should be avoided.
And all of us are individuals and need to take the time and effort to see what works best for their optimal health. Food journaling is definitely a start.
Best in health,