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Are Carbs the Bad Guy?

Let’s admit it, carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the last few years.  But are they really that bad?  In fact, no!  Carbohydrates are an important macronutrient in the body.  They provide you with the fuel you need to have a fabulous day.  The problem we face is not carbohydrates but more HOW carbohydrates have been manipulated by the food industry.

First, let’s do a quick refresh on what exactly these macronutrients are.

Simple carbohydrates

Also known as simple sugars.  Think anything “white”.  White sugar, refined white pasta, white potatoes, refined white bread…  These carbohydrates are called simple because the body breaks them down with ease.  This increases your blood sugar levels at a higher rate; releasing insulin and causing a cascade of hormonal triggers that can be precarious.

Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are also called starches.  They tend to be higher in nutrients and fiber, making it a slower process for the body to break them down.  This gives you a sustained energy source and doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels.  Sources of complex carbohydrates are foods such as whole grains, legumes and starchy vegetables.

You might have noticed the word “refined” mentioned above.  This term means that the food industry has stripped away part of the grain.  A wheat kernel is made up of the germ, bran and endosperm. The refining process removes the germ and bran coating, which strips the kernel of most of its vitamins and fiber. What’s left is a less nutritious and easier carbohydrate molecule for your body to metabolize.  Making the carb react more like “sugar” in your body which impacts your blood sugar levels.


Why are Blood sugar Levels So Important to Monitor? 

A stable and sustainable blood sugar level is the first and simplest step towards a healthier body.  When your blood sugar levels spike, insulin is released into the bloodstream to shuttle the glucose into the cells to use as energy.  If there is too much glucose, the insulin will send it to the liver to store for later use.  The risk with too many blood sugar spikes is that your body becomes a bit lazy or insulin resistant.  This can create a cascade of health problems including Type II Diabetes, stroke or cancer.

To keep your body’s health and weight in check, make sure to pair your fruit, grains, legumes and veggies with a healthy side of protein and/or fat.  Eating carbohydrates alone, unless they are high in fiber, is a sure way for your blood sugar to spike.  By balancing your meal with macronutrients, you are ensuring a slower metabolism and therefore sustainable energy to fuel your day and reduce your risk of insulin resistance.


Should We Avoid Carbohydrates?

Of course not!

Your body needs fuel and carbohydrates are the most effective way for your body to obtain that fuel.  However, your job is to give your body the most natural and effective fuel possible.

Our bodies are designed to eat real, whole and natural food.  When you start to eat partial foods (like orange juice) or processed foods (like instant rice), your body gets confused.  By eating the whole food, you’re ensuring that your body is also getting important vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes.


If I’m Trying to be Healthier, Do I Need to Pay Attention to the Scale?

Everyone has different goals.  And health is usually at the top of the list.  But what is healthy?  Is it the number on your scale?  Most people would agree that the number on the scale does not necessarily reflect a picture of health.  What it does do, however, is measure your current state.

The scale is an excellent tool for you to benchmark your progress and know if your lifestyle changes are leading you in the right direction.

Studies show that a high body fat percentage or a high waist-to-hip ratio can lead to serious health complications such as cardiovascular disease and a fatty liver.  What may be more beneficial to you, is a scale that not only measures your weight but also your body fat percentage.This will ensure that your efforts are leading you to losing FAT and not the necessary lean muscle that will keep you healthy for years to come.


But What if You Don’t Own a Scale?

There are still many important habits that you can integrate into your lifestyle that do not revolve around your daily morning weight check.  The easiest one to integrate is eating breakfast within one hour of waking up.  This might be a bit of a challenge for those who like to grab a coffee and a muffin on their way to work.

Challenge yourself for one week of eating breakfast earlier and including a healthy protein or fat with your morning meal.  Things to try could be steel cut oats topped with ground flax seeds, plain Greek yogurt and blueberries.  Or, sprouted Ezekiel bread topped with natural organic peanut butter and 1/2 of a sliced banana.


What Type of Carbs Are OK?

Let’s start by saying that carbs in general are okay if they are whole and natural.  Depending on your health goals, you may want to limit your intake of grains and breads and focus more on starchy vegetables and vegetables in general.

Foods such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash and green peas will give you the complex nutrients that you need without triggering a blood sugar spike.   When you focus on vegetables for your carbohydrates, you are also loading your body up with needed nutrients.

Other great sources of carbohydrates are legumes.  Chickpeas, black beans and edamame are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates that keep your blood sugar in check and load you up with healthy vitamins and fiber.


Is There a Type of Carbohydrate That I Should Avoid?

It’s simple – avoid processed, sugary products.  When shopping, stay on the perimeter of the store.  Most aisles are filled with processed foods that will only confuse your body and provide you with unhealthy carbohydrates.

When making food choices, try to stay away from any “white” foods.  Sugar, white pasta and/or breads are usually void of nutrition and can actually steal nutrients from your body’s stores to metabolize.


What About Carbohydrates Before Bed?

There are different schools of thought around eating carbs before bed.  Our view is that it is best to eat carbs earlier in the day, when your cortisol levels are high, and you are sure to burn the energy you’ve consumed from your carbohydrate intake.

Another thing to consider is that during sleep, your body is healing.  Most of the night is spent regulating hormones and destroying nasty cells, viruses and other pathogens.  When you eat before bed, your body must now spend it’s time digesting instead of doing its other jobs of restoring your body.  That’s why we believe it to be optimal to stop eating about two hours before settling in for a good night’s sleep.


What Are Some of the Biggest No’s for Eating Carbs?

There are the obvious recommendations of avoiding sugary foods like cookies, sweetened yogurts and white breads or pastas.  Some of the lesser known no-no’s would be to try and avoid any “instant” foods.  These foods have been manipulated by manufacturers by removing the fiber and bran to make the grain quicker to cook.This process strips the grain of essential nutrients and leaves you with a higher and more simple carbohydrate count.

And finally, avoid grains and simple carbohydrates after your mid-day snack.  Aim for quality proteins, healthy fats paired with fresh vegetables to sustain you until you head for a good night’s sleep.

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