If there’s one thing that will never change about our society and human behavior it’s that people love to follow an idea that claims anything drastic, especially when it seems like it might be an easy way out. Just look at the diet industry as a whole, with a $40 billion + annual revenue. No, I’m not trying to write about conspiracies, I’m just pointing out that it’s always important to do your own research – or just read my blog 😉
Ever since the infamous Atkins diet back in 2003, more and more Americans will shake their finger at pastas, breads, and anything with carbs. Even after numerous studies were released saying that a long-term low carb diet can be hazardous to your heart health, I still hear many of my friends telling me to back off the carbs to lose that extra weight. Do they hold some value in those words? Actually, yes. If you limit your carbohydrate intake, you WILL lose weight, a significant amount even. But at what risk do you put your health? Ever notice how moody and flat-out MEAN a friend of yours has been when they started a low-carb diet? I remember saying on numerous occasions “I need carbs to think!” Turns out I’m a lot smarter than I give myself credit for. How does reducing your carb intake effect your cognitive function? Studies have shown that negative side effects associated with memory, mood, and confusion are typical among low-carb dieters.
But before I start a debate about why not eating enough carbs makes you “stupid” let’s look at how carbohydrates metabolize glucose for brain fuel. When the body doesn’t have enough carbs in its system to gather glucose it goes into a backup mode in a process called ketosis. In this state, the bodies liver doesn’t have enough glucose; ketone bodies that are elevated within the blood at this state are then used as an energy source. When fat stores are broken down, small carbon pieces (ketones) are the result. So essentially, instead of using carbs to run your system, your body starts tapping into fat stores, which is why weight loss is sudden and drastic if this is continued. If you go out and eat an entire loaf of french bread, your body will have an excess of glucose, insulin levels will rise, and your body will have to store the excess energy. So where does ketosis get dangerous? Ketones consist of acidic principles (I know, this blog post is a little more scientific than usual) and if ketone levels get too high they can make your blood more acidic, wreaking havoc with high toxicity levels and damaging your kidney and liver. This is also what happens to alcoholics as alcohol furthers ketosis as well as starvation.
Keeping your body in a state of ketosis will make you lose weight, obviously, as fat stores are used for energy instead of carbohydrates being replenished. However, keeping the body in a state of ketosis for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk for osteoporosis. Also, once carbs are introduced back into the diet, fat stores will quickly be replenished, getting you back to your original weight and often making you gain back more.
I think a lot of people can agree that the Atkins diet isn’t the safest route to go, completely eliminating carbs is probably a bad idea. But what about all these other fad diets such as Paleo and Primal. Those sound cool, they start with a P (Popeye’s name started with a P) AND who wouldn’t want to be Primal!?! That’s how our ancestors lived (even though they died before the age of 30). I will honestly say that I haven’t done ENOUGH research on either of these diets to give an educated opinion (I’m also not a nutrtionalist so much of what I say could be taken with a grain of salt, too). But if you’re reading this you know that I’m writing this based off my own research and my own opinions anyway. Point is, I will never agree with ANY diet that says you CAN’T do one thing or have to eliminate something else totally and completely. That’s not human. I don’t care if Lance Armstrong, Mark Sisson, and your personal trainer get together and have some crazy 3 some that warrants a baby, even that thing is going to want a milk shake now and again, and that’s OK! Food, diet, health, and fitness are about balance.
But back to my main point: carbs. There are good carbs and bad carbs and that ultimately, is what I want you to walk away with. If you can help it you shouldn’t be eating white breads or pastas. Good carbs consist of whole grains, beans (yeah you can’t eat beans on Primal), fruits and vegetables, all of which are excellent sources of fiber! The argument with Paleo and Primal is that they keep your insulin levels down (which when high, can spike your hunger) and keep you feeling satisfied. I’m not saying don’t do these diets by the way, I just know that you might have a hard time succeeding (I know I would because I still want to have fun with food). Eating brown rice instead of white, choosing whole grain bread instead of white wonder bread, these type of choices will help you get more fiber into your diet which takes longer to break down in your system. This results (drum roll please) in maintained low blood sugar levels, letting you control your cravings and make better decisions.
So before you try to figure out what’s for dinner that doesn’t have carbs or any of the million other restrictions fad diets associate themselves with, think about all of this information. Will fad diets work? Yes. You could only eat McDonald’s cheese burgers and still lose weight – don’t believe me? The truth is, consistency is what makes people lose weight and keep it off. If you’ve got the will power of a greek god of will power (lacking examples here guys) then go Paleo! I’m just looking for a diet that isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle, that’s how I’ve lost weight and that’s how I’ll continue to lose weight. It has to be realistic, affordable, and something you won’t kill people over. Put a donut in front of your Atkins-fooled friend and watch them squirm.
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Whole oats
- White rice
- White bread
- Refined flour
- Pastas and breads with added sugar
A good tip is to always check the ingredients when buying pastas and breads. The first ingredient listed is always what the food is most comprised of. So if a bread starts off with Whole Wheat Flour you’re better off than Enriched Unbleached Wheat Flour.
Happy Carbing! 😉