We all know the story. CARBS ARE BAD FOR YOU!! Oooooooooo, scary… must stop eating carbs! Carbs will make you fat! Or that’s the story we are led to believe.
Eating carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar, which results in a surge of insulin. Insulin shuttles all that extra sugar into your fat cells and you become obese. Over time, your poor helpless organs become resistant to insulin and you develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, thereby shortening your life by an approximate 7 years.
All of that is true.
Buuuuuuut the story is not quite as simple as that though, the story is more complicated, with lots of twists and turns, depending on who you speak to or what article your read and this is because all carbs are not created equal.
I’m not writing this piece to tell you that sugar and flour won’t make you fat, they will, especially in the amounts that most people consume on a daily basis. But unrefined foods that just happen to be slightly higher in starch or sugar, in sensible quantities, won’t give you giant blood sugar spikes or abnormally high insulin levels.
Instead, unprocessed carbohydrates generate gentle, moderate rises in your blood glucose and insulin, giving you a small but long-lasting supply of energy your muscles can use for several hours. This is what is supposed to happen when you eat nourishing food, and normal healthy people who have a healthy balanced diet have no reason to fear carbs.
(In my experience, eating intact grains can even curb sugar cravings and help you avoid those late night slip ups that undo all your progress and riddle you with guilt.)
So what are these magical carbs that don’t make you fat? Pretty much anything you can find in nature. If it comes in a box and has a prominent “whole grain” sticker on it, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a license to gorge yourself on grains or any other food. Eating enough of something, or eating it too quickly, you’ll still end up with more sugar in your blood than your body knows what to do with. But in moderate quantities you can eat from the following list without risking your life or growing out of your favorite jeans.
Some popular diets recommend limiting fruit because of its relatively high concentrations of sugar compared to other foods. However you can continue to lose weight even while eating fruit, so long as you don’t pig out on it. Fructose, the sugar in fruit, is bad for you not because it raises your blood sugar, but because it is converted to fat in the liver. However the relatively small amounts of fructose present in whole fruit is nothing to worry about.
Though beans are relatively rich in carbs, a substantial portion of it is fiber and the overall glycemic load is pretty low. Beans are also an excellent source of iron, protein and folate, as well as essential minerals.
Oatmeal is tricky because Quaker and other companies have somehow convinced us that cooking real oats is too hard and time consuming for any civilised human being. This conveniently allows them to mark up the prices on their instant, pre-sweetened varieties that are closer to dessert than they are to a healthy breakfast. But in reality real rolled oats are low calorie, high fiber, and not fattening in the least. They also cook up in minutes.
Have you ever checked the label of plain yogurt and wondered how all that sugar got in there? No you’re not crazy, it’s just that the nutrition labels don’t distinguish between added sugar (sucrose or fructose) and naturally occurring sugars like lactose, the sugar in milk. In reasonable quantities and without added sugars (read labels carefully), unsweetened dairy products will not usually contribute to fat accumulation. So ditch those low-fat products because once they take the fat out, they add sugar back into it to make it taste nice again but those added sugars are making your waist line grow.
Like beans, lentils are full of fiber and digest slowly. If anything, adding lentils to your diet will likely help you lose weight, not make you gain it. I enjoy having lentils with my scrambled eggs and spinach in the morning.
Though people often cite wine and alcohol as having a lot of calories, your body digests alcohol calories different than sugar calories and they have virtually no impact on glycemic response. Though there are many reasons to keep your wine portions under control, sharing the occasional bottle won’t stop you from losing weight. The key here is not to go overboard, and to not drink every night.
Technically a seed and not a grain, quinoa (keen-wah) is a good source of protein and fiber, and has a very low glycemic index. It’s also high in iron, has a complete amino acid profile (great for vegetarians) and cooks in almost no time.
8. Brown rice
A lot of people claim to dislike brown rice, but cooked properly it can be a beautiful addition to almost any meal. A small serving of brown rice can make your salads, stir fries and other vegetable dishes more satisfying, while not forcing that big blood sugar spike you’d get from eating bread.
This may surprise you, but moderate amounts of potatoes cooked in healthy oils (not processed vegetable oils) won’t make you fat. Potatoes are actually fairly high in iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and minerals, making them a healthy alternative to other starches so long as you don’t go nuts.
In summary not all carbs are bad for you. When eaten in moderate amounts then they wont make you fat, but like anything eaten in excess they will make you fat over time. Combine this knowledge with your BMR then you can eat carbs and lose weight, it’s just about choosing the right ones.
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