LET'S TALK ABOUT CARBS BABY
Carbohydrates. One of the three macronutrients. Unfortunately it is the one with the worst reputation blamed for an array of things including - 'making you fat'. After studying Nutrition for two and a half years I have spent quite a lot of time reading up on the truths and myths surrounding carbohydrates and have had countless questions from friends, family and clients trying to lose weight on whether they should cut carbs out of their diet.
I'll give you a hint... bread is not the Boogeyman ;o)
Good vs Bad Carbs
Carbohydrates are what your body uses to make glucose, the body's primary energy source. It is important to understand though that not all carbohydrates are equal. There are two broad classifications for carbohydrates - simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are mono and disaccharides which convert quickly and easily into glucose/energy such as white wheat flour, polished white rice and white maize meal, to name a few. If it presents as a white flour it is probably a simple carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides, such as fibre and starch, and take longer to digest and release glucose into your blood stream. Foods made up of complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, beans and legumes have a much higher nutritional value than those containing simple carbohydrates and are therefore healthier for you.
F*%# Dieting; Choose Lifestyle Changes
Keto, Atkins, Banting, Low Carb High Fat - whatever you want to call it; all these diets are FADS. It is no secret that I am anti-dieting (more on why & my personal struggles with diets in another post).
The thing that I find the strangest is how quickly and easily people will buy into the latest weight loss trend, usually out of sheer desperation or misinformation.
Let's think about this logically, setting aside your burning desire to have 6 pack abs, if our body needs ALL three macronutrient groups to continue to function and someone tells you to cut an entire group out - WHY would you do it?? Common sense should immediately tell you this isn't healthy. The Ketogenic diet is used by doctors to treat children with epilepsy and should only be done under strict medical supervision, it is NOT a way of life or a healthy balanced way of eating.
Your body needs carbohydrates for many reasons - fibre is important for your gut health, your brain and central nervous system is fuelled by glucose from carbohydrates and it cannot function properly without them, they assist in lowering your HDL cholesterol levels, help protect you from heart disease and are full of essential nutrients, one of which is tryptophan - which helps produce the feel-good hormone serotonin in your brain, so carbohydrates literally make you happy!
Cutting carbohydrates out of your diet is extreme and dangerous to your health causing harm to your liver, kidneys, and brain. Ketosis can trigger a condition called ketoacidosis, especially in people who have Type I and Type II Diabetes; this occurs when the body stores up too many ketones which are acids produced as a byproduct of burning fat for fuel (as opposed to carbs) and the blood becomes too acidic.
Furthermore LCHF diets, as the name suggests, are high in fat; and not only the good ones, but saturated fats too (the fats that deposit around your belly and affect your cardiovascular health). For example, just as an exercise I googled 'Real Meal Revolution typical menu', and what came up on Day 1 for breakfast was 'three fried eggs in butter with cheese'. I've seen bacon and fried eggs with full fat fresh cream on these menus. If anyone thinks this sounds healthy please contact me via Instagram and let's have a heart to heart so I can educate you on the human body and what really fuels it. There is nothing wrong with eating fat, especially the healthy polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds and avocados, but replacing carbohydrates with a diet high in fat seems counter productive to me (or anyone with a little sense). If you have read any of my articles on nutrition you will know by now that instead of dieting and counting carbs or calories my ethos focuses on BALANCE and VARIETY. This means eating a variety of the right foods from all three macronutrient groups i.e. Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein, in balanced proportions.
Aside from the damage to your your body and health that these diets inflict, there is the fact that it is simply unsustainable. Think about this in the long term - can you honestly say you are never going to eat bread or pizza or pasta again for the rest of your life? I highly doubt that. What complicates it more is that when you cut carbohydrates (or any food group for that matter) out of your diet, when you eventually eat it again, you will gain all the weight you lost back and then some. This then distresses you psychologically and you climb onto the next fad diet train causing your weight to yo-yo and causing havoc to your metabolism.
Balance and Variety
I understand that a lot of people struggle to find balance; I blame the diet and food industry for over complicating our lives and feeding us with so much misinformation, which is usually meant to get us to buy their products or jump onto the latest fad diet bandwagon. The truth is it is actually pretty simple.
Focus on your plate, take your typical dinner plate - divide it into quarters, then fill it as follows:
2/4 vegetables, a mix of cooked and raw (like salad).
1/4 complex carbohydrates (now you know what these are!)
1/4 lean* protein (a portion size is about the size of your fist, NOT a 200g steak!)
*Lean protein can be lean meat like chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, or from plant based sources like beans, lentils or tofu.
An excellent resource on a balanced diet is Jessica Sepel's 'The 12 Step Mind-Body-Food Reset' where she outlines exactly what a balanced plate at every meal should look like and includes a variety of go-to easy meals to get you started. Anyone looking to adopt a healthier way of eating and to stop dieting needs to read this book.
What You Should Be Doing Instead
Eat a diet high in fibre and whole grains such as vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Look for grains that are as close to their natural form (whole/unprocessed) as possible e.g. oats (not instant), brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, buckwheat, frekkeh and barley.
Swap fizzy drinks and juice for water and herbal teas.
Limit simple carbohydrates like crisps, pizza, cakes, pastries or anything made with white flour and have them in moderation on special occasions.
If you can, cut sugar (as well as hidden sugars) out of your diet. Use healthier, natural alternatives like honey, organic maple syrup and dates (in moderation!). Sarah Wilson's 'I Quit Sugar' and 'I Quit Sugar For Life' really helped me get out of the habit of consuming refined sugar.
Eat whole, fresh fruits instead of drinking fruit juice.
Cook your own meals - this is the best way to ensure you know what is going into your food.
If I haven't convinced you of the evils of LCHF, Banting, Atkins and Keto diets then you should definitely listen to Jillian Michaels rant on her podcast about it. She has also written quite a concise article on the pitfalls of Keto on her blog.
But, if I have inspired you to choose balance over extremes and a healthier way of eating then please leave a comment below or contact me on my social media platforms because I would love to hear from you and know about your progress and how you feel.
I dare you to get off the guinea pig's wheel that is the diet industry and focus on a simpler way of doing things. Forget about the latest fad diet or how many kilograms your best friend said she lost from cutting carbs out of her diet, rather imagine the freedom of not having to diet or count calories? Eat a balanced plate, include a variety of foods and I know you will never think of dieting again. This is true health and you will never look back because you will feel (and look) so good.