This article is for those that enjoy diving into topics or for someone who likes to have evidence before they make a decision.
What is Science Telling Us?
As with anything in science there are a wide range of beliefs regarding best practice for nutrition. In my last post I presented an overview of the traditional nutritional beliefs and practices (Food Pyramid: We Got It Wrong!). The goal for this post is to update you on the current literature and to pull out relevant pieces of information that will help to educate and guide you towards making a informed decision.
Common Disadvantages Associated Carbohydrate:
What happens when we consume Carbohydrate (CHO)?
As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that prompts cells to absorb and store the glucose in your system. Insulin is a vital part of our bodies normal functioning and metabolism. But when constantly bombarded with glucose through a regular uptake of high CHO the body is forced to continuously produce insulin, resulting in chronically (long term) elevated levels of hormone.
Next, similar to when your body is exposed to a drug, your body becomes resistant to the normal levels of the hormone and will require increasing amounts of this hormone to carry out the same function. With your cells not effectively responding to insulin you end up with the accumulation of glucose in your blood. This response is known as insulin resistance and is the defining symptom of type II diabetes and can be linked to a whole host of other metabolic conditions.
So can Carbohydrates can be dangerous?
When we talk about CHO we need to acknowledge that there are good and bad CHO sources. Something the oversimplified food pyramid was aware of but neglected to include for simplicity. The bad CHO such as our highly refined & rapidly-absorbed (High Glycemic Index (GI)) CHO (e.g. cereals, white bread etc) are dangerous to your health. These high GI CHO foods cause your blood sugar levels to rise rapidly after eating them and force insulin to peak rapidly and remain within your body. If you eat enough of these types of foods, and regularly eat them as part of your daily diet, then you are almost guaranteed to end up with insulin resistance.
Another downside to this way of eating and elevated levels of insulin is that it creates a pro-inflammatory state that can damage tissues and blood vessels. People who have symptoms of insulin resistance also tend to have high levels of inflammatory markers within their body and blood. Inflammation is a process by which your body’s inflammatory markers and white blood cells work to protect you from foreign substances. High inflammation is seen in people who suffer from diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimers disease, Arthritis and Cardiovascular disease.
In short your diet could be forcing your body into an inflammatory state which is similar to some major diseases today. We could argue that this state of inflammation is the leading cause of chronic health diseases today.
Interesting fact: Cornflakes have a higher glycemic response than raw sugar!! Now that is crazy! Why? Due to being highly refined, they developed the the cereal to be quickly absorbed to fire up the pleasure signals in the brain to get you hooked and wanting more. Food is being manufacture to act like a drug!
Interesting fact #2: Diet/Sugar free soft drinks will produce an insulin response even though they are ‘sugar free’. They produce a response in your body similar to when you ingest CHO drinks. If you are struggling to lose weight or control your weight, try ditching the ‘diet’ soft drink and replacing it with soda water with lime/lemon for a week or two..
So What is Good Carbohydrate?
Quite simply put you are looking for unrefined whole foods that are found in nature (fruits, vegetables, starches etc) .
Why? Our bodies have evolved to breakdown utilise these fuels efficiently plus they have not be denatured (loss of nutrients) due processing.
Rule of thumb stay clear or packaged foods and if you do choose a packaged item then select one with minimal ingredients. My rule is no more than 3 or 4 ingredients, and I must be able to pronounce and recognise all the ingredients on the list. Another trick is when in the supermarket, shop around the outside aisles and stay clear of the aisles.
Take home message: Stay clear of proinflammatory CHO ie refined, high glycemic index. When selecting CHO into your diet choose unrefined whole foods that are found in nature.
Should I consume Carbohydrate?
Yes, although it should be minimised where possible, CHO is important and should not necessarily be completely neglected. What is important is the type of CHO you choose to include in your diet. One of the biggest mistakes I see with people trying to make a change to their diet and health is that they try to completely remove all CHO straight away. Removing a complete food group can be dangerous as you can eliminate a number of key micronutrients essential for health. These micronutrients may be more easily accessible in certain substrates eg CHO over fat. Always aim to have a varied diet to ensure you obtain a variety of micronutrients, as some are limited to certain foods.
Carbohydrate Tolerance (Insulin Sensitivity)
Carbohydrate tolerances or insulin sensitivity (ability to produce adequate insulin when required, to ensure efficient uptake of carbohydrate) will vary from person to person. Therefore, it is important to identify your tolerance. If you possess a high carbohydrate tolerance you should still be careful of what kind of carbohydrates you choose to eat, focusing on high quality sources, not using it as a hall pass to eat whatever you please.
Kick Start Your Day the Right Way!
Ditch the cereals that we have been brainwashed to think epitomises a healthy start to your day. These highly refined, insulin spiking foods will quickly derail your day before you even start. Regardless of your carbohydrate tolerance, we should all aim to begin our days with a healthy fat focused breakfast.
Why? Fat does not spike hormones (Insulin) it instead produces a steady release of energy that will keep you satisfied for much longer than CHO.
Two of My Favorite High Fat Breakfasts
- At home: Avocado & Eggs on Spinach
A great nutrient dense breakfast and normally my first meal of the day.With loads of added healthy oils such as avocado and coconut oil. Feel free to add meat source like bacon (Yes bacon!) or salmon etc
- On the Go: High Fat Smoothie
Mixed Berries, Coconut Cream, Cocoa, Almonds, Spinach, Chia seeds (Add some MCT for bonus fat if you have any). There is endless mixes this is just a base I normally work off.
Key Takeaway Points:
- Carbohydrates are not evil, there are good and bad sources of it like anything.
- Not everybody responds the same to carbohydrate some can handle more than others.
- Excessive carbohydrate leads to insulin resistance and in turn inflammation which is leading cause of chronic disease today!
- Regardless of your carbohydrate tolerance, we should all aim to begin our days with a healthy fat focused breakfast