Is There Such a Thing as “Good” Carbs?
Finishing a meal feeling satisfied can be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.
Being able to eat meals that feel filling, satisfying and quench the need for food and drink are what help us think well, feel strong, and give our body the signal that we’ve been nourished.
All this is well and good until someone starts talking about the dreaded “D” word. You know what I’m talking about: DIET!
It’s the word that comes to mind for many of us the moment a doctor tells us its time for changes due to health concerns, or when we step on the scale and realize the Quarantine 15 just got real, or perhaps we’ve been uncomfortable in our clothing or in our bodies for far too long and the voice calling us to make a change only gets louder and louder.
When the word diet enters our minds, I have noticed that is an assumption many of us default to that leads to dread and resistance. Two things that make sticking to changes very frustrating and unlikely.
The Dreaded Thought of Restriction
What I’m talking about is the thought: “I’m going to have to give up carbs.”
Pause for the heart sink and thought that this just sounds like punishment.
You don’t have to look far or have too many conversations before you find someone with advice that cutting carbs is the best way to weight loss and better health.
I’m excited to share information that I hope will change your relationship to carbohydrates and offer an opportunity to see them as your friend on your journey to better health. It’s simply a matter of knowing which types are the everyday keepers and which are the ones that are better to save for a treat occasionally.
Two Different Types of “Carbs”
Let’s put “carbohydrates” as we often think of them in two different categories. There are processed carbohydrates, things like sweet breads, muffins, breads and other often flour-based foods or things like candy bars or other candy. And then there are the unprocessed carbohydrates like fruits, potatoes, brown rice, and other grains and starches.
There is a difference!
One concept that changed my world when it came to the foods I was consuming was thinking about them in terms of what the food was supplying me with as a whole package. Let’s use a non-food example to explain. Take my laptop, it has lots of different components to it. A system processor, hard drive, a screen and keyboard, batteries and more. Let’s say for example, I take out the battery for a day or I try to function without all the keys on the keyboard – even though it has some of the components, to say the least – that computer is not going to be highly functional and it is not going to serve me well or at all, for long.
We need all the parts to be functioning and “there” for it to serve us in the most optimal way possible.
Now luckily, our bodies are super strong and resilient and can afford us not always giving it the greatest “whole package” when it comes to foods all the time, but let’s understand what the most optimal whole package looks like to empower you to eat more of the what your body considers healthy fuel that will help to keep you feel full, energized and healthy.
The Whole Package
First off, and especially when it comes to losing weight and feeling full, any whole plant-based food, let’s take an apple for example, is going to naturally have fiber and water in it. Fiber and water are crucial to signaling our hunger receptors to get the message that we have eaten and are good to move onto the next activity.
When it comes to giving us the energy and fuel we need, our body needs more than just to register calories. It needs the natural components of fiber and water that are a part of these foods. The higher the fiber and water content in foods, the more you fill up with less calories meaning more effortless weight loss.
Secondly, carbohydrates are a macronutrient, and they are not the only one in whole foods (as we so often think!) The three major macronutrients: carbs, protein, and fat, are all a part of whole plant-based foods. So that lettuce your eating – it has a little fat and protein in it. The banana, yup, it’s got it too. Potatoes, yes. They have them all as well.
In marketing of products, we often hear specific nutrients getting called out as needed and important. Make sure you get enough protein! You need Vitamin C! Did you get your Omega-3’s today? But this can distract us from the truth – what is really in that food as a whole package?
Unprocessed carbohydrates also have things like vitamins, and minerals that are a natural part of their composition. AND our body wants to use carbohydrates as a calorie source, it’s the bodies favorite and most efficient source of energy, not to mention that the taste buds on the tip of your tongue are for carbs.
Craving those carbs doesn’t make you weak or bad at dieting. It means you are human, and your body knows what it needs for fuel and it knows what it likes.
Where to Draw the Line
But where do we draw the line with processed carbs? Do I have to say goodbye to bread and tortillas to make this happen? Again, think in terms of what the food contains.
One of your best bets to get a better gauge of what you are eating is to read the ingredient list of the foods you are eating.
What do you want to look for?
Ask yourself how close the foods you are eating are to their actual whole food form. The closer to their whole food form, the better. Say you are looking for a snack bar, there are some bars that have first ingredients of processed sugar, oil, soy protein isolates as their first ingredients. Ingredients that are processed foods.
Oils are made from extracting the fat from whole foods, for example olives, and are 100% fat. No fiber, no water, no other macro-nutrients. Processed sugars go through a refining progress, and like fat, have no fiber and water or other macro-nutrient.
Then there are bars, for example, Lara Bars, that are made with dates and nuts which are actual whole foods. This is going to be a better choice.
Let’s also think about the potato. Potatoes have a bad reputation as being an unhealthy food. But how do we usually prepare them? With butter (high fat, high calorie), with sour cream and cheese (high fat, no fiber and water). It’s not the potato that’s causing trouble, its all the stuff that goes along with it.
This is an important consideration especially with things like breads, tortillas, and other processed flour-based foods. If the ingredients include things like oils, dairy, processed sugars – it’s going to be those processed carbs, as we call them, that won’t serve our health when we are looking for change. But if we are talking tortillas that are made of flour and water, with minimal or no oil. Well these can be added with moderation without working against our goal.
To wrap it up, here’s what you want to remember:
· The closer a good is to its whole foods form the better
· Foods like fruits, veggies, beans, rice, potatoes, yams, and other whole grains are full of all kids of nutrients our body needs and wants – fiber, water, carbohydrates, fat, protein, a variety of vitamins and minerals
· We make these whole foods less healthy by processing them and adding things like oils, processed sugars and dairy to them which are void of fiber and water and higher in fat or calories
· When choosing foods, read their ingredient list to see what is in it (the first ingredients are what the food has the most of) watch for things like oils, sugars (which can be disguised as other words ending in -ose like fructose), and dairy which are higher in fat and calories and lack the fiber and bulk to fill us or give us the nutrients our body enjoys to help it function optimally
Have questions? That’s totally normally. Learning to eat healthy is like learning a new language. It takes time, practice, and trial and error to get it right.
If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support. Give us a call.
If you are Whole Health Plan member and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.
You can explore our website to learn more about us as well. https://www.wfmmedical.com/