The Truth About Carbs
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
Do you have to cut carbs to lose weight?
To carb or not to carb, that is the question!
If you look around social media, half the people are telling you to quit carbs altogether and half the people are telling you the carbs are good and you need them. But who's right? This episode is our third installment in our focus on the food three part series. We already talked about protein and fat, if you haven't caught the first two episodes, go back and listen to them after this.
So why are carb so demonized? What does it actually mean to reduce or eliminate carbs? What exactly IS a carb? How much and what type of carbs are the best for me? I'll answer all your questions because . . .
It's definitely NOT as easy as saying "carbs are bad, dump them" - an apple is a carb, broccoli is a carb, lettuce is a carb, are those bad? In my opinion the conversation about WHAT TYPES of carbs, and the quality of carbs is the conversation we SHOULD be having, so let's do it!
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Show Notes & Transcript:
To carb or not to carb, that seems to be the question that a lot of you have on your mind these days. If you look around social media, half the people are telling you to quit carbs altogether and half the people are telling you the carbs are good and you need them. But who's right? Today we're going to finish our focus on the food three part series, we already talked about protein and fat, and today we're talking about carbs. If you haven't caught the first two episodes, go back and listen to them after this. So you get all that information about macronutrients. Now today, we're going to talk carbs, let's go.
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I’m on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health. Find food freedom. And finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back. You, my friend are powerful, and the world needs
you to start showing up in a bigger way. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward.
So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes. Let's walk and talk.
Before I get started, I
just want to remind you that if you listen on iTunes, please subscribe and leave me a review on this show. It would mean the world to me. And it's how other people find the show too. And they need to hear about carbs, right because demonizing carbs is all the rage right now, carnivore, keto, cut the carbs, you can only lose weight if you cut the carbs. That's what they tell you online, right? Well, what do you mean as a carb?
First of all, I want you to know that what you hear online is always exaggerated. And it's never the whole story. Because online, especially places like Facebook, Instagram, tick tock, they're not really trying to teach you stuff. Usually they're just really trying to get your attention. And the way you get someone's attention is not by boring things that I talked about, which is balanced and healthy eating. It's sensationalized things like cut out all carbs. So your first lesson then is when you hear to cut all carbs, and all carbs are bad, they're gonna make you fat. What you really need to do is be able to specify which types of carbs and how much that's going to be key. Carbs themselves are not the problem. Carbohydrates are an essential part of your diet. It's the type of carbohydrates that we need to talk about. Just like with protein, just like with fats, we talked about the quality of those macronutrients sources. That is what's important.
Carbohydrates are the sugars, the starches and the fibers found in foods and beverages. Carbs are your body's main and preferred source of energy. Because it's the easiest source of energy glucose for yourself to turn into energy, it's the easiest thing for them to use. One gram of carbs is about four calories. That's the same amount of as protein, one gram of fat is about nine calories. Just for comparison, the biggest thing you need to notice that not all carbs are created equal. So I will never tell you to cut out all carbs, but I might tell you to reduce certain types of carbs. So let's talk about the types of carbohydrates, why they differ, why they differ in your body and why this is the really important part. The difference is the chemical structure and how quickly that sugar that glucose is absorbed and digested. So let's first talk about simple carbs.
Simple carbs are one or two sugars, they're called monosaccharides, disaccharides, one or two. These are things like fruits, milk, beer, anything with refined sugar, like candy, sodas, processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, et cetera. These simple carbs are generally high glycemic, which means they spike your blood sugar really quickly because they're absorbed really quickly. The glucose is absorbed into your bloodstream really fast goes to your liver spikes your blood sugar, they're usually really high in calories and really low in nutrients. They're often highly processed, highly refined foods like cereals, pastas, cookies, cakes, donuts, bagels, etc. Those are all simple carbs. They have a high glycemic impact, which is not what you want. And they have a low nutrient and fiber content, which is also not what you want. You want the opposite of both those two things.
So then let's talk about complex carbs. complex carbs have three or more sugars and they digest more slowly, it takes longer for your system to absorb them, which means you have less of a blood sugar spike than a simple carb would give you. They're generally higher in nutrients generally higher in fiber, generally lower in refined sugar and calories. So you can already tell that these complex carbohydrates are going to be a little bit better of a choice for you. Now, complex carbs are divided into two different sections, a starchy complex carb and a non starchy complex carb and that refers to the amount of fiber versus starch in the food. A non starchy complex carb is going to be things like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, leafy greens, avocado mushroom, you want to eat mostly those the non starchy, high fiber complex carbs, the starchy carbs are going to be sweeter vegetables, usually vegetables grown underground, but not always. So things like a sweet potato, corn, pumpkin, or a lot of the most grains, peas, cereals, etc, you're going to want to eat slightly less of those with a new would have the non starchy complex carbs, the best fruits to eat are going to be the ones with the highest fiber like berries and apples, I will never tell you to not eat fruit. But I will tell you that a fruit that has more fiber is going to digest more slowly and therefore not cause a blood sugar spike fruits are incredible for fiber and for nutrients. And you should absolutely keep them in there in your diet. Anyone who tells you that fruit is going to make you fat is crazy. But like everything else, it has to be in balance of all the other things that you're eating. So again, your starchy carbs could be some kind of vegetables, fruits, some nuts, some beans, some grains, etc.
So the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates is 135 grams of carbohydrate that's 45 to 65% of total calories. The problem with this, there's a few problems with this. The problem with this is that it lumps all carb sources together. But clearly from what I just told you not all carbohydrates are created equal. For example, think about the food pyramid, the food pyramid recommends that most of your carbs should be coming from grains, right, that's the bottom of the pyramid. That's the biggest section and it's got lots of bread, and lots of pasta. I wholeheartedly disagree with that advice. Most of your carbohydrates should be coming from those non starchy vegetable sources, the amount of starchy carbs that you tolerate. So that's where those breads and grains and things come in. The amount that you tolerate really is individual to you. And we're going to talk about how to figure that out and a second. In general, I land somewhere in the 20 to 40% range of total calories for carbohydrates. But again, it needs to be balanced with proteins and fats and in the ratio that works for you. And we also need to kind of take into account that at different times in our lives, those ratios are going to be different, right? My 15 year old son who's building muscle in the gym is going to have a different ratio of carbs, proteins, fats, then me someone who is in perimenopause and trying to not gain you know, the menopause weight, you have to be aware of those things for yourself.
So in the last few episodes, we had our 150 pound person example. So for a 150 pound person, the amount of carbohydrates and again, this is starchy carbohydrates. This is not non starchy carbohydrates, the amount of starchy carbohydrates is going to be about three cups, handfuls per day, give or take, each cup handful is going to be about 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrate. So think of it this way, look at your hand and cup it like you are going to try and get some water and bring it up to your mouth to drink. If you look at that, that is not very big. And you're only doing about three of those a day to stay in that 20 to 40% range of total calories. Again, this is just starchy carbs, it's about one half to two thirds of a cup or about one small to medium sized fruit. And again, this is grains fruit, potatoes, rice, etc. Those starchy carbs, vegetable carbs, like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, asparagus, onions, peppers, etc. We measure those with the fist, and you're gonna have about four to six fist worth. So if you make a fist with your hand, that's about one serving of vegetable and you're going to really pile those on like six servings of that a day would be awesome, because they are amazing sources of nutrients and fiber. So again, the type of carbohydrate matters, and that's the thing that you're never ever hearing is starchy carbs versus non starchy carbs is an important distinction to make and refined sugar, carbs and non refined Whole Foods is a huge distinction to make because of the fiber largely so unlike sugars and starches.
Remember our carbs or sugars, starches and fibers, unlike sugars and starches fiber is not absorbed by the small intestine and converted into glucose, the fiber is what's feeding your good bacteria. So, if you haven't listened to the gut episodes, go back and listen to the gut episodes because we talk there about prebiotic fibers and how important that is. To feed the good bacteria in your gut, you need about 30 to 40 grams of fiber per day, I guarantee you're probably not getting that. Just for some comparison, there's about 4.4 grams of fiber in an apple 2.4 grams in a cup of broccoli. So I bet you're probably not getting enough fiber, it's super important for your digestive health. And the way you get more fiber, eat more vegetables. This looks like eating your vegetables, those four to six fist sized servings of veggies a day like spinach, carrots, cauliflower, etc. The other thing that I teach people in order to make this a little easier is to use the plate method. So whenever you're going to eat a meal, you're going to arrange your plate so that half of it is those non starchy vegetables. One quarter of it is your protein source, whatever that is, and then the other quarter of it is divided between your fat and your starchy carbs. Now that ratio, how much starchy carbs versus how much fat is going to be a little bit individual to you. So in the fat episode, I talked about how my husband does a little bit better on some starchy, more starchy carb and less fat, I do a little bit better on a little more fat and less starchy carb. Does that make sense? That's also where your fruits going. Remember, we're counting fruit as that starchy carb. Okay, so far, so good.
So here's where we all like really get into trouble. Car, everyone tells us that carbohydrates are bad. And so then we cut out all carbohydrates, right, we cut out everything from apples to lettuce, insufficient carbohydrate intake can actually result in using protein for energy. Instead of that glucose. Remember, your body likes to use glucose for energy. When you don't have any glucose on board, your body is going to start metabolizing muscle, it's going to start breaking out your muscle because your muscle stores glucose, the more muscle you have, the more stored glucose you have in that muscle. So your body is going to start breaking down the protein of your muscle in order to get that glucose out in order to use it. That's why people when they try to go from a regular diet, that sort of standard American diet straight into keto, they often feel terrible. And they often lose muscle because that transition is not very easy to make, and your body doesn't really want to make it right then. And so it's going to find glucose anywhere it can and that's usually from your muscle. So if you do want to try keto, again, what we talked about in the fat episode was you need to be able to transition into it in a responsible way, and you need to be ready to transition out of it in a responsible way.
In 2009, there was a study in the journal mental health and it found that people on high fat low carb diets, aka keto basically had more anxiety, more depression and more anger. Here's why. Carbohydrates help with the production of serotonin. Serotonin is created in your gut. If you are eating high fat, you are likely not getting enough fiber. If you are eating a keto diet or a carnivore diet, you are likely not getting enough fiber fiber is what feeds the good bacteria in your gut. If your guts not happy, it doesn't make enough serotonin and your brains not happy. That's how this all works together a high fat diet, although some will claim that it is good for repairing your gut lining. I take a little bit of issue with that, because I actually think it's the food that you've cut out that is actually repairing your gut lining. So you need fiber and most people on a Keto or a carnivore diet are not getting enough fiber. And that is a major problem. And it will show up in your mood in your brain, it will affect your brain, your gut affects your brain again, go back and listen to those gut episodes. Other studies have shown cognitive impairment on a very low carb diet again, same problem because your brain's preferred fuel source is glucose. Now it can and is capable of using fat as a fuel source. And that's what you're trying to train it to do. When you try and do keto, but your brain doesn't want to do that. It doesn't want to make that transition. It likes to use glucose. So for a lot of people, when they try to cut out carbohydrates, they have a really hard time because their brain literally just doesn't want to do that. One of the places though that we go really wrong with carbohydrates is that most of our carbohydrates follow that food pyramid.
Most of our carbs are coming from grains and processed foods and not from vegetables. That's what I see is the biggest problem here. Another problem that I see is that we always put veggies and fruits on the same line like five servings a day, right? You're supposed to get five servings a day of fruits and veggies Well, no, I wouldn't want you to have five servings a day of fruit and no veggies, I would not recommend that. You should have four servings of veggies a day and one serving of fruit. So putting those two things on the same line as if they're equal to me is misleading. If you remember from the fat episode, one of the problems that so many of us have is that we are what I would call sugar burner, so we rely on this constant influx of glucose. We are not very good at tapping into stored fat in order to burn it. The reason why we are stuck in this is because most of our carbohydrate sources are simple starchy carbs, the stuff that gets absorbed real fast, and gets into our bloodstream real fast, we eat a ton of them. So our body is just reliant on this constant influx of these fast sugars, right? Bagel is a fast sugar creamer is a fast sugar. Bread is a fast sugar, you see how this is all working together. So we need to be really, so we need to be a lot more aware of the types of carbs that we're eating in a day, and how much of those we are eating.
Most of us do not eat enough high fiber carbs, those non starchy veggies. One way to think of it is to eat mostly vegetables that grow above ground, the ones that grow below ground vegetables, right like your root vegetables, your potatoes, and your carrots and things are usually your starchy carbs, right. We also got to be aware of those sneaky sugars in the processed foods and beverages that we eat. Did you have soda with your lunch? Did you have a granola bar as a snack like all of these things have added sugars that we need to be aware of that all counts in that simple sugar ratio that we're trying to reduce, you also got to be really aware of things that are labeled low fat and fat free, because if the fat was removed, they likely added sugar to make it taste good so that you'd still want to eat it. So let's bottom line this thing for you. Here's what you're going to work on, you're going to work on eating more non starchy vegetables, the ones generally grown above the ground like your broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, etc, etc. You're going to work on reducing highly processed highly refined carbohydrate sources like cookies, cakes, pastries, chips, crackers, fast food, donuts, bagels, etc, etc. You're going to work on reducing added sugars, like fruit juices, cereal bars, things with sneaky sugars, like yogurt, yogurt is notoriously high in added sugars, things that you think are healthy. But then if you actually look at the food label, you'll be like, Wow, that's my entire allotment of sugar for an entire day in that one cup of juice.
And then you're going to work on eating better starchy carbs. So I'm not telling you to cut starchy carbs, I'm telling you to choose better ones. So you're going to eat less bread, pasta, bagels and wraps those processed, highly refined carbohydrates. And you're going to eat more actual whole grain carbohydrates like a sweet potato, steel cut oats of being a lentil, a quinoa. So I know you're like but I buy at the store the bread that says made with whole grains. Yeah, it was made with whole grains. Do you see a grain in it? Can you actually see a grain? No, then you should probably put it back. It doesn't actually contain whole grains, it might have been made with whole grains. And then they ground them up and chemically processed them removed all of the fiber and then tried to add some fiber back in, eat the actual whole grain and actual grain of rice is whole grain and actual steel cut out as a whole grain. And actual Quinoa is a whole grain you see where I'm going. You want to try and move away from those processed carbohydrates. And that's what we mostly are not doing. So when people are like you need to cut carbs altogether? Well, no, you don't need to cut carbs altogether, you just need to eat the right ones, you need to eat lots of veggies, veggies are great, you need to eat some fruit. And you need to stay away from things that are processed have added sugar or are really high glycemic meaning they just don't have a lot of fiber to balance out the carbohydrate and the sugar that's in it makes sense. It's not actually that hard. We just don't ever think about it like that. Everyone's like very all or nothing cut out the carbs or keep the carbs. Well, you can cut out some kinds and keep the other kinds. And in fact, I think you should. I hope that cleared up some of the carb confusion for you. I hope that's going to help you just have a more healthy, balanced approach to food. Remember, as a general rule when it comes to food, the more you can eat it as close to its natural state the better I hope that was helpful until we talk again my friends be well.
Your friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world To me and help other people find the show, and I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there