My relationship with carbs is love-hate. In the form of veggies and fruits, they’re pretty awesome. So that’s love. But in the form of processed foods, packaged with excess sugars and serving as carriers for excess salts and unnatural fats? That’s hate. In fact, I usually have a violent reaction to carbs in their processed form most days.
I know there are people out there who really champion the “high carb/anti-Atkins diet” crusade, and I hear y’all. I do. However, between the slew of fat-free/low fat products on the market and the onslaught of American cooking done merely by processed foods (that are high in carb and “low in fat”)… the “high carb, low fat” diet isn’t working very well for us, is it? At what point do we tell the emperor that he’s a little naked?
Like I mentioned the other day, fats are an integral part of our diet. Many of the vitamins that our bodies use can only be properly taken into the blood stream in conjunction with a small trace of fat. (I mean, really – the average carrot even has a little fat in it.) They’re full of calories that, when not eaten in excess, are burned by your body (it’s the body’s job to burn fat, and it’s quite efficient at doing so.) A diet with enough fat in it will cause the body to simply store the excess carbs, right? Orrrrr maybe a diet with enough carbs in it will store the fat?
But what about the processed foods full of carbs? The ones with no comparable amounts of protein or fiber in them – seeing as how both protein and fiber are extremely filling, it’s essentially empty calories – and leave the eater feeling like they simply need to eat more to feel “full”… an eater who keeps eating the carb-heavy processed foods is merely ingesting food to feel “full,” lacking nourishment, and simply packing away the excess energy as fat on the body.
Ever taken a look at the US Food Pyramid?
Just notice that in both pyramids, grain and dairy are recommended as the largest portions of the daily American diet. (I’m the conspiracy theorist, so I’m wondering if grains are the most commonly grown… ahhh, never mind.)
I look at food through terms of evolution of society. What purpose did individual kinds of foods serve before we had food on every corner? Our surroundings adapted to our needs faster than our body could adapt to our surroundings. Mind you, our brains might’ve created these surroundings, but the processes that run our bodies aren’t changing that quickly. Having said that, if you go back several thousand years, you’ll see that the only source of carbs came in the form of fruits and vegetables. Most, if not all, of which coming with way more fiber (another form of carbohydrate) than they did sugar. That’s really important, because the carbohydrates that come from processed foods are – more often than not – devoid of fiber because it’ll cause a food to rot. Fiber doesn’t really have a long shelf life. So.. the breads, the chips, the cereals… lots of carbs, very little fiber. Alas, the food pyramid – while it says on the website “look for grains with ‘whole’ in front” – still doesn’t make it clear enough. I suppose that may be for a good reason, I just can’t see what that may be.
Considering how filling fruits and vegetables are (mostly because of the fiber), if they were your sole source of carbs, chances are you’d probably decrease your carb intake to a third (or maybe even a fourth) of what you take in now. Look at it like this – as food manufacturing exploded in the 70s, it was made with the least expensive of crops: grains. Hey, it had to be profitable, right? Why else would a company go into business, if not to make money?
At the turn of the decade, the fat-free philosophy (also referred to as “The Lipid Hypothesis“) allowed manufacturers to jump at the chance to create not only fat-free foods, but accommodate that missing fat with excess sugars and salts to allow the eater to still enjoy that “feel good” satiating feeling from their food, and feel good about not eating fat… as recommended by the government. Perhaps we all simply were swept in with the tide.
Don’t believe me? That’s ok. Take a look at this serving of lucky charms – to the right – and compare it with our good ol’ avocado – to the left. I’m just sayin. I’d still pick the avocado first. I’ve also never been able to eat an entire avocado.. though I do know how much cereal I’ve inhaled in one sitting, though.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on about carbs… but I won’t. Just know that I could.
I say all that to say this: carbohydrates, in their natural, organic and original forms (fruits and vegetables) are beneficial to the body. They carry vital vitamins and minerals that help us thrive. When they come in the form of someone else’s cooking (like, say, a manufacturing plant), they’re lacking in what they need to help us not only survive but stay healthy. Choosing your carbs wisely will automatically limit your carb intake (as you can see with our two examples here) so give yourself a chance at limiting your carbs and seeing how it treats you!
Have you experienced successes or failures with limiting carbs? What challenges did you face?