Instead of ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ as Ricky Martin once sang, I’m living la vida low-carb (can you hear it, can you hear the tune?).…although there are quite a few folks who think I’m a little crazy, especially when it comes to my food and nutrition choices, so I think it fits. They baulk when I pass up on candy or cake that’s being passed around for someone’s birthday, retirement, or other occasion. If we’re at a restaurant or eating at a friend’s house and I pass up chips, bread, pasta, or other pastries they really give me a look, some may even ask with a little smirk, ‘well what do you eat then?’ They do eventually get used to it and stop asking. My mom just rolls her eyes, as she’s told me many times that these are the things we ate growing up and we’re all fine. The funny thing is we’re not all fine and we didn’t eat as bad back then. You see, she suffers from an autoimmune disease called fibromyalgia and takes at least 10 or more different medications a day. She went on vacation with us to the beach recently and was on the clock, checking the time every few hours to make sure she took her medication on time just so she could function somewhat normally. And what about my brother who’s dealing with some high blood pressure and weight issues as well, although he’s listening to my advice now and his blood pressure has gone down. Yay! Or my dad, who is probably 50 pounds overweight, has hard fat on his big belly that he calls muscle, but I know better and it truly worries me. But hey, we’re all fine right, and the way we eat is working perfect, right?!
Let’s answer a few questions first without getting into too much detail, sticking to the basics. Where do carbohydrates (carbs) come from? They come from food. Our food consists of 3 macronutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Fats and proteins are basically found in oils, meats, and some vegetables while carbs are found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and sugars. Nuts, most vegetables and some fruits have very small amounts of carbohydrates per serving while other fruits and starchier vegetables have higher amounts. Sugars and grains like breads, rice, pasta, pastries and other baked goods, however, have the highest amounts of carbohydrates. In our Standard American Diet (SAD), we are mainly eating grains and sugars, with very little of anything else. I mean think about it, for breakfast you’ve got cereal, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, donuts, muffins, bagels, kolaches, and breakfast tacos among others. For lunch, a sandwich, pasta, bread as a side and dinners the same. You know the old saying, ‘would you like some ketchup for your fries, or fries for your ketchup’ when someone pours a large amount of ketchup for their fries. The same can be said about our grains and sugar…are we eating a meal of grains and sugar with some sides or are we eating a meal with sides of grain and sugar. It seems grains and sugars have become the primary source of fuel every day at everymeal, serving us a huge helping of carbohydrates and leaving us wanting for more.
Let’s take a look at what happens when we eat carbohydrates in the form of grains and sugars mainly. There’s a little difference between carbs from grains and sugars versus fruits and veggies, our bodies process them a little slower because of all the fiber and other components. Basically, the body converts carbs into glucose and then stores them as muscle glycogen or as fat. In order to normalize the blood sugar from this surge of glucose in the blood stream, the body pumps out insulin. The problem is we’re getting way too many carbohydrates and our bodies end up constantly pumping out insulin. With an overflow of insulin running through the body, the body thinks it has enough sugar for fuel, so there’s no need to burn stored fat. This creates insulin resistance. Insulin resistance shuts the door to our fat cells; it causes our hormones to go haywire, and makes losing weight nearly impossible. Insulin is a vital component of the body; it moves sugar from the bloodstream to the cells. We’ve just got way too much of it floating around and it’s causing inflammation, more importantly systemic inflammation which causes all sorts of problems in the body. Have you noticed the incidence of autoimmune disorders, diabetes, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue, autism, ADHD, cancer, tumors, digestive issues, sinus issues…and the list goes on. This is what systemic inflammation does to our bodies, everyone manifests if in different ways. And yes, this even happens with ‘whole’ grains, you get the same insulin response, wreaking havoc on the system, plus they have antinutrients called phytates that inhibit the absorption of other vitamins and minerals.
A chiropractic doctor friend of ours gave me a good analogy for carbohydrate versus fats and proteins as fuel; a paper fire versus a wood fire. When we eat carbohydrates, it’s like the paper fire. It flames up real good, real fast but then dies out really quickly needing more paper to fuel the fire again or it will die out. Carbs give you that real big energy rush but then you crash hard later, leaving you starving, like you’re going to faint if you don’t get some food. With fats and proteins, you have longer lasting energy, more even and balanced and you don’t crash just like a wood fire. The wood fire takes longer to get started but it burns longer and slower and after many hours it slowly dies out. This is the kind of fire you want for long term optimal health, without all the insulin spikes, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and other chemical changes in the body as well as weight gain.
Now I know many folks will say we can’t live without grains and the carbohydrates that come with them, that we need them to survive but I beg to differ. We’ve only been eating grains for the last 10,000 years which is really a very short time frame in the big scheme of things. Before that we were mainly hunters and gatherers; we hunted for food and we foraged for plants and other edible nuts and berries. I mean if we didn’t have all the modern day conveniences of grocery stores and restaurants to buy food, we might do the same thing, right?! There are many remote villages around the world today that survive with this type of lifestyle. They don’t have the modern conveniences that we have here in America and other developed countries, so they live off the land. Basically, they eat real food, food that comes from some kind of living thing, whether that be a plant or an animal. Many folks will argue this point until they’re blue in the face because they love their grains and carbs so much, they can’t bear the thought of going without them. But let’s face it, no matter what you believe in whether it be Darwin, evolution, God, the big bang theory, or whatever it might be…you have to believe that the body is an amazing work of art with many intricate parts and way back when there were no donuts, muffins and cereals for breakfast. We ate off the land, period end of story. So, why can’t we do that now? Because we’d rather have our cake and eat it too, or whatever it us you just can’t live without (or think you can’t live without). ;-) I assure you you can; it’s a matter of choice.
Now, I’m not here to argue. If you want to keep on eating your grains and sugars and other processed foods, I say ‘have fun with that.’ I tried that for years and it was always a struggle, and the foods in the SAD are devoid of nutrients, which left me with little energy, and headaches among other things. Our bodies need nutrients to function free of sickness and disease. I get plenty of carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and some fruit; I just choose to eat real foods that come from plants and animals, the kinds our bodies were designed to eat. I’m done eating fake food! I say treat your body as a temple and it will be good to you. We only have one body for the entire time we’re here on this earth, there’s no do overs or re-dos. I choose to change the course now instead of waiting until I get to my mom’s age, taking tons of medication just to function. So I’ll keep on ‘livin la vida low-carb’ and rocking it, showing my kids what it means to be healthy, strong, and feel good about themselves. We have enough struggles to deal with day in and day out; this shouldn’t be one of them. And believe me, if you have kids they learn from what you do, not what you say. Actions speak way louder than words and we have to set the example for them now.
Maybe you’re on this path already, eating real food like me or maybe you’re just testing the waters. Whatever the case may be, I hope I’ve at least got you thinking and/or reinforced the path you’re already on. Remember, food is fuel, however, it’s important to give your body the best fuel for it to run optimally, free from sickness and disease. Thanks for stopping by!
“It’s possible to live a very long and healthy life never consuming much – if any – in the way of carbs, provided you get adequate dietary protein and fat. The same can’t be said for going too long without protein or fat. Cut too far back on either of those macronutrients and you will eventually get sick and die.” ~Mark Sisson of The Primal Blueprint
** Mark goes into a lot more detail in his article about the difference between carbs and fats as fuel.