Has the Keto craze made you fear carbs?
Your body may need them more than you think…
It seems like there’s always a villain in the nutrition world. It used to be fats that were our mortal enemy, but now carbs have taken their place. The truth is, carbs aren’t the “bad guys” they’ve been made out to be.
We can’t live without any of the macronutrients – fats, proteins, or carbs – so why are carbs under attack? Much like fats, it’s about getting the right carbs, in moderation.
During the low fat craze, we overdid it with carbs, trying to make our food taste better, and we loaded everything with sugar. That much sugar made us diabetic and overweight, with a side of heart disease.
Once we took the sugar out and replaced it with healthy fats, we started losing weight, and carbs as a whole now have a collective target on their back. The problem is, if we shun this food group entirely, we lose out on some great health benefits we really can’t live without.
Carbs Make You Happy – For Good Reason
If your metabolism is sluggish, you feel like you can’t handle any more stress, and you’re tired and cranky, then your body may be crying out for the right carbs! Here’s why:
Your thyroid needs carbs. Your thyroid is the master regulator of your metabolism, and controls the release of the thyroid hormone T3. When your carb intake drops too low, so does your production of T3. As a result, you can feel cold, tired, and sluggish, and it seems like just looking at food packs on the pounds. Studies have shown the ketogenic diet causes this thyroid malfunction, and for a significant number of people leads to clinical hypothyroidism.
Your stress hormones need carbs. Just like so many other things in our lives, we need our stress hormones – especially cortisol – balanced and in moderation. Too much or too little cortisol can cause problems. When you are under stress, you need to make sure you eat the nutrients your stress hormones need so you can meet the higher production needs. If you don’t get enough carbs during a high-stress period, not only will your stress handling suffer, but your immunity will, too. You’ll become more susceptible to colds, flus, and even worse. You’ll develop symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which start with that wired-but-tired feeling that makes you feel on-edge and unable to sleep.
Your sex hormone balance depends on carbs. The hypothalamus in your brain controls your hormone balance. When your carb intake is low, your body sees that as a type of starvation and signals hormone production to drop dramatically. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all plummet, and with that, you can see changes to your monthly cycle, decreased fertility, low libido, belly fat, blood sugar and mood swings, fatigue, depression, decreased muscle mass, and so much more.
Eating carbs builds lean muscle mass. Even if you’re guzzling protein shakes for breakfast and pounding protein all day long, if you don’t have enough carbs, you could be losing muscle. Sounds crazy, but it’s true! Healthy carb intake is the difference between being in an anabolic or “building up” state in your body, as opposed to being in a catabolic or “breaking down” state. The reason for this is insulin – it’s critically important for maintaining muscle mass. When insulin drops with a carb-restricted diet, it triggers you to break down muscle to release the glycogen stored inside to be used for fuel. The end result is a loss of muscle mass. When you get enough good carbs in, they feed your muscles and rebuild the glycogen stores so you can build more muscle.
Good digestion requires fiber-rich carbs. If you’ve been troubled by constipation, diarrhea, or IBS-type symptoms, you may need more carbs. The fiber in healthy carbs like beans and nuts not only provides the bulk we need for healthy bowel movements, but is also the preferred food for the healthy bacteria that live in our digestive system. In addition, fiber binds toxins and acts like “nature’s broom” to sweep them out and eliminate them from the body.
How to Tell the Good From the Bad
All those benefits listed above don’t come from drinking sodas and fruit juices all day, nor do they come from eating bread, cereal, pasta, tortillas, and chips. The key to building a healthy body with carbs is to use nutrient-dense, high quality carbs. Because grains trigger inflammation and hidden allergies for so many, they are best avoided until you have reached your health and healing goals and can clearly identify how they affect you.
The best carbs are the low glycemic complex carbs. This includes most vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans. You can recreate some of your favorite not-so-good-for-you comfort foods by using healthier substitutions:
- Use nut flours to bake with instead of grains.
- Invest in a spiralizer to make “noodles” from vegetables you enjoy.
- Replace sugar in recipes with low glycemic sweeteners like monk fruit (Lakanto) and stevia.
- Fat tastes good! Choose recipes that are low in sugar but rich in healthy fats.
- Use spices like cinnamon and probiotic powders like Flora-Key that enhance the natural sweetness of foods without adding any sugar or carbs.
- Craving that crunch? Try mixing finely chopped or ground nuts like pecans with paprika, garlic, salt, and a little cayenne (fried chicken spices) to coat your chicken and bake in the oven to make a healthy chicken tender; or for a savory treat, lightly toast nuts or seeds in a little butter and sprinkle with your favorite taco seasoning for a zesty, crunchy snack.
Carbs are not your enemy. With a little creativity, you can incorporate healthy carbs into your diet and reap the benefits of increased energy, better hormone balance, great digestion, optimal metabolism, and good health all the way to the cellular level.
If you’re looking for a plan to guide you into healthy eating that focuses on smart carbs, healthy fats, and the right proteins, then it’s time to get Radical! Ann Louise Gittleman’s new Radical Metabolism plan is not just to help you lose those stubborn pounds once and for all, it’s also to get you on track to a healthy lifestyle you can thrive with – and have your daily dessert too!