In the past five years, the reputation of carbohydrates has swung wildly. Carbs have been both criticised badly unhealthy as well as promoted as the most important of the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat. So which one is it, good or bad?
Refined carbohydrate foods are usually lacking in essential nutrients as well as fibre. In other words, they are “empty” calories. But there are also other carbohydrates, that are full of nutrition such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, rich in fibre, and have a low glycemic index – these benefits can all be received from plant based food. Long story short, carbs can be both, good and bad.
Low-Carb, LCHF, Atkins, Keto, Paleo, Zero, Mediterranean; our beloved child has many names. When it comes to low-carb diet, there’s a lot of misunderstandings and even risks. I’ve been there struggling myself. When was I first introduced to a low-carb diet, I somehow found all the delicious cheese, bacon, beef, nuts and dairy rich items in the recipe book and it was easy to bypass the vegetables with a thought of an avoidance of carbohydrates in general. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with foodstuff like almonds, but when you look at the amount of protein intake while eating like I did, it’s major!
“Eating more protein than your body needs can interfere with your health and fitness goals in a number of ways, including weight gain, extra body fat, stress on your kidneys, dehydration, and leaching of important bone minerals.” –Dr. Mercola
And as I have learned, our body converts the excess protein also into glucose as well as carbohydrates and sugars. So there we go again: the vicious blood sugar rushing up and down! I’ve learned an important lesson the hard way: instead of an enormous amount of proteins or simple carbs, a healthy diet must include a lot of healthy fats to balance insulin and keep you satisfied longer but also plant based healthy complex carbohydrate foods that contain soluble fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals. These ‘rich carbs’ not only nourish but also take longer to digest leaving the feeling of fulfilment.
In my case, since my obvious gluten sensitivity, I’m passing the grain, pasta and processed carbohydrates department right away. I only use some gluten free products mainly to prepare food for my kids (gluten-free vegetable-minced meat-lasagne is their favorite!) but unfortunately also gluten free products are commonly made of rice flour, potato flour, corn and tapioca starch which have absolutely no nutritional value and actually swings the blood sugar even higher than “normal” bread or pasta. Therefore gluten-free bread and pasta are not on the top of my list of ingredients. At least I try to add enough fibre rich veggies and healthy fats into these foods to stable the blood sugar.
“I would actually challenge you to count the quality of nutrients you eat rather than counting carbohydrates. Get more grass-fed animal products, fruits, vegetables, sprouted nuts and seeds (like benefit-rich chia seeds), and consume more coconut products — real food.” – Dr. Axe
As I’ve always loved sweets, cookies and pizza, it’s been a hot struggle for me to change my diet. But the fact that I’m feeling so much better with healthy food is truly rewarding. I’ve also realised that if I have nothing to replace the traditional delicacies, I’m going to return to my old habits. After all, this struggle has made me search for information, recipes and make my own experiments with raw cheesecakes, self-made chocolates and smoothies and I’m thrilled to realise there are so many healthy delicacies for a foodie like me.
I have no cravings for refined carbs anymore because I have found something better. Refined carbs make me feel sick and the healthy options make me feel great, so it’s an easy choice! This is basically the reason I’m writing this blog: to help other people with similar issues and share my insights and recipes for a healthier life with joy and energy!
What’s the deal with carbs? Are they good for you or bad for you? Mark Hyman MD. has something surprising to say that might go against everything you’ve heard.
Hence there’s no grains or processed carbs in the picture, I need loads of rich plant based carbohydrates with enough nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytochemical from plants.
Key nutrients in Fruits and vegetables:
- Calcium (99% of the body calcium is stored in bones and teeth, the rest is playing an important role in the chemical reactions in the body such as nerves system, muscle function, steady heart rhythm, blood clotting and example for sleep quality. Calcium cannot be routed and utilised to its utmost without sufficient magnesium.)
Fibre (Important part in digestion, blood sugar control, weight management, heart and skin health.)
- Folate (Converts carbohydrates into glucose and energy, also help the body use fats and protein, needed for a healthy liver, and healthy skin, hair, and eyes. Together with other B vitamins help the nervous system function properly.)
- Iron (The main function is haemoglobin formation, also vital for muscle health, brain function, energy, immune system, oxygen carrier and the lack of iron might cause fatigue, insomnia or restless leg syndrome.)
- Magnesium (Helps build bones, enables nerves to function and steady heartbeat. Essential to the production of energy from food and regulates blood sugar. Can help headaches, chronic pain, asthma, and sleep disorders.)
- potassium ( Needed for the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues. sodium-potassium pump support cellular function and body hydration. Excess use of salt (sodium) may increase the need for potassium. Lack of potassium might cause fatigue, irritability or muscle cramps.)
- sodium (Extremely important electrolyte and essential ion present in the extracellular fluid = water balance. Plays an important role in enzyme operations, brain function, muscle contraction and regulates glucose absorption from food.)
- vitamin A (Provides immune support, cell growth, fights inflammation as an antioxidant. Important for heart, lungs, kidneys and necessary for healthy skin and vision.)
- vitamin C (Numerous functions in the human body! Important role in the production of collagen, carnitine (which helps your body turn fat into energy), and catecholamines (hormones made by your adrenal glands). Also in wound healing, repairing and bones and teeth health. Plays a role in helping your body absorb iron. Important antioxidant.)
Where to find these nutrients in fruits and vegetables
High in calcium: Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
High in fibre: Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds, Root vegetables and tubers, including onions
and sweet potatoes, beans, peas, berries, almonds, cauliflower, Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
High in folate: folate especially found in dark green leafy vegetables,
High in iron: lentil, spinach, white beans, winged beans
High in magnesium: Brazil nuts, almonds, pinto beans, spinach
High in potassium: sweet potato, tomato, avocado, banana, strawberry, spinach, coconut water, white beans, mushrooms.
Quality sodium sources: artichoke, bell pepper, broccoli, carrot, celery, radish, sweet potato
High in vitamin A: apricots (fresh and dried), cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, chilli pepper (hot), collard greens, grapefruit, lettuce (Leaf and Romaine), mango, pepper, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, watermelon
High in vitamin C: apricots, beans, bell pepper, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carambola, cauliflower, collard greens, chili pepper (hot), gooseberries, grapefruit, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemon, lime, melon (honeydew), okra, onion, orange, papaya, pepper, pineapple, potato, prickly pears, pummelo, radishes, raspberries, rutabagas, spinach, squash (summer), strawberries, sweet potato, tangerines, tomato, watermelon
Find a great database of Fruit & Vegetable nutrition here.
POOR CARBS COME DOWN TO THE BUGS AND SOILS
“In order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples”. -Dr. August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics
I’m not really comfortable with the idea that our food travels on average a week of time and 1500 miles=2400 km by planes, trains, trucks, and ships until it takes place on my plate. What nutrients there are left at that point hence the “fresh” whole food is told to be the richest in nutrition? I’ve learned that even vegetarians can’t always get enough essential nutrients from their food due to the lack of nutrition in the plants. I’m definitely supporting the close-produced organic products, but I had to find out more about a number of vitamins and minerals as well as the quality of fruits and vegetables cultured extensively today? The story begins from the soils…
“Once there was a soil and the soil was full of minerals, nutrients and bacteria. All in decent harmony, helping one another to be healthy and vitalized. The bacteria gave rich ground for plants to grow and flourish.
Then became the rain, the fertiliser rain, and killed the bacteria and all essential 52 minerals. The fertiliser had only 3 minerals and the soil got weak as the microorganisms were killed, along with nature’s ability to provide ionic elements needed for proper plant growth and nutrition. So the plants became weak and lost their defences and the bugs attacked them as well as all kinds of diseases and fungi.
Then became another rain, a pesticide rain, and all kinds of other grow stimulates and chemicals to grow the crops while the soil itself couldn’t do the work itself. And all the changes and toxins of the soil were passing through into the plants and the grains and from there into people.” – based on the expert’s talk in “Food Matters” documentary.
The major problem is what we do to our soil and the food.
See more of the documentary “Food Matters” here.
POOR QUALITY OF THE SOILS – POOR CARBS
What I found out about the quality of fruits and vegetables cultured today, wasn’t very appealing. Unfortunately, the fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs (genetically engineered or modified organisms) and all other toxins, have taken the nutrients out from the soil and the plants. The soil pH is out of balance as well as microorganism and mineral balance. These toxic chemicals have been found in everything from breast milk to umbilical cords and placentas. No matter how much we eat, we might not get the vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients we need. Even a vegetarian might suffer from lack of nutrients due to the poor value of the plants. And how about a newborn with a chemical burden and the relatively unknown consequences of this exposure?
Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – Myths and Truths
TOXINS IN THE SOILS AND PLANTS
The regulations of GMOs vary internationally based on their own economic, political and societal reasons. The European Union has established a legal framework to ensure that “the development of modern biotechnology, and more specifically of GMOs, takes place in safe conditions”. The GMO legislation in Europe wants to ensure clear labelling of GMOs placed on the market. Russia has had a full ban since July 1, 2016, for GMOs saying “The new Law imposes a ban on foodstuffs produced using genetically modified plants or animals.” According to the Food Safety Magazine 6/7, 2016: while most European countries require mandatory labelling once the GMOs exceed a certain threshold in a product, in the U.S., it is currently voluntary. Japan requires mandatory labelling only on certain processed foods. The new law in China specifically includes an article on GM food that requires mandatory GMO labelling. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) requires that GM foods, ingredients, additives, or processing aids that contain novel DNA or protein must be labelled with the words ‘genetically modified’. (5,6,7,8,9,10)
“Roundup® and other weed killing chemicals that contain glyphosate are the most widely used toxic chemicals in the world today.” –Dr. Don M. Huber
Independent research is now looking for an answer to some very important questions:
- How do the glyphosate and other toxins effect into human health and so important gut bacteria through the food we eat, if it kills so many microorganisms in plants.
- How do the glyphosate and other toxins in the soil effect on the nutrients and minerals we are supposed to receive from the food we eat?
- What are all the actions that toxins like this can actually do to our health?
ARE MY GLUTEN INTOLERANCE AND GMOs LINKED?
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, is the most popular herbicide used worldwide both in the industry and homes. Residues are found in the main foods of the Western diet, comprised primarily of sugar, corn, soy and wheat. Negative impact on the body is insidious by allowing these toxins and undigested protein fragments to enter the blood, causing widespread inflammation, liver and kidney damage. Even people in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of the weed killer glyphosate in their urine, show the results of tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe. (11,12,13)
“Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over, including the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum.” –Dr. Mercola
As numerous articles associate gluten with celiac disease (sprue) and leaky gut, in which undigested food proteins are allowed to enter the blood stream, causing numerous inflammatory problems as well as gluten sensitivity. It’s time to ask: why am I so sensitive to gluten? And why some of my friends, sensitive to gluten as well, find a little help with organic grains.
The studies show that the modern grains have more than 40% more gluten than a few decades ago, but is that the only reason? I found a study that actually shows the link between gluten sensitivity and glyphosate (Roundup®). This study systematically shows how all of these features of the celiac disease or gluten intolerance can be explained by glyphosate causing imbalance in the gut bacteria, forming other toxins and preventing important nutrients from food to digest like deficiencies in iron, cobalt, molybdenum and copper. The study argues that a key system-wide pathology in celiac disease is impaired sulphate supply to the tissues and that this is also a key component of glyphosate’s toxicity to humans. The study also urges governments globally to reexamine their policy towards glyphosate and to introduce new legislation that would restrict its usage. (14,15)
“Not only does glyphosate prevent the manufacture of the amino acids, but it causes our bacteria to create very toxic alternatives, which have an effect on our intestines “like a wrecking-ball.” Normally liver would do the job of getting rid of the toxins but glyphosate also inactivates the liver’s defense system.”
The story with aluminium may be even worse than glyphosate alone: glyphosate latches onto aluminium (“chelates it”) and then bypasses all the defence systems designed for keeping it out and tested for thousands of years. (16)
“Should you eat grain products contaminated with glyphosate, especially those baked using aluminum-rich baking powder, you may be importing both the aluminum and the gluten quickly through your leaky gut membranes.” – Martin Michener, PhD
Factory-farmed chickens are already routinely fed antibiotics, arsenic and even antidepressants, all of which represent serious health threats and now there’s more fish in the soup with GMOs.
The incidence of celiac disease has gone hand in hand with the glyphosate in wheat like shown in the chart. (17)
Glyphosate may be a key factor in the development of many diseases:
- Cancer at extremely low doses (breast cancer and glyphosate)
- Autism (see YouTube video on Autism and glyphosate here)
- Leaky gut and inflammation
- Gluten intolerance
- Celiac disease and gluten intolerance
- Parkinson’s disease
- Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, chronic diarrhoea, colitis, and Crohn’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Infertility (erectile function), miscarriages, and birth defects
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Depression / Anxiety
- Alzheimer’s disease
- ALS and more
POOR CARBS RISE INSULIN
Of the three macronutrients — carbs, protein and fat — carbs raise blood sugar and insulin levels the most. Glucose (or other molecules that can turn into glucose while eaten) is actually found in all carbohydrate foods, whether grains, vegetables, nuts or seeds, but especially in starchy vegetables such as potatoes, rice and yams, fruits and sweeteners of all kind, have a fairly high glycemic index that rises up the insulin. In other words, they are just the hidden sugar made of glucose. I’m not even talking about the refined carbohydrates here. I’m just talking about the “real food” choices.
Do you know which one raises the blood sugar and insulin levels the most: a slice of wholegrain wheat bread or normal table sugar (sucrose)?
The things we eat and drink on a daily basis can impact our health in big ways. Too many carbohydrates, for instance, can lead to insulin resistance, which is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. But what are carbs, exactly? And what do they do to our bodies? Richard J. Wood explains.
I think everybody admits that refined and processed carbohydrates are bad for our health, but when someone claims that potatoes are unhealthy, it develops an emotional debate. It’s true that a potato does have a nutritional value, but if you look at the glycemic index of a boiled white potato it’s enormous 82, even sweet potato on average has a glycemic index of 70. The good news for potato lovers is that if you boil the potatoes the day before use and keep them in the fridge, they will have much lower GI because of the fact that cold increases the potatoes’ resistant starch content by more than a third. (1,2,3,4)
Higher blood sugar levels that accompany insulin resistance – the greater cognitive decline!
Too much insulin in the body causes all kinds of problems. High insulin, for example, keeps body fat as a hostage not letting the body lose weight even through exercise. Insulin is also an anabolic hormone that increases growth in the body and can affect other hormones as well. Chronic high blood sugar causes chronic inflammation in the body when the cell functions become disturbed and more free radicals can activate (oxidation). Free radicals again increase the chronic inflammation. And the vicious circle is there. (1,2)
Excess carbohydrates, as well as proteins, turn into glucose (sugar) in our body and we’ve been told that it’s the glucose that runs our body as an energy. Is it so or should we reduce the number of carbs we eat?
Wheat contains amylopectin A that causes a two-hour cycle; glucose level rises and then dramatically collapses – witch means hunger again.
In the past years, an increasing number of studies have been shown the low-carb diet is much more effective than the low-fat diet which is still being recommended all over the world. Many health professionals now believe that a low-carb diet (higher in fat and protein) is a much better option to maintain a stable blood sugar level and treat obesity (20,21,22,23,24) and other chronic diseases.
BALANCE INSULIN LEVELS WITH RICH CARBOHYDRATES
When the carbohydrates come with lots of fibre (25,26,27,28,29), the insulin level stays more stable. It takes longer for the body to break down the fibre as soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel, which slows down the movement of food through the digestive tract. This promotes feelings of fullness and keeps blood sugar and insulin from rising too quickly after a meal. So reducing simple carbohydrates and adding more fibre-rich carbohydrates can that way prevent insulin resistance in a long run.
The following foods contain a lot of fibre:
- string beans
- bok choy
- summer squash
MORE TIPS FOR INSULIN BALANCE AND HELP FOR CRAVINGS
Cut the sugars, refined carbohydrates and starches from your diet and replace them with the following.
Add more fibres by eating more vegetables (and moderately fruits low in fructose) rich in fibre. It’s the fibre that restrains the insulin to rise up. Note that the fruit juices are lacking the fibre. Nuts, seeds and wild berries are a great source of fibres.
Healthy fats are crucial in your diet. Whenever we eat a source of carbohydrate or sugars, it should be accompanied by a quality source of fat. Fat slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and prevents sugar highs and sugar crashes. Fat also keeps you satisfied after the meal. Healthy fats include for example grass fed butter (helps your brain function properly) or Ghee (clarified butter), virgin coconut oil (great anti-inflammatory food), virgin olive oil (omega 3-6-9, helps chronic inflammation), MCT-oil, and DHA, EPA found in fish oils (omega-3). Avocados, nuts (almonds) and seeds (flaxseeds, chia) are also a great source of healthy fats.
Find good sources of proteins. If your body can handle milk, a fermented dairy beverage that has probiotics and raw cheeses are great. Wild chicken and turkey, free range eggs and sustainable fish are also great sources of protein.
Add herbs. Healthy herbs like Sweet Cicely, Liquorice root, Ashwagandha root and Ginseng.
Read more about glucose (sugar) causing inflammation, oxidation and glycation under “No more sugar brain!”
IT’S ALL ABOUT BUGS: REVOLUTIONIZING NEW TREATMENTS
The science is now starting to realise the connection between inflammation, immunity and neurology and how important role our gut bacteria plays within those. There was a great article in the Nature in 2014 about this issue: “Although correlations have been noted between the composition of the gut microbiome and behavioral conditions, especially autism, neuroscientists are only now starting to understand how gut bacteria may influence the brain” says Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. (32,33)
Due to the fact that carbohydrates have been one of the most studied dietary components in relation to microbiota modifications and because our dietary choices make a huge difference to our guts health, I chose to add these “revolutionizing new treatments” into this section of carbohydrates: diets with poor carbohydrates versus diets with rich carbohydrates loaded with fiber and anti-inflammatory properties can make a difference in our gut bacteria.
Faecal microbial transplantation
There are amazing stories in scientific studies as well as in clinical studies, where people’s state of the condition has dramatically shifted or even cured by this so simple but in many ways unpleasant procedure. Faecal microbial transplantation (FMT) has actually already been used 1,700 years ago to cure severe diarrhoea or food poisoning in China by famous alchemist Ge Hong. Since those days it has been used in silence and there has never been a single, serious side effect reported from this procedure. Since it’s been used for a long time as an effective treatment to bring back the important bacteria in the gut and cure diseases like C. difficile infections (without this procedure they likely would have died), there’s a small handful of clinicians in the word today using this method also to treat brain disorders such as chronic fatigue, MS, autism, Parkinson’s and Tourette’s syndrome. And the results are great. (34)
While it may not be currently approved by the FDA or even a mainstream treatment in general, a fecal transplant offers a powerful means of resetting the gut microbiome. By simply transplanting faecal matter from a healthy host to that of an individual suffering from one of any number of health concerns (from obesity to autism to multiple sclerosis), a fecal transplant offers an opportunity to rebalance the gut microbiome and sets the stage for a return to better health.
Parasitic worm eggs as a treatment
Another intriguing cutting-edge medicine in development today is the use of parasitic worm eggs to cure inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Exposure of these eggs restores balance to the microbial communities that are sticking to the intestinal wall. Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the IBD, is mainly seen in developed countries such as the U.S. and European nations, which gives credibility to the hygiene hypothesis that being too clean can backfire. This “parasite therapy” is been experimented along colitis, IBD and other inflammatory diseases, but also for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, food allergies and type 1 diabetes. (34)
Edward Loftus Jr., M.D., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic discusses past studies that looked at using parasites to treat IBD and upcoming clinical trials that further explore using pig whipworm eggs to treat IBD.
Note! I’m a Nutritional Therapist, not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I have learned my way through the hard way: by studying, experimenting, reading and investigating. All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The Healing Foodie is not responsible for errors or omissions.