Carbs to the Rescue

Carbs to the Rescue

Ah Carbs!  The pleasure trigger of the taste buds and the bain of all the empty calories we consume.

Carbohydrates get a bad reputation as being the worst thing to enter our dietary lives–EVER!

But as with most things the majority of people are getting this wrong. This is mostly because they are not doing the research themselves because they are relying on all the sound bytes they hear…

And while I am just another sound byte–I have at least done my homework.

Carbohydrates are a necessary part of our nutritional plan. It is where we get our energy so we can, you know, do stuff.

If we were not getting energy from our food we would feel deflated and tired–all the time–and you would quite literally be unable to function.

If you are trying to lose weight many diets encourage you to cut out carbohydrates–completely.  

Many people grab onto that advice and cut out all carbs!  This does lead to weight loss but very often that weight loss is too much, too fast, can be very dangerous and is not sustainable.

Those diets fail–or I should say the people on those diets fail to reach their goals because they cannot follow the program long term as a lifestyle…I’ll discuss that next time.

Back to carbohydrates–we cannot survive without carbohydrates in our system everyday and this is why:

Carbs come in 3 main categories:

  1. Sugars or simple sugars like glucose, fructose etc. that are basically already broken down for us. These go into our system, give us a little zip of energy and then fizzle out quickly. Because they are simple it takes a lot of them to make us feel “full” or “satisfied” so we eat a lot of them.
  2. Starches are more complex sugars that need to be broken down by our digestive system to create the glucose our bodies need for energy.  So these carbohydrates take longer to break down and give us a slow burn of energy.
  3. Fiber.  Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body but is needed to aid digestion and to give us a happy gut and happy bathroom experiences. This, as you know, is super important!

When we eat too many carbs, the body can store some of them for future energy and turns them into fat. Not good.

In a nutshell–we need to eat carbohydrates that are complex and whole to provide us with that slow burn and with fiber. Processed foods that are high in carbohydrates and low in everything else are just empty calories that do not serve us!

The amount of carbohydrates that we need depends on the number of calories you need per day to reach your nutritional goals. I discuss that in a previous post called The Big Mac.

The best carbohydrates are found in vegetables, whole fruits, potatoes, legumes and whole grains. It is important though to remember to watch the serving sizes and the preparation of these foods so that we don’t change a good carbohydrate into a fattening dish.

We also don’t want to eat so much of a good thing that we turn it into a bad thing by overloading our bodies with too much sugar–even from whole foods–that is needed in a day.

For people who are currently battling obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease a low carb diet can be life changing. And I think–especially given our current society–that this is important to mention.

And while a low carb diet may come to your rescue–we need to include the proper water intake, exercise and a host of other changes to our habits as a permanent life change for our rescue to be sustainable.

Remember that carbohydrates did not cause our obesity and a host of other health problems.  Our ancestors ate all kinds of carbs and were healthy–and thin!

Our ancestors, though, ate whole foods–not processed foods!  And there is a way to include whole foods and the science of convenience in processed foods to help us achieve both nutritional values and health objectives!!

While I am still digging for the answers–remember to take everything you know and understand to be true with a grain of salt. Do some discovering of yourself and what works best for your body–because no two bodies are alike!

Reach out with a comment or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

Genuine Artificial Food

Genuine Artificial Food

As I was looking for the best carbohydrates I can find to provide complex sugars to give me energy I found a dark and confusing place that I am not sure I’ve completely recovered from–it is similar to Alice in Wonderland falling through the rabbit hole and finding a whole new upside down backwards world.

Like Alice, I became fascinated and then horrified about what I was learning and eventually finding my way back to the real world.

And since I am not very science minded–at least I don’t think so–I will try to explain my findings, or lack thereof.

So here it is.  Too many carbohydrates are bad because they break down into simple sugars too fast in our system creating a spike in sugar.

The body, in its infinite wisdom, produces a lot of insulin to bring the sugar levels back to normal, overcompensates with too much insulin and then we crash. We feel weak and tired.  

The body (mostly the liver) is working overtime to clean out the extra sugar and insulin.

Meanwhile, we begin to crave more sugar (or carbs) to make us feel better and most of us give in and have more carbs–putting us right back on the cycle of a spike and a crash.

At the same time, the body (on the inside) is experiencing stress from having to produce the insulin and fix itself and then clean itself out and that stress slows down and sometimes stops digestion–so the body stores all the extra stuff we did not use–as fat.

Like I said–a scary rabbit hole.  But our travels in the upside down world are not over, Alice–there’s more.

Most of the carbohydrates we consume are not only empty calories, as we have heard many nutrition gurus tell us, they are also made up of chemicals.

Chemicals our bodies cannot absorb or break down because the body cannot identify them as a carbohydrate or a protein or a vitamin. So these chemicals build up in the body–in our fat–and for many of us it creates disease or conditions and for others it just makes us feel blah.

Diabetes, IBS, heart disease, high blood pressure, gluten intolerance, foggy brain, undefined pain, allergies, unexplained inflammation, eczema, depression, chronic fatigue, cancer, autism and infertility to name a few are thought to be caused by chemicals in our food and our environment.

Now wait–I am not saying we should go out a boycott anything and everything because of chemicals. Chemicals have their place in the society we live in. And our bodies are wonderful machines that can filter out things or adapt to new environments.

Like I said–the rabbit hole can be fascinating and terrifying at the same time. A balance is what I am looking for.

Here is what I am doing to find that balance–I am reading all our food labels.  That in itself is a scary thing–but very eye opening! If a product has more than 5 ingredients I already know it could be trouble.

Here are a few things I try to minimize:

  1. Trans-Fat:  this is also called hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat. I’m not even sure what it is yet–but it is not real–it is chemically made.
  2. High Fructose Corn Syrup: a substitute for real sugar. Sugar is bad enough–the substitute, is worse. I feel the same about any artificial sweeteners.
  3. Artificial Colors, artificial sweeteners, artificial fillers: the name pretty much spells it out Alice!  It is genuine artificial–not real.
  4. Preservative: these are usually described on labels by their initials–MSG, BHT, BHA, TBHQ, etc–I can’t pronounce what they stand for but clearly a chemical compound.

So where is my balance?  I realize we cannot go crazy and completely eliminate all these things–we just don’t have to take it to an extreme.

We are eating more salads and fruits and vegetables and looking for the right amounts of macro nutrients our body needs.

What about labels for the fruits and vegetables and salads?  Well broccoli, whether organic or not, is real and doesn’t need a label–so I feel we are already better off than the bag of Hot Cheetos!

And at some point we need to get out of the rabbit hole or we will get stuck in the upside down backwards world!

Have I found the best Carbohydrates yet?  Not really–it’s a journey…and I will get back with you on that.  

In the meantime, I am going to read my labels and continue my search. I hope you’ll come along for the trip!

What have been your findings in your health journey with processed foods?  Comment below or send me your thoughts, comments and questions to emptynestsavvy@gmail.com

The Big Mac

The Big Mac

The more I learn about nutrition, the more interested and confused I become.  No wonder so many people try so many diets and either fail miserably or succeed for a short while and then fall of the wagon and fail.

Now don’t misunderstand…diets do work for the most part but they only work as long as you continue the diet–which long term for most people is very hard–because diets all eliminate something major that the body needs.

What I am learning is better is creating your own nutritional plan that works for you. Yes–I did say create…but you can also adopt a way of life that provides you all the nutrients you need without the deprivation of most diets out there.

When you do this and keep it up and include at least 30 minutes of exercise everyday you will lose weight, feel better and naturally be healthier.

In order to create (or adopt) the right nutritional plan for you, you have to understand the Macros–or as I call them “the Big Mac”.

As with most popular buzzwords of the day, I usually get them wrong and invent my own.

So the Big Mac, or Macros are really Macro-nutrients.  Those are the major categories of nutrients the body needs in big quantities to work. And work well.

Thankfully–for me–there are only three to remember: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats.

Here is a quick crash course on the Macros and how much your body needs in order to be healthy.

Proteins:  These are the building blocks of, well, everything. It is the main thing in all our tissues, organs, bones, enzymes, blood and hair. Everything is made of proteins and proteins also help repair them–like our muscles after a workout.

Proteins can be found in most meats and dairy products but also in legumes and grains. Getting enough proteins and the right type of proteins is essential.

Carbohydrates: Carbs give our bodies the needed energy we need to function. Carbs are also what makes us feel full so we don’t over eat the wrong kind of stuff.  Americans have a love-hate relationship with carbs.

Because all carbs are broken down into glucose by the body for energy–the wrong kind of carbs (simple sugars) will give you a great zing of energy followed by the slump.  The right kind of carbs can give our bodies the more leveled output of energy that lasts longer and doesn’t make us feel like we let the air out of the balloon.

Fats: Believe it or not fats are very necessary in our bodies.  They have a bad reputation for causing heart disease and obesity etc.  but are very necessary for the body to use with our hormones, nervous system, skin and hair health and even as insulation and cushion for the body and our organs.

As with Carbohydrates the wrong kind–or too much of a good thing–can be bad. We need insulation–but not too much insulation.

The big question is how much of each do we need to live healthy, lose unwanted weight, or build muscle.

The big answer of course is–it depends.

Each person’s needs and tolerance will be different–that is why most diets don’t work long term because each person needs to customize them to their own needs and body reactions.

Here is a general guideline to start with and adjust as your needs change.  Figure out how many calories you need to reach your goal. For example, if I want to lose weight–and I do–I want to stay at or under 1400 calories a day.

(The internet has many calculators you can use–as do most diet books–to figure out how many calories you need based on your gender, height, current weight and how much activity you have in your life.)

Once you know the calories you are aiming for–a simple method to allocate your calories is by getting 40% of your calories from Proteins, 40% from Carbohydrates and 20% from Fats.

Based on my number I would need 560 calories from Protein, 560 calories from Carbohydrates and 280 calories from Fat.  Add 64 oz of water a day and moderate exercise and viola! a new me!

Easy right? No…absolutely not easy. And that is my point today. Being healthy is hard work, but it can be done and it is so worth it! You have to take the time to do the numbers and then make the numbers work for you into a lifestyle choice that gets you to and keeps you where you want to be.

We want to live better, faster and smarter–and the Big Mac will get you there…but you have to put in the work!
Have a great day today! Reach out with a comment about your Big Mac or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!