CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY
As a teen, my passion was to become a ballet dancer. A gruelling training regime alongside a demand for “that dancer's physique”: saw my body
Irrespective of health concerns, a healthy approach to nutrition cannot be healthy without first having a positive food relationship. It is a harmony of education and intuition, one that is balanced (and not always clean), one that has room for your favourite foods, even if they are a ‘feared food’, one that sets aside food guilt and allows you to eat foods that make you feel good all the time, no matter what that food may be. This general approach to nutrition I nurture in my practice can be an effortless transition for some; for many, it takes time and plenty of self-reflection; however, once they are ‘there’…there is no looking back.
One feared food group I commonly see are ‘carbohydrates’, and not even the processed kind…I am witness to fear of the fibre-rich whole grains and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruit.
Carbohydrates are not the devil. When eaten the right way, they are our primary energy source for brain and muscle function and are integral for hormone balance. Furthermore, complex carbohydrates primarily feed and seed healthy gut real estate. For this reason, you should know that with 90% of Serotonin made in your gut, when there is an imbalance of poor microbiome, so too is low production of this soothing and uplifting hormone.
To sustain energy and support weight management, it is best to eat carbohydrates that allow the body to absorb glucose in a slow and sustainable way. This is one reason why complex carbohydrates are essential with every meal, and the simple/processed variety is a treat. Your refined carbohydrate of choice may be lower in 'calories’. However, it will peak and through your blood glucose, leaving you feeling constantly starving yet contributing to steady weight gain, low mood, and depleted energy. This is one example of when a calorie is not just a calorie.
Fibre keeps our digestion flowing, balances blood sugar, lowers cholesterol, and clears excess/synthetic hormones, toxins, and fats.
Foods from the earth provide and support the growth of beneficial bacteria and build short-chain fatty acids and potent anti-inflammatory compounds. Fiber also provides your gut with prebiotic's which feed your probiotics. Prebiotics are a food-first approach meaning your nutritional approach is essential, even if you are supplementing with a probiotic
You should aim for 30-40g of fibre a day through whole grains, pulses, beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, fruits, nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and psyllium husks. This looks something like one tablespoon of chia seeds, one cup of mixed whole grains, one cup of pulses, and four cups of mixed salad and/or vegetables spread over the day.
Vegetables are a rich source of folate, fibre, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium (amongst so much more), all whilst providing a wide of phytonutrients that are the cornerstone of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power. Eating a varied and colourful array daily is mother nature’s multivitamin.
Greens with every meal. Greens are high in nutrients and fibre and lower in starchy carbohydrates, meaning they will keep you fuller for longer.
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, carrot, and sweet potato, allow a rise in blood sugar, causing a release of insulin. This hormone prompts cells to utilize calories from food as sustainable energy to last the day. Furthermore, resistant starch feeds short-chain fatty acids, which keep our gut barrier intact, reduce inflammation, and satisfy and control appetite.
There is absolutely no reason to exclude starchy fruits from your diet. As you have read, starch should not be feared when eaten correctly. This is another example of when a calorie is not just a calorie. 2 serves of fruit per day will provide you with the nutrients and energy your body needs. A processed ‘low carb’ energy bar will not.
GLUTEN, it’s a sometimes food.
Gluten is a protein (gliadin) found in grains that commonly make up products such as bread, cereal, cakes, biscuits, pasta, crackers, and cakes. Gluten is also hidden in gravies, packet soups, sausages, sauces, and marinades.
Even without a known gluten intolerance, frequent gluten consumption can be problematic over time. This glue-like protein has the ability to stick to the walls of the intestine, sending inflammatory markers to your gut and compromising intestinal wall integrity. When this damage occurs, particles of gluten, essential nutrients, and bad bacteria escape, compromising the gut, immune system, and overall well-being.
Gluten aside, wheat-based products are often heavily sprayed with pesticides, yet the confusing part is many 'gluten-free' products are highly processed and extremely low in fibre and nutrients.
When shopping for your family, go for products from foods such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, or legumes. The best thing to come out of the gluten-free fad is the abundance of readily accessible, high-quality, naturally gluten-free products that have saturated the market.
QUICK NOTE ON SEASONAL AND ORGANIC
Eating seasonally is best for nutritional content and dollar value. Buying local-grown produce will also hold a higher nutritional value and support local farmers and the community.
Many small farmers can’t afford the expensive organic certification yet are just as passionate about their products as they are about the environment and our precious ecosystem.