Carbs and fats are universal villains.
But do people really understand carbohydrates and fats in fine detail?
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy. The carbs you consume is what you burn first for immediate activities.
Fats are the secondary sources of energy. If you manage to burn all your carbs, the body resorts to fats for additional energy or calories to burn.
However, if you are consuming more carbs than you are burning, then the negative deficit of carbs gets converted to fats and gets stored in your tissues like regular fat.
This is how you make carbs the villain. It is in reality, a hero but your lack of activity or excessive intake of carbs makes it the villain.
People have some crazy strong feelings about grains. It can even get quite dogmatic.
Let’s begin with this — if you honestly abhor grains and don’t like them, then don’t eat them.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, then don’t eat gluten.
If eating grains, in any form, makes you feel like total poo (yes, we’re certain that’s a scientific term; someone somewhere on the internet said it is), then don’t eat them.
But, if you enjoy certain types of grains and don’t have any negative reactions to them, then they can be a part of your diet.
Now, we prefer to eat grains that are as natural as possible. Some of my preferred grains are:
Rice, Rolled oats and steel cut oats, Homemade or sprouted grain breads (Ezekiel Bread is a favorite; it’s usually in the freezer section at the grocery store, and sometimes with the “health foods”), Popcorn (homemade; not the stuff in bags).
That list is not exhaustive; just an example. For instance, some individuals would also add whole grain pasta to that list as well.
Why do we prefer those grains?
Three main reasons. One, they taste good. Two, we feel great eating them. Three, they’re not heavily processed.
If we ate regular bread from the grocery store, we’d feel a little “off”. In fact, if we eat much of anything with heavily processed grains we feel a little “off” after eating them.
When we eat the grains listed above, we have no intestinal upset or other negative effects. Plus, we enjoy them. So we’re going to eat them.
When it comes to grains the choice is yours to eat them or not. If you like them and you tolerate them with no side effects, then eat them.
However, we do suggest picking those that are the least processed.
What about Processed Grains?
First, this depends on what definition you use. To some anything you can’t directly kill or pull from the earth is processed. So for many that means eliminating all types of grain.
However, some people have the same thoughts we do that it’s fine to eat grains that are minimally processed.
These would be items like rice, rolled and steel cut oats, and sprouted grain breads. Sprouted grain breads are usually flourless since they’re made entirely of whole, sprouted grains (Ezekiel bread, for example). Personally, we also love homemade bread.
Then you have items that are heavily processed such as store bought flour breads (traditional white bread), pastas, crackers, cereals, most baked goods, and the like.
These foods require many steps to go from Point A (raw, natural state) to Point B (whatever the finished product is).
Not only are these heavily processed items not close to their natural state, but many have a ton of added ingredients like sugar, trans fat, oils, and additives.
Should you completely avoid heavily processed grain products? Not necessarily.
But, we would recommend the majority of the time choosing minimally processed grains as discussed earlier.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat?
Carbohydrates in all forms are still getting a bad rap.
Here are the individuals who can benefit from reducing their carbohydrate intake — those who are sedentary and overweight.
If you have a lot of excess fat to lose and you don’t exercise regularly, then you could benefit from reducing your carbohydrate intake.
We still recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, though. Just limit starchy carbs (grains, potatoes) and eat fruits and veggies instead.
However, if you’re physically active on a consistent basis and you’re not overweight (perhaps you’re happy with your current physique or you want to shed a little extra fat) then you shouldn’t drastically cut your carbohydrate intake.
Now, again, this is where some individual preferences come into play.
Some people truly feel amazing and perform very well with a reduced carb diet. If that’s you, great.
But, if you’re lacking energy, your workouts are suffering, or perhaps you’ve reached a plateau with your fat loss, then you should experiment with eating more carbohydrates.
Stick to natural forms (veggies, fruits, potatoes, natural grains, legumes) and see what happens.
Many of my clients who’ve restricted carbs for extended periods of time and then bump up their carb intake notice some wonderful changes — they have more energy, their workout performance improves, and many even shed some of the extra fat that wouldn’t budge before.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with increasing your carb intake. But, again, try to stick to the natural forms. And make sure you eat a variety. We don’t recommend relying solely on grains and potatoes for your carb intake. Be sure to eat other veggies and fruits, too.
Call this “eating the rainbow”, if you prefer. That simply means to focus on a wide variety of fruits and veggies and eat “as many colors” as possible. For instance, green veggies, red apples, oranges, various colored peppers, sweet potatoes, blueberries, etc.