Are carbs good for you?
Have I been wrong this entire time?
Today, I’m gonna show you the truth about eating carbs.
Are Carbs Good For You?
My nutrition approach has evolved quite a bit over the years as I’ve learned more about.
The most dangerous people in the fitness industry are the dinosaurs that are stuck in their old ways and haven’t read a book since the 80’s or 90’s. Yup, I’m calling them out.
You really need to take a multifaceted approach when it comes to improving your overall health.
As a byproduct, weight loss inevitably follows. Because the default factory setting of the human body is that it’s healthy.
Now, if you look at the healthiest countries on the planet. As well as people with the longest lifespan, and more importantly health span, what are they doing different?
A lot of these places don’t have a 24 hour fitness. Funny enough, there are more gyms per capita in North America than anywhere else on the planet. We’re also the fattest and the sickest.
They don’t have shake weights or pelotons. There’s no detox or juice cleanse kits.
But why are they living so much better and longer than we are? What’s their secret? What’s their diet like? How do they exercise? How are they living their lives?
If you dig deep enough, they share 3 key traits. They all walk a lot. At least 11,000 steps a day, including the elderly and children.
Whereas, the average North American walks 4200 steps a day. If you’re moving 3 times more than someone else, you’re gonna look and live a lot longer.
I’m not even talking about working out at the gym and counting calories. I’m literally just talking about movement. Movement is medicine.
That’s why I always recommend that you walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
That movement part becomes even more crucial for the elderly here in the west.
Frailty and disability is unfortunately a common part of what it means to age in North America. But just because that’s the norm, doesn’t meant it’s right.
When I was in Italy and I spent some time in the mountains, I was shocked how active the elderly were when it comes to doing daily chores. That’s just part of life there.
When I spent my summers in the farm as a kid when I was in the Philippines, the elderly also walked everywhere. That’s what my grand parents did. My late grandpa was still taking care of his cattle in his 80’s. It was just the norm.
Sugar consumption in North America
The second thing we’ve championed in North America is sugar. I’d like to think I’m well travelled.
If you go to other countries, they don’t eat sugar like we eat sugar. They don’t put sugar in everything. In North America, we put sugar in everything.
One of the biggest culture shocks when I moved to Canada was free pop refills when you go to restaurants. I thought it was the greatest thing back then.
The other culture shock was eating cake for breakfast. What do I mean by that? If you think about it, a pancake is a flat cake. A waffle is just cake with little squares. A muffin is just cake without icing. A donut is cake with a hole in the middle. Breakfast cereal is just crushed up cookies. It’s just sugar on top of sugar.
Not all carbs are created equal
The third is carbs. Believe it or not, a lot of countries around the world actually eat more carbs than we do. Which was shocking when I first read about that.
But there’s a stark difference in terms of the quality of the carbs they’re eating.
Asians have been eating white rice for centuries. Japan has more centenarians per capita on the planet and they get the majority of their calories from white rice.
Same thing with the Philippines and South Korea. I’ve been to those three countries. They even eat rice for breakfast. China and Singapore? White rice is a staple.
A lot of South American countries? Same thing. They eat rice and beans over there. I’ve never eaten so much rice and beans when I was in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.
Same thing with bread in nordic countries like Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark.
Mediterranean countries? You bet. In the middle east where I grew up? More bread.
The French/Italian Paradox
Now you might be wondering, how could the Italians for example eat so much bread and pasta and not lead the planet in obesity rates? The US holds that title.
For starters, the kind of bread they eat is different. They use a different type of wheat and/or its fermented.
The most common wheat plant in the U.S. is called dwarf wheat. Europe also has vastly different rules when it comes to agriculture and using GMO products. But that’s a topic for another video.
Fermentation was actually how bread was made in the past. As early as 2,000 BC, the Egyptians knew how to make fermented bread.
Fermentation is key when it comes to the bread making process because it changes the characteristics of the starch. It pre-digests gluten. It also makes the nutrients more bioavailable. Sour dough is an example of fermented bread by the way.
The prebiotics in fermented bread also help to keep your gut bacteria happy, and it may be less likely to spike blood sugar levels. Gluten sensitivity is more of a recent thing because of the way we make our bread.
If you’ve travelled to Europe recently and all of a sudden your stomach can tolerate bread, this is why.
Ezekiel bread is another great bread option because it’s made out of sprouted grains. It also contains all essential amino acids and other nutrients.
You could technically live off of it. Although you’d need to eat a stupid amount to meet your nutritional needs.
Compare that to today’s bread which is basically nutrient free. White bread is just empty calories of sadness.
A high carb consuming society?
There’s also been a lot of societies that have lived primarily on carbs. For example, the Kitavans in the Pacific.
*They eat a diet of root vegetables, coconut, fruit, vegetables and fish and have undetectable levels of cardiovascular disease, stroke, or obesity.
69% of their calories come from carbs, 21% from fat and 10% from protein.
The Okinawans in Japan are another great example. Again, Japan has the highest rate of centenarians per capita on the planet. Even though they eat a lot of white rice.*
There’s actually a disturbing study that when Japanese women move to the US, their life expectancy plummets by something like 8 ears.
So how could Asians and other countries get away with eating so much rice? It’s because they take out the bran and germ which contains all the anti-nutrients in rice.
That’s why brown rice is not better for you. It’s peasant food. Look it up.
Again, they also eat a lot of sprouted and fermented food. As well as probiotics, also known as resistant starch.
What is resistant starch?
Resistant starch is actually indigestible and passes through the small intestine to take up residence in the colon. It acts as a fuel source for healthful bacteria in the gut.
Examples of resistant starch are green bananas, as well as cooked and cooled russet potatoes and white rice.
The molecular composition of the latter two actually changes from carbs into resistant starch when it’s eaten cold. How cool is that?
In the same manner, a green banana also known as plantain which is a dietary staple in the Caribbean and a lot of south American countries, is mostly resistant starch.
But as it ripens, it converts the resistant starch into carbs as it turns into a yellow banana.
You can also see another example of this effect in the glycemic index. When you eat white bread, insulin, the storing hormone, spikes way up.
But if you ate eat beans which is also mostly carbs, the glycemic response is usually a lot lower. Everyone is different obviously. That’s why you have to test for yourself.
Most natural whole foods are like that. You don’t see that huge blood sugar and insulin spike that you get from these ultra processed foods.
Things really only go sideways when we start tampering with whole foods.
The processing makes the poison. Basically, the more processing your food goes through, the worse it is for you.
Again, I’m not anti-carbs. Rice is a staple of Filipino cuisine where my parents are from. I still eat rice.
What I’ve always tried to point out is that not all carbs are created equal. Carbs from whole foods aren’t bad for you. They only become problematic it disrupts homeostasis.
The real culprit of metabolic syndrome
The real culprits are ultra processed refined carbs, sugar, and industrial seed oils.
In the last 5 to 10 years, studies have revealed a lot more information about how devastating seed oils are to your health. If you want a great resource about this topic, you should check out ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ by Nina Teicholz.
Industrial seed oils are actually a bigger issue than sugar. And, that’s saying a lot.
Because at least with sugar, your body has a way to burn it off by turning it into glucose. You can’t say the same about industrial seed oils.
They especially become toxic when heated at high temperatures. That’s why you should never use them for cooking. A leading expert on this topic said that consuming them is like eating radiation.
The hateful eight of these industrial and inflammatory seed oils are Canola, Corn, Cottonseed, Soybean, Sunflower, Safflower, Grapeseed, and Rice bran.
If you have them in your kitchen, you need to throw them out. Instead, you wanna use any saturated fat like butter. As well as coconut oil, avocado oil, and macadamia nut oil. You can also use extra virgin olive oil at low temperatures.
Unfortunately, these toxic seed oils are everywhere. Most ultra processed foods are laced with them. Fast food restaurants use and reuse the same rancid oil for any of their deep fried products.
Even high end restaurants use them to cut cost. I bartended at a fancy bar for a while and you can bet that they were using seed oils for anything deep fried.
The problem with ULTRA processed carbs
What’s worse is food companies have also manufactured a completely new category of ultra processed carbs that barely scratches the mechanoreceptors in our gut.
These “foods” easily enable us to consume hundreds if not thousands of calories without signalling satiety.
I’m talking about puffed snacks like cheetos, doritos, funions, rice puffs, cocoa puffs, and potato chips. Their marketing brag is, “Bethca can’t eat just one.”
All those foods induce a phenomenon called vanishing caloric density. You put it in your mouth, bite down on it for a couple of crunches, and then it seems to almost just melt into nothingness.
If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it. You can just keep eating it forever.
This is why you can’t just have one Dorito chip. You get a taste of this highly palatable food. Next thing you know, you’re staring at the bottom of the bag.
You have to realize that the biggest companies out there have invested millions of dollars in food research on how to short circuit our brains. We’re no match for it.
It’s also a double whammy for your metabolic health because a lot of these frankenfoods also contain industrial seed oils.
North America also happens the birth place of fast food. We eat out in North America more than any of those healthy and long lived countries.
They also eat food seasonally. Nowadays, you can get any type of fruit all year round. Seasons? What seasons? We’ve circumvented that.
It’s all about the quality of carbs
My point is the specific macronutrient make up, specifically in relation to carbs and fat, is actually less important than the overall make up of your diet. As long you’re eating minimally processed foods.
The most important thing as always is to prioritize protein combined with some resistance training to build and maintain muscle.
You also need some essential fat. If you’re getting your carbs whole whole foods, it’s almost inconsequential. Be sensible about it, obviously. Again, everyone is different. But generally speaking, if you can keep your carb intake between 50 to 150 grams per day and no more than 50 grams per meal, you’re absolutely winning.
It also depends on your activity level. Generally speaking, the more active you are, the more carbs you can get away with.
The most important thing is that your diet is mostly minimally processed. Also, a lot of these long lived societies cook at home. That often rarely ever get mentioned these days. If you control your own food and what goes in it, your success rate will skyrocket. Stop ordering takeout or delivery.
Lastly, eat until you’re satisfied but not until you’re completely stuffed. Imagine being stuffed at 100%. You wanna eat until you’re satiated at 80%. The Japanese have a term for this called ‘hara hachi bun me’.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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