There are thousands of diets out there telling you what to eat or not eat, such as high-carb/low-fat, high-fat/low-carb, keto, and raw foods etc. They all have research and all say that this is the way. We go for many extremes diets, which often lead to yo-yo dieting. Ayurveda suggests tapping into what is serving and not serving you in your diet.
In general, the American diet has massive quantities of carbohydrates from bread products, pastas, sodas, and fries. Along with this, the high quantities of sugar can lead to damaging health issues.
Carbohydrates aren’t inherently bad for your body. In fact, they can give your body energy and nourish your tissues. What becomes “bad” for the body is the excess quantity of carbs. When carbs are digested, they get broken down into small particles of sugar (glucose, fructose, and galactose). These sugar particles enter the blood stream and the liver where they are converted into glucose. Glucose is the main energy source that fuels muscles and the brain! However, excess glucose gets stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. When the body reaches the capacity of storage for glycogen, the glucose gets stored as fat. This is why too many carbs with a high sugar diet can lead to weight gain and Diabetes.
The body needs carbs to function optimally. However, many people eat more than their body requires.
Complex vs. Simple Carbs
Not all carbs are the same! Carbohydrates are classified as complex (starch and fiber) and simple (sugar). Carbohydrates are in grains, vegetables, and fruits. Though most vegetables are relatively low in carbs.
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, contain fiber and vital phytonutrients. Fiber helps keep the blood sugar levels in check by slowly converting into glucose.
Simple carbs, such as processed foods like white sugar, fruit juices, sodas, and many desserts, are digested very quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar. This is why when we get tired we often want something sweet or something with simple carbs. It helps replenish our energy fast. However, the energy is not sustainable and causes a crash or the need to eat more food. Try to opt for complex carbohydrates.
Tips to Reduce Your Intake of Simple Carbs
- Eat more high quality, healthy fats. When we cut out high quantities of sugar and carbs from our diet, we lose many calories that our body was receiving before. Healthy fats are high in calories and have long energy stores. Thus, they keep you fuller for longer and give your body vital energy and nutrients. Some healthy fats are avocados, nuts, seeds (sunflower, chia, or hemp), olives, nut butters, and oils (coconut, sesame, ghee, avocado, olive). They will keep you satiated!
- Eat more high quality sources of protein. Another good way to feel satiated if reducing your carb intake is to choose high quality protein sources. Whether you eat meat or are a vegan/vegetarian, it is important to choose less processed foods. Avoid highly processed meats that often contain sugar and other carbs. Eat free-range, organic, or wild-game animal protein if possible. Beans though high in carbs are high in protein and fiber, which function to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Nuts, quinoa, and seeds are also great sources of protein.
- Reduce of eliminate sodas, energy drinks, and sweetened drinks. Sweetened drinks send sugar straight to you blood stream. They give you a spike in energy, but make your blood sugar levels sporadic throughout the day. To keep your blood sugar level, reduce your intake. Try replacing soda with herbal teas, hot water, or water with slices of lemon, cucumber, or berries. “Diet sodas” though often technically low in calories and/or sugars, have many chemicals that are unknown to your body and are worse than drinking the soda with sugar.
- Reduce or eliminate excess sugar. A good rule is to not eat more than 25 grams (six teaspoons) of sugar a day. Sodas average around 40 grams of sugar a day. Imagine pouring 12 teaspoons of sugar into your soda bottle. Sugar hides in processed foods with terms like “alcohol sugar” that aren’t listed as sugars, but affect your digestion. The American diet averages around 1/3 cups of added sugar per day. Try switching to fruits and natural forms of sugar.
- Reduce refined grains. Most flours and foods with white enriched, or bleached flour, such as most breads, desserts, crackers, and cookies are refined and are classified as simple carbs. Many of them lead to inflammation and digestive issues. Even breads labeled “whole grain” might not be. A whole grain is fully intact, such as rice and barley. Switch to more whole grains and breads from whole sprouted nuts and seeds.
- Everything in moderation. Although this article is on reducing your intake of carbohydrates, we don’t believe in radical diets or that you need to cut out all carbs. Only in excess does imbalance happen. Take things slowly and be easy on yourself. Food should be in act of self-love and treating your body to its fullest potential. We suggest being mindful of what you are eating with no “right” or “wrong”. Begin by asking yourself, “Is it serving me?”