Carbohydrate -friend or foe?

I have really tried to change my view of carbohydrate over the last year. I always believed it to be my foe, my nemesis even, and would try and avoid it like the plague. Each day I would try to keep my intake to below 50 g – 60 g a day – 200 -240 kcal of carbs a day. Each day I would mentally beat myself up if I hadn’t achieved this.I always felt that carbs were the reason I would put weight on and when I severely restricted them…the weight came off. Then I started to think more logically:

I need carbs for my energy needs; I can control the types of carbs I eat.

Government guidelines presently state 50-55% of daily food intake should be carbs – of that 45% complex starchy carbs and non-starchy polysaccharides – fibre and no more than 5% from free sugars. (I know this guideline has been challenged recently because of the rise of obesity – but it is all about eating the right carbs – eating carbohydrate is not just about eating white bread, pasta and potatoes!) The healthy high carb foods I eat include vegetables,legume, whole grains, nuts and berries / low fructose fruits. I avoid unhealthy carbs.

This thought process has enabled me to take back control – with careful food choices I can ensure I give my body sufficient energy sources for its needs. Intake of carbs from refined foods will have a totally different effect on my body than if I get all my  carbs from unrefined foods…in other words …if I cook from scratch, opt for foods high in fibre and with a low GI, and just eat real foods I will be eating ‘properly’ and giving my body the nutrition it needs. So this is what I do 🙂

Doing this, and keeping my free sugars to below 5% of my daily intake has improved my health, ensured any excess weight has come off and means I don’t have blood sugar spikes during the day and crave snacks in between meals…and counting calories is a thing of the past!

 

 

 

You don’t eat sugar!?

This what I was asked the other day.

My response was that I ensure I consume a minimum amount of fructose a day.

‘What…you don’t eat fruit? But fruit is good for you!’ was the immediate response..and a look of horror.

This got me thinking…

When I was child we had an apple a day (to keep the doctor away), we never ate bananas, had satsumas at Christmas time, grapes only when we were poorly and all other fruits were eaten seasonally – to go fruit picking was a family day out. And, as for dried fruit – in a wedding, Christening or Christmas cake or given as a present in the form of crystallized fruits at Christmas.

When did we start to eat so much fruit?

It is wonderful to be able to nip to a supermarket and see a plethora of fruit types from the usual to the exotic. But does this mean we should increase our intake?

I decided to cut back on sugar when I was informed of the different ways in which glucose and fructose are metabolised and the effects on the body. My understanding is ( I am not a doctor so I do not claim to be correct) every cell in the body can use glucose but the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in significant amounts. When we eat a diet high in fructose the liver gets overloaded and starts turning fructose in to fat.

When I decided to ‘quit’ sugar for several weeks to let my body recalibrate the only sweet foods I ate regularly were medjool dates, dried apricots and a daily square of 85% plain chocolate. At the end of the first week I would have fought someone for a sugar fix! I was astounded. Seemingly even the small amount I ate was causing an ‘addiction’.

Again, I was informed that sugar, in the same way as cocaine, lights up the ‘pleasure centre’ in the brain which floods the body with dopamine – the feel good hormone. As this wears off another fix is needed. When we eat foods containing sugar often and in large amounts, the dopamine receptors start to down regulate so the next time we eat these foods, their effect is lessened so we need more to get the same level of ‘fix’. ie the sugar hijacks the brain chemistry to make us crave more and eat more.

Of course I intake sugars daily from milk in the form of lactose and from the vegetables I eat – but actively avoid other sources. When I occasionally eat some berries I really enjoy them but I ensure that I don’t eat them everyday. Do I feel better for this? Absolutely.