The message about the dangers of over carbohydrate consumption is finally beginning to hit the main stream public. Problem is, most people are left scratching their heads over a diet devoid of comfort providing “grains”. Still others, are so carb addicted they believe they cannot possibly live without them – this is particularly true of people who suffer with depression and anxiety, ADHD/ADD and other memory and cognition disorders. For those “carb-addicted” people these types of foods act just like an addictive drug.
~~And guess what else all these grains feed? – YEAST! And this leads to Candida and a host of other GUT and mal-absorption issues.
Do we really need carbs?
As a nutritionist I was taught that glucose is the fuel our brains use to produce energy. And since our neurons in our brains cannot store glucose our brains depend on the bloodstream to deliver a constant supply. Further, glucose is found primarily in carbohydrate type foods. These are the starches and sugars you eat in the form of grains and legumes, fruits and vegetables. Although dairy products do contain some carbohydrates, these act of the body somewhat differently due to their fat content.
The problem is this science is now being proven WRONG!
Yet schools are still teaching this and for years the infamous USDA Food Pyramid had grains as the foundation and we were told by both the government and medical establishment we should consume a high carb/low fat diet. This lead to the largest increase to date in diabetes and CVD! Many doctors and dieticians still dispense this outdated and downright flawed non science based thinking even today.
And, as far as mood disorders like depression, anxiety and cognition problems like ADD//ADHD and Alzheimer’s go – eating a high carbohydrate low health fat/wrong fat diet is like throwing gasoline on a camp fire! Unfortunately, this is exactly the way most people eat.
Also see this post: A look at the second brain
Back to basics
Paleo Diet enthusiasts will tell you that our ancestors didn’t begin consuming grains until rather recently in human history. While this is true, culturally speaking, the definition of eating ancestrally depends a great deal on what region of the world you look at. Strict Paleo-ist adhere to a grain free and legume free diet and some even frown on eating even more tuberous vegetables such as sweet potatoes.
While some form of Paleo has helped many people dramatically improve their health it’s important to remember that eating a wide variety of vegetables and low GI fruits in combination with healthy fats is what’s good about this diet. I caution against following this diet if all you want to do is find an excuse for eating more red meat even when its pasture raised. I still believe a diet limiting red meat and consuming more wild caught fish, free range eggs, nuts and seeds will provide more nutrient dense fare. And I believe root vegetables and legumes are both nutritious foods (in moderation) that may be missing from most Paleo programs.
The Next Gen in Optimal Eating
It’s technically known as the ketogenic diet. Dr. Perlmutter is in favor of this ketogenic type diet for optimal brain health and I think he’s on the right track with this one. In his numerous interviews Dr. Perlmutter has compiled astounding research on the results he and his colleagues have witnessed by simply teaching patients how to switch from high carbohydrate, heavy grain based eating to high healthy fat and vegetable eating.
Gluten is 100% OUT. The key to this diet is in limiting GF grains, high glycemic fruits (bananas, topical fruits, dried fruits) and eating mainly low GI/non starchy vegetables. Healthy fats are increased more in this diet. These include extra virgin coconut oil; butter from grass fed cows; virgin olive oil; fish oils; nuts and seeds.
Higher fat intake feeds and rescues the brain
New science now shows us that the brain actually requires fat, not glucose as fuel. This process is called keto-adaptation. Eating this way decreases inflammation. By burning primarily fat we reduce free radical damage substantially and prevent a host of dreadful diseases and conditions. The mitochondria control not only energy but whether a cell lives or dies. Even more important is that eating more healthy fat helps your mitochondria grow – in effect expanding your brain. See Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmuter, MD for much more on this…link below.
The good news ,according to Dr. Perlmuter is we can grow back new brain cells and improve or memories by changing our diets to be higher in fat and low in carbohydrates. We can also improve brain health by taking DHA and exercising.
And it’s not just the brain that reaps the rewards from a ketogenic diet – it’s the body too. Weight loss and lower body fat/lean muscle mass are also more easily accomplished.
Plant foods help your GUT work better
When we consume more plant foods we naturally increase our intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber. And eating more uncooked or lightly cooked vegetables like greens helps retain digestive aiding enzymes that are naturally present in these foods. It takes only about 20 minutes for our bodies to digest and begin using the nutrients in a piece of raw fruit, with vegetables not far behind. Protein takes much longer to digest and requires adequate stomach acid which many people lack these days, especially those on acid reducing medications called Proton Pump Inhibitors. Fats in the diet act as taxi cabs allowing the nutrients to enter and exit the cells, but the fats must be the right “key” to fit the lock or else the whole system gets de-railed.
Combining healthy fats found in coconut oil, avocado’s, olives and olive oil, flax seed oil/seeds as well as high omega 3 in animal products from pasture raised/wild caught animals helps the body assimilate the vitamins and minerals found in the plant foods we eat. While the ratio’s of animal protein to plant based protein vary depending upon which dietary advice you read protein is essential to the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain. Plus remember that many healthy essential fatty acids come ” package” together in a protein source. This tells me that a diet that restricts protein will naturally impact brain health.
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Do we actually need grains?
I am now shifting to the belief that we do not actually require grains for health. While I admit I do enjoy my brown rice, quinoa and occasional organic corn products I certainly think even these gluten free grains are both addictive and pose some health drawbacks. In particular, eating grains, even gluten free varieties increases blood sugar and feed yeast overgrowth/candida.
Grains are also very easy to over consume and are very high in carbohydrates. This makes weight management more difficult for most of us. This is also why many people who go gluten free do not lose weight. This is also why so many vegans and vegetarians end up with weight issues, insulin dysregulation issues, mood imbalances and candida/yeast overgrowth problems.
What this new science based nutrition tells us about Smarter carb’s
Today’s science based nutrition professionals see that smarter carbohydrates are from plant foods – not grains. Vegetables and fruits are naturally nutrient dense which means they are loaded with all the fiber, vitamins, minerals and enzymes the body needs for perfect fuel. Plant foods are also unadulterated and unprocessed. Most grain products are still very processed and the body has to work harder to break these types of foods down to obtain nutritional benefit.
Does all of this have you thinking maybe you should give “Smarter Carb” or a more Ketogenic eating a try? If it does and your not sure how to make the shift – I can help. Just fill out my contact form and let’s have a phone conversation to see if I can help you: Are We A Fit?
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