Come on... are there really good carbs for weight loss?
Ah….the elusive “good carb”.
“Which carbohydrate…please tell me!……are the ones I should be eating to help me lose weight!”
“Everyone knows there are good carbs and bad carbs.”
However, no one seems to know, exactly, which are which.
What are the good carbs?!
“Define good”, I reply.
One of the reasons behind all the mixed messages and mayhem over carbohydrate is due to it being such a vast and varied food category. CARBOHYDRATE
Waffles. Milkshakes. Spaghetti. Fried Rice. Pizza. Philadelphia Soft Pretzels. Italian Water Ice. Beer. Wawa Hoagies. Church Basement Doughnuts. Popcorn. Macaroni Salad.
Humus and stoneground crackers, peaches, carrots, organic ancient grain breads, vegan/gluten free pizzas, quinoa, raisins, cereal and milk, oatmeal and bananas, whole wheat pita, apples, orange juice, pasta salad.
http://choosemyplate.gov All of these are carbohydrates. And these are just a small sampling! It’s nearly impossible to pin down where the dividing line between good and bad lies. Talk about blurred lines. This is why weight loss is so elusive, and exhausting, and unclear, and spirit-sapping. It’s just so damn gray rather than black and white.
This is also why the world develops all kinds of rules, mantras and directives. And most times the world divides foods into classifications without any regard for their actual category. THIS is where my personal overwhelm initiated.
Before I recognized a carbohydrate for what it is….a carbohydrate…..I was unknowingly a carbohydrate stacker. Yes. I was an unaware, ignorant, uninformed carboholic. I had relied almost exclusively on carbohydrate all day, every day. Being a rule-follower and believer in the low fat, lean protein, plant-based, good carbohydrate fanfare I was certainly ripe for a rude awakening.
That awakening was spurned when our daughter was diagnosed with a chronic disease driven and exacerbated by food. Before diagnosis, food was one big tangled category to which I applied the “good”/“bad” labeling. After diagnosis, and years of what-the-what?! Food became structured, organized, and oh so clear.
To illustrate the point of food classification with no regard for category, take the healthy eating directive of the MyPlate.gov. Experts create visual graphics to assist you and me with developing ‘good’ eating habits.
My family and I followed this to a T. And it is this eating directive that has led all of us to wonder as we wander through the supermarkets and farmer’s markets……asking which are the good carbs for weight loss?
First, a bit of background science.
All food, every single food whether packaged, plant, animal, real, fake, or any combination of, comes in only 3 different forms. That simplifies food a bit. These 3 forms or categories are Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat. Some foods are just one of those categories. For example, an apple is only a carbohydrate. It contains no protein and no fat. Some foods are a combination of the categories. For example, an egg is protein, fat, and just a trace of carbohydrate. Now, the powers that be would have us eating a “balanced diet”. By “balanced” they mean getting a wide variety of foods so that we consume lots of different nutrients like vitamins, mineral, enzymes, probiotics, phyto-nutrients, etc….. This appears to be a worthwhile action. Until we realize that our quest to fortify our nutritional arsenal actually ends up adding inches to our waistline. Wait. What? I know.
Watch our latest episode of Insulin Suppression Podcast below to find out the weight loss BOSS. It’s not carbohydrates.
Good Carbs For Weight Loss | Full How To Eat Delicious Carbs for Weight Loss Guide Included – Episode #13
Back to the My Plate.
Let’s see what we are truly eating, of the 3 categories of food, when we follow this protocol.
Dairy. Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat.
Do you see what I see?
Four out of the five MY Plate food categories have us eating carbohydrate. Does that seem balanced? Another observation is that only one of the three actual food categories (Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat) is even mentioned; protein. Why do we call protein “protein” and not fish or chicken? Why don’t we call fruit “carbohydrate”? It’s all so confusing.
It’a also quite compromising. Why?
Because eating a carbohydrate focused diet, which is exactly what MyPlate endorses, is precisely why you are here seeking answers for weight loss.
Most of us, pursuing weight loss, are particularly plagued by belly fat. It is arguably the hardest body fat to shed. Why? The accumulation of belly fat or visceral fat, is hormonal, not caloric. And the ridding of it rides on our knowledge of it.
Our body’s ability to accumulate fat or release fat is controlled by a single, powerful hormone. Insulin. When insulin is elevated we will be not only collecting new fat but we are completely unable to utilize our current fat for burning. That means we can not lose body fat because we are unable to use body fat. That’s what weight loss is all about, right? A body loses weight (fat) by using weight (fat). We must be able to tap into the fuel we’re carrying (body fat) and use it up to meet the energy demands of the day. Body fat doesn’t just disappear. There is no food…certainly no ‘good carb’ that burns up our body fat. No sir. We must be in a quite specific hormonal state to allow body fat burning to happen…..naturally.
Do you see why an individual exercising and exercising and exercising can still carry a spare tire around their waist? Insulin. Even when exercising, if insulin is elevated, that person will be burning through sugar, even wasting muscle because protein converts to glucose to meet sugar burning demands…..but not tapping into body fat.
We have become a nation of fat collectors rather than fat releasers. We are quite adept at accumulating fat but are lousy at being able to let it go. And it all comes down to that single hormone, insulin.
“A moment to the lips, a lifetime on the hips” (and belly).
Why? Why do we collect fat. And why around our middles? And why is it so hard to get rid of it?
When our fat regulating hormone, insulin, is low THAT’s when fat burning is a go.
Weight loss happens when insulin is suppressed.
“But I thought insulin was the blood sugar lowering hormone. My friend with diabetes uses insulin. I’ve heard kids have to give themselves insulin injections because they have Type 1 Diabetes. One of those is the “bad” diabetes. I’m not sure which one. But I don’t have diabetes. I don’t have a blood sugar problem. How can insulin be part of my weight loss struggle??”
More insulin production = More fat accumulation and less fat burning.
Less insulin production = Less fat accumulation and more fat burning.
“I want me some less insulin, please!”
Cool. Let’s get you there.
Weight Loss Lesson #1
SHIFT from wondering which are the “good carbs” for weight loss to knowing that, for weight loss, Insulin is Boss.
When it comes to food choices, choose foods “that don’t rile up the boss”, or that stimulate insulin the least. Right?
Are you ready for this?
Fat foods stimulate insulin the least. Repeat: Fat foods stimulate insulin the least.
Fat containing foods like eggs, butter, olive oil, salmon, cream, and nuts stimulate insulin very very little.
Protein foods stimulate insulin moderately.
Protein containing foods like chicken, beef, and tuna. Our biggest protein bang for the buck comes from animal sources. For those who shun animal sources and rely on food pairings to address protein needs? Rice and beans, for example? There is far, far more carbohydrate in rice and beans than protein. So those foods fall in the carbohydrate category.
Also, protein is a multi-taker. When we consume protein, the amino acids set about repairing and building. However, any excess protein beyond what our body needs at that time is converted to fuel, glucose. So, some describe protein as being able to behave in our body ‘like a carbohydrate’. All forms of carbohydrate breakdown into glucose, sugar fuel. Protein can do this too. This is why protein bars and protein powders and protein shakes often sabotage weight loss. They all, to some degree, stimulate insulin. Anyone shouting, “Crikey!” yet?
Carbohydrate foods stimulate insulin severely. Repeat: Carbohydrate foods stimulate insulin lots, the most, the greatest, the highest, the loudest, the…. you get the picture.
Carbohydrate containing foods like soda or juice, whole grain or white bread, candy or fruit, cereal or vegetables, rice, beans and everything in-between including dairy, like milk and cheese. There are far too many to mention. And this is where the ‘good carbs’ v. ’bad carbs’ battles erupt. How does one differentiate between the two? There is the organic argument. Surely if a carbohydrate food is organic it falls under the ‘good’ label. However, a cup of organic oatmeal stimulates insulin just as much as an equal amount of ‘inferior’ oatmeal. And both organic or not organic fruits and vegetables still have identical insulin triggering impact. We can choose ‘organic” for other reasons but it really doesn’t serve us for weight loss. How about the ‘nutrient-dense’ crusade? Nutrients are awesome. But eating to get all the nutrients possible leads many of us astray. Seems the more we focus on nutrition the more we pack on the pounds. We’ve been duped into believing we are nutrient deprived or nutrient deficient and that THAT is the cause of our obesity epidemic. The cause of our inability to lose weight isn’t about nutrients its about hormones. Again…..insulin.
Why are carbohydrates such insulin stimulators?
Fat breaks down into fatty acids. Fatty acids fortify every one of our trillions of cells. Fat is powerful clean-burning, long lasting fuel, too. Fat does not contribute any glucose to our bloodstream.
Protein breaks down into amino acids that build and repair. Often we consume more protein than we require so the extra is converted to fuel, glucose. This protein turned glucose does contributes to our blood sugar.
Carbohydrate breaks down into glucose. Every gram of any carbohydrate – pure, real, blessed, organic, whole, clean, ethical, complex, moral, colorful, good, bad etc….breaks down to glucose. Every gram of that glucose adds to the sugar in our blood. Carbohydrate is glucose is blood sugar.
Do you see why insulin is so involved when it comes to carbohydrate? Carbohydrate is blood sugar. Carbohydrate raises blood sugar by adding more glucose to our blood. Insulin lowers blood sugar. Anytime we reach for any kind of carbohydrate we are, unknowingly, stimulating the hormone responsible for our waist weight. Insulin’s street reputation is all about blood sugar. Most don’t know what it does behind the scenes. It’s underground role is fat storage. And growth. (And aging, but that’s for another post.) Speaking simply and plainly, we end up wearing our carbohydrate/blood sugar around our waist. Blood sugar, thanks to insulin, is shuttled into cells including adipose tissue cells around our middles where it’s converted to fuel to be stored for later use. Fuel stored for later use is body fat. And then that body fat become trapped. TRAPPED! Why is it trapped? Because our carbohydrate-focused diet has us in an almost continually elevated insulin state. When insulin is elevated, fat burning is down-regulated. AKA NOT losing weight. NOT burning body fat. Nope. Not happening.
This is why I cringe when someone asks, “What are the good carbs for weight loss?”
The answer is complicated, but simple, once you understand how it all works. Once you understand to stop looking at calories and focus instead on the fat storage hormone, insulin. For weight loss, insulin is boss.
So, to answer the question regarding good carbs for weight loss?
The good carbs for weight loss are the carbs that impact insulin the least.
The good carbs for weight loss are the carbs that contribute the least amount of glucose to your blood stream. So for those out there still struggling with “Is brown rice better than white rice?” “Is a sweet potato better than a white potato?” “Is an organic honey-sweetened muffin better than a sugar-sweetened version?” No. No. And, No. Not if weight loss is what you’re after.
Less Insulin. Less insulin. Less insulin.
Which translates to….
Less carbs. Less carbs. Less carbs.
Not so much “good carbs”, but Less Carbs.
What makes potato taste good? Sour Cream!
What makes pasta taste good? Alfredo Sauce!
What makes bread taste good? Butter or Olive Oil!
What makes berries taste good? Whipped Cream!
All the foods listed on the left? Carbohydrate. Blood sugar impacters. Insulin Stimulators.
All the food on the right? Fat. Blood sugar neutrals. Insulin suppressors.
When we shift from carbohydrate-focused eating to fat-focused eating not only do we get slimmer, pretty quickly, but cravings evaporate and we enjoy all of the richness and flavor our world has to offer. You’ll SHIFT from saying, “Bummer, I have to pass on the butter.” To “Bring it on!
Pass me the butter!”