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What's wrong with carbs, anyway?

post #1 of 46
Thread Starter 

I've been reading some of the posts on here and I've found something interesting. It seems that most of you have something against carbs. Like eating no grain, at all, or at least very little. I've also got the newest Eat This, Not That book that I bought on a whim that seems to have a similar mindset. I almost threw the book across the room when a meal that consisted of some kind of meat and a bunch of veggies was touted as being the perfect meal. I don't understand this, at all. If you look at any food guide pyramid, grains make up the base, they're what we're supposed to eat  the most of. Most books on nutrition say that between 50%-60% of our calories should come from carbs. And let's not forget the fact that the only thing our brains use for food is glucose - which our bodies synthesize from carbs. So I really don't understand this mindset of grains and carbs being the enemy. Personally, I NEED my complex carbs. My parents and I went on this low-carb diet once (it wasn't touted as being a low carb diet, but it was very restrictive and there wasn't a single grain product to be found, the only carbs on the plan were the lactose in the cheese.) I felt horrible on it. Tired, lethargic, crabby, cranky, and eventually down-right depressed. I eventually caved and had a soda - my best friend  thought my problem was caffeine withdrawals and made me drink a Pepsi. I almost immediately felt better. For the longest time I agreed with my friend that it was the caffeine, until I went cold-turkey off of caffeine a few months ago with no problems except a headache for a few days and one day of slight dizziness (the dizziness may or may not have actually been allergies making it so I couldn't breathe.). My problem with the diet was my blood sugar bottoming out and my brain essentially starving to death. I've discovered that I can go meatless with no adverse effects. In fact I feel much better without meat. But giving up complex carbs makes me very sick. I can't be alone in this.

post #2 of 46

I'm with you! I think this whole "carbs are evil" movement is misguided. Or, at least, it doesn't work for me. 

post #3 of 46

I think that people's body's work the best on different diets. Personally, I do better when I'm eating lower grain and higher fats (avocado, coconut oil, etc.). I've been on a lot of different types of eating over my lifetime (SAD, Weight Watchers, Macrobiotic, straight vegetarian...) and eating a lower grain diet has helped my weight drop, and I've noticed other benefits like reduced menstrual cramps and less arthritis type symptoms, especially in my creaking knees. I also find that my blood sugar actually feels more stable when I'm eating things like nuts as snacks. 

 

I'd also point out that the Food Pyramid is disputed (in fact it's in the process of being revamped), and that most nutritional advice that comes from our government, like much else that comes from our government, is politically driven. This isn't to say that there isn't good stuff, but I do think we have to always keep that in mind when we take what "they" say as golden. 

post #4 of 46

Why would you think grains are the only carbs?

 

What do you think you'd get from grains that you can't get more of from vegetables or fruit or meat? Even that Pepsi you drank had fructose not bran.

 

 

I personally wanted to reduce my sugar addiction and have found it far easier to avoid grains and sugar than to avoid just sugar. When I experimented with eliminating sugar from my diet, I thought it was impossible to have that kind of will power. When I'm not eating grains I don't need to have will power to not eat sugar. I can even completely and utterly blow the diet like on a holiday and have no problems going right back to it the next day. (Mind you, I'm going to do less simple carb eating even on special occasions, the last time I had some cookies it made my skin crawl, I had the urge to urinate with an almost empty bladder, I had trouble getting to sleep, and my eczema flared up as did thrush-like symptoms).

post #5 of 46

If you are interested in the science behind the low-carb idea and the history behind the current nutritional recommendations, I suggest the book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.  It's lengthy and very thorough.  There are also some youtube videos of him giving lectures that cover some of the ideas in his books.

post #6 of 46

Here are a few blogs that can explain all of the details:

 

http://perfecthealthdiet.com/

http://coolinginflammation.blogspot.com/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/

http://thehealthyskeptic.org/

http://www.moodcure.com/

 

Very, very simply, many of us believe most grains are not fit for regular human consumption because they contain anti-nutrients and wreak havoc on our health. Also, grains are essentially sugar which does nothing good for our health. Many of us are dealing with health issues that a high-carb diet exacerbates, as most bad bacteria like sugar (not all.) Finally, there is nothing a grain has that meat, veggies, and fruit do not have more of in a less toxic package. Look at WHY the government is recommended grains... hand in hand with big-ag.

post #7 of 46
Thread Starter 

Stacy - I agree that different people's bodies work best on different diets. I can understand that. It just seems so counter-intuitive to me to cut out grains, probably because that is what my body needs the most. I'm also a bit biased due to the fact that my uncle was on Atkins and that seriously contributed to his death. As for the food guide pyramid being disputed, well, I personally don't believe much of anything the FDA or USDA tells me. I know that they have a political agenda that has nothing to do with actually keeping the American people healthy. But even Food Pyramids that are not put out by the FDA or USDA have grains as the base. I have never seen any food pyramid that did NOT have grains as the base.

 

Sapphire - Name another source of COMPLEX carbs - NOT sugars. BTW Pepsi is made with HFCS, in other words while it may be fructose, it still comes from grain. Not saying that it was the best thing to be eating (or rather drinking) but it did give me the jolt of sugar I needed. There were not NEARLY enough carbs in the foods that diet had me eating to sustain me, so I got sick. Once I got off of that ridiculous diet and started eating grains, again, I stopped having problems.

 

Womenswisdon - I may see if my library has that book. Since I know that my body does NOT handle low-carb well, I wouldn't buy it. That could never be a lifestyle for me. But I don't mind reading different points of view - as long as I'm not being preached to.

 

Honestly, if low carb works for you, I have no problem with it. It doesn't work for me. Personally, my body does best on a diet based on complex carbs - whole grains. Meat is what makes me feel bloated, gassy and nauseous  - and hungry again a short while later. Which is a kind of bizarre feeling, nauseous from the meat sitting in my stomach, and yet ravenous for something else. Give me equal calories in whole grains and I can go hours before I'm hungry again.

post #8 of 46

Your body does not handle low carb well (and I don't really know what you mean by "low carb, so I *could* be off base here) because you're addicted to carbohydrates. It took me two weeks to shake the addiction, during which time I felt like CRAP. Afterwards, I felt better than I had felt in ... well in forever. My GERD went away, I wasn't achy, my allergy like symptoms went away etc etc. I started losing weight almost effortlessly. Weight loss wtihout counting any calories, I might add.

 

The carbohydrate amount we consume in the standard american diet is deadly, frankly speaking. 100 - 150 grams a day which is easily obtainable by eating vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts, fats and some dairy is a good maintenance amount. The SAD is at least twice that.

 

Look, the book Good Calories, Bad Calories is a very dense, complex book and I do not recommend it for the general public. Taubes just put out a book that is aimed at the general public rather than health professionals, and I suggest that one, especially if you want to understand the science, but do not want to have to read a tome of a scientific publication.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307272702/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=1400040787&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0TYG9TPMKFVC2W6NWTEA

 

Here is a link to a youtube of a lecture of a pediatric endocrinologist explaining why sugar is a really bad idea for the human body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

 

This is a fantastic lecture put on by Taubes, giving brief highlights of what he goes into depth in his books.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4362041487661765149#

 

The videos take a few hours of your time, but you *really* need to take that time to begin to understand this stuff. Nutrition is currently being turned on it's head.

post #9 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabesmc View Post

Sapphire - . BTW Pepsi is made with HFCS, in other words while it may be fructose, it still comes from grain.

You still used fructose to start feeling better, which means your problem was that you needed more carbs in general (was the diet induction-phase Atkins out of curiosity?) not that you needed carbs from grains.

 

Now, your experience is that you stay full on whole grain meals and feel hungry on high-fat meals (utterly fascinating, if we could narrow down our biological differences we could make a fortune!), but that has nothing to do with feeling good after drinking Pepsi after being on a low-carb diet.

 

Off topic some more: Do/have you tracked calories at all? I've found that not snacking reduced my calorie intake by 500-1000 calories or so. Did you find a similar effect when you cut out the food that made you nosh?

post #10 of 46


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabesmc View Post

Sapphire - . BTW Pepsi is made with HFCS, in other words while it may be fructose, it still comes from grain.

You still used fructose to start feeling better, which means your problem was that you needed more carbs in general (was the diet induction-phase Atkins out of curiosity?) not that you needed carbs from grains.

 

Now, your experience is that you stay full on whole grain meals and feel hungry on high-fat meals (utterly fascinating, if we could narrow down our biological differences we could make a fortune!), but that has nothing to do with feeling good after drinking Pepsi after being on a low-carb diet.

 

Off topic some more: Do/have you tracked calories at all? I've found that not snacking reduced my calorie intake by 500-1000 calories or so. Did you find a similar effect when you cut out the food that made you nosh?


I am really curious about what sort of low carb diet you were following, too. It could explain a lot.

 

I felt not necessarily hungry but anxious and as if I hadn't eaten anything for the first couple of weeks while getting rid of carbs as my main source of fuel. I kept wanting to eat, so I totally get that part of it. There is a big difference between that sort of anxious omg, I have to eat feeling, and actual hunger though. The latter, come to find out, was part of my insulin resistance, which I didn't know I had.

 

 


Edited by geekgolightly - 1/9/11 at 7:35am
post #11 of 46

I dodnt want to go grain free as my religion says grain is for man, but when I cut it out, my skin cleared up, and my lyme disease is more tollerable.

post #12 of 46
Thread Starter 

Sigh. I have no idea what kind of low-carb diet it was. I do know that it was not Atkins. It was somethign my dad found, quite possible online. It was not one of those diets with a list of what you could and couldn't eat and let you make your own decisions. It was one of those diets that told you exactly what to eat at each meal. You could have as much as you wanted of those foods, but it was very specific. Sapphire, I don't know what you mean when you ask me if  I noticed less snacking and therefore a reduction of calories when I cut out the food that made me nosh. When do you think I cut out food that makes me nosh? As for me feeling hungry on high-fat meals, I don't - I feel hungry again shortly after eating meat. I use copious amounts of olive oil and decent to excessive amounts of cheese when I cook. I do NOT eat a low fat diet. For all I know what I'm calling hunger is just my body's way of trying to deal with the nausea. And Geekgolightly, I'm not talking about being nauseous and hungry if I go on a meat-heavy diet. I'm talking about feeling that way after having meat as PART of a meal. With carbs, without carbs, grain, no grain, doesn't matter. I put meat in my body, my body tries very hard to reject it.

post #13 of 46

I think that diets that tell you what to eat and when probably aren't ideal. Cutting out grains and going *essentially* low carb (that's only as compared to the standard american diet) isn't really low carb. It appears that this is how most bodies are able to maintain hormone homeostasis. (hormones concerning hunger drives and metabolism).

 

Everyone is different, but I think that eating liberal amounts of vegetables, moderate mounts of fruits, meats (or other protein that are low carb), fats, and nuts with some dairy works for most people to regulate cell metabolism and fat regulation.

post #14 of 46
Quote:
Originally Posted by wannabesmc View Post

Sigh. I have no idea what kind of low-carb diet it was. I do know that it was not Atkins. It was somethign my dad found, quite possible online. It was not one of those diets with a list of what you could and couldn't eat and let you make your own decisions. It was one of those diets that told you exactly what to eat at each meal. You could have as much as you wanted of those foods, but it was very specific. Sapphire, I don't know what you mean when you ask me if  I noticed less snacking and therefore a reduction of calories when I cut out the food that made me nosh. When do you think I cut out food that makes me nosh?

High fat meats? Those make you need to eat again even while you're feeling so full that it hurts?

 

Basically for me, with grains, I'd eat a lot of small meals, like 10 meals at 300 calories a day, and go to bed thinking I could do with another snack. Whereas without grains, I'll have two meals at 1000 calories, and be fine.
 

post #15 of 46

OP: The other posters are more knowledgeable about this than I am, but one thing in your posts keeps jumping out at me. You keep equating complex carbohydrates with whole grains. What about vegetables and beans?

post #16 of 46
That's a really important point. Vegetables and beans ARE mostly carbohydrate. There are four macronutrients of which all our food is made-- protein, fat, carbohydrate, and water. Vegetables do contain some fat, and some protein, but they are largely carbohydrate. Other sources of "complex" carbohydrate-- by which we mean starch-- would include potatoes, turnips, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and peas-- none of which come from grains.

I would encourage you to check out not the trendy weight-loss-oriented low-carb stuff, but to instead look at books that focus on Traditional Foods. Nourishing Traditions is the classic a lot of people will mention, but I'd also recommend Real Food by Nina Planck. These are a good introduction to what may be misguided in how we prepare and eat grain-based foods. I myself do not eat a low-carb diet. I do eat a diet very low in grain-based foods, though.

In particular, the evidence against white, refined grains (like white flour, white rice, pearled barley, etc.) and the evidence against refined sweeteners are fairly clear and undeniably persuasive. A little reading about glycemic index can be a big help in understanding this.

http://www.gnolls.org/905/mechanisms-of-sugar-addiction-or-why-youre-addicted-to-bread/

As for cutting out grains entirely, this is a good perspective:
http://www.grainfreeliving.com/foodpyramid

This is a very huge idea, if you're very deeply invested in the mainstream advice about nutrition. I remember throwing nourishing traditions down and swearing to DH that "these traditional food people are lunatics." But I kept on reading. And learning. And then I gave up the sugar and the flour for eighteen months-- long enough to ride out the breaking of the addiction.

Anyway, I'm just saying don't dismiss this as quackery simply because it's unfamiliar. What we don't know about food and nutrition could fill a 10 gig hard drive.
post #17 of 46

I can't attest to what works for other people, but I know that I function much better on a grain free, sugar free diet.

 

I have a laundry list of things that get better when I do:

 

My migraines go away

My joints stop hurting

My sinuses clear up

I retain less fluid

I'm less cranky

My vision clears

My mind is less fuzzy

I can think clearly

I remember things better

I have energy and motivation

I loose weight

I'm not ravenously hungry all the time

I don't think about food all the time

I ovulate (and got pregnant, which I was told would probably never happen)

I wake up refreshed, and don't feel like I need to go back to bed for a few hours

My blood pressure drops

My good cholesterol goes up and my bad cholesterol goes down

 

It seems counter intuitive to me as well, that I can eat meat and cheese and put cream in my coffee but I can't eat brown rice or even an apple without feeling like I'm hung over the next day. My endocrinologist told me that it's not unusual, and that some people can eat grains and fruit, and others can't.

 

So while it works for me, it doesn't really surprise me that it doesn't for you. It doesn't work for my husband either.

 

-porenn

post #18 of 46
Thread Starter 

Porenn - most of what you've described as what happens when you go grain free is what happens to me when I go meat free. I don't really know about blood pressure or cholesterol or ovulation, but the rest of it is how I feel going veg. And my blood pressure dropping would be a very BAD thing, anyway. I have low blood pressure to begin with. Oh well. If it works for you, great. It really doesn't work for me.

 

Sapphire - the only time I ever eat until I'm so full it hurts is Thanksgiving and X-mas. I tend to fill up to overflowing on stuffing, tossed salad, cucumbers, a bit of cranberries a roll and a serving of corn for Thanksgiving. X-mas menu varies according to who's hosting that year, but I still fill up on the carbs and veggies. Yes, I go back for way too much dessert a couple hours later, but that's because it's there and it's yummy - not because I'm hungry. (Has anyone else ever noticed that they seem to have a second stomach reserved for cheesecake and pumpkin pie? It's like "I am so full I couldn't eat another bite...ooh! Cheesecake!")

 

One other thing I noticed. I did not watch what I ate or exercise at all in December. I still managed to maintain my weight despite the holiday parties. It was a weight that I'm not even close to being happy with, but at least it didn't go up. Eat a hamburger, though and my weight goes up the next morning - every frickin time.

 

post #19 of 46

Yes to all of it. Grains give me inflammation but my family eats them in moderation.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluebirdmama1 View Post

I dodnt want to go grain free as my religion says grain is for man, but when I cut it out, my skin cleared up, and my lyme disease is more tollerable.

post #20 of 46

I wouldn't say "most" of the people here on MDC are anti-carb.  In fact, I wouldn't even say that there's very many here at all - if any.  Anti-grain though is very different than anti-carb. 

 

Personally, I have PCOS with IR.  What that means for me is that my body produces lots of insulin in response to my food, and my insulin receptors are blind to it.  So my body keeps producing insulin.  That excess of insulin has a LOT of very negative effects on my body.  When I'm eating grain regularly (even if that's just 1 serving/day), my blood sugar is whacky, I gain weight, I have cravings, I'm lethargic, I snack constantly, etc.  When I remove grain from my diet, my blood sugar, my moods, my weight all stabilize.  I don't feel like I need a nap half an hour after getting up.  I can walk by the bakery without needing to go inside.  All in all, my life is much better without grains.  However, that's not the same thing as without carbs.  We get a CSA box delivered weekly with lots of fruits and veggies - at this time of year it's mostly greens.  We have to work to get through them all.  Every single item in that box is carbs.  Sometimes that includes potatoes or sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, etc.  All of which are starchier carbs.  I tolerate those just fine because I'm not eating them every day.  I can have beans a few times a week without any problem.  I can even tolerate non-grain grains in small amount - like wild rice or buckwheat, if I eat them whole and not refined.  My life is not devoid of carbs just because I don't eat grains.  It's devoid of grains.  And as a pp pointed out, there is no nutrient (macro or micro) contained in grains that cannot be found in another food.  I am far healthier eating a bowl full of sauteed leafy greens and mushrooms as my carb side dish than if I ate a bowl of rice with my dinner. 

 

I'll also reiterate what another pp pointed out - the detox period from a carb heavy SAD to a grain-free or "low-carb" diet is 1-2 weeks.  That's how long it takes for your body to flush out all the nasties, and re-regulate itself.  My general recommendation for people who want to try it is to commit to it for 3 weeks.  That gets you past the detox period, usually into feeling better, and it also has the benefit of forming a habit, at which point the entire WOE (way of eating) becomes far easier.

 

I will say though that eating grain-free is very difficult in this society because of the propensity of grains.  The hyper-dependence upon them.  The SAD includes grains for breakfast (cereal), grains for lunch (sandwich) and grains for dinner (pasta, rice, tortilla, bread, etc.).  It is very difficult to separate our dependence upon them from a need for them.  And ultimately it all boils down to big business.  It's all about money. 

 

All that being said, there is nothing that says that you can't eat them yourself.  And nothing to say that you can't even be reasonably healthy while eating them.  But I do suggest you read the Nina Planck book that was recommended, and learn about proper preparation of whole grains, so that your body can utilize them to the best of it's ability.  Because regardless of how yummy products made with refined grains may be - they are not healthy food to be basing a diet on, and no responsible medical professional would disagree with that. 

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