Fad diets and cutting out entire food groups is not a lasting solution to weight loss and good health. Removing stubborn body fat takes real effort of changing regular eating habits and making a lifetime commitment to fitness. We have heard about carb-free diets, right-carb diets, low-carb lifestyles and other carb tricks ad nauseum. The importance of quality carbohydrates as a long term solution cannot be emphasized enough.
What Are Quality Carbohydrates?
Quality carbohydrates will help us feel fuller longer, and reduce dangerous insulin spikes, which lead to fat gain. Carbohydrates come in three main forms, long chains (good carbs) medium chains (poor carbs like refined flours and bread) and short chain (often called sugar). See, when short and medium chain carbohydrates enter the body it responds by producing insulin. Insulin also causes the production of another hormone called leptin. Leptin is also produced during stress. Leptin increases the body’s ability to store fat. Leptin also induces the production of ghrelin, the hormone that signals hunger. The vicious cycle begins.
To reduce insulin production, we shift the type of carbohydrates we eat to certain ones which to not induce a high insulin production response. Some of these also induce another hormone that signals satiety, or the feeling of being full.
Which carbohydrates are these? Surprisingly most of them do not come from grains. In fact, a recent studies suggests that modern varieties of wheat are bred to produce a protein called gliadin. This nasty little bugger actually induces more of the hormones ghrelin and leptin that signal hunger and fat storage.
The trick is, then, to switch to carbohydrate foods that the body uses for fuel and produces feelings of being full longer. This means switching out most grains with fruits and vegetables. But not just any fruits and vegetables, those which are low in sugar improve fat loss by reducing insulin response.
Long chain carbohydrates are good, medium and short chain ones cause weight gain. (Conversely, we should be eating medium chain fats (omega’s and others) and short chain proteins (essential amino acids) for best health and a high metabolism.)
Which Foods Should We Eat For High Quality Carbohydrates?
It may seem an easy choice and safe to assume breads are bad, whole grains are good. However, as discussed earlier, many grains now contain high amounts of the protein gliadin, which induces insulin response and weight gain. The simple answer isn’t a grain free diet either, since simple sugars cause the same problems. What are the top five food groups to eat?
Fruits – Not just any fruits as most are too high in simple sugars to work. Especially if they are cooked, canned or altered in any way. Opt for raw, frozen or fresh fruits. The best are berries such as blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and mulberries. Secondary on the list are apples. These fruits contain complex sugars plus extra fiber that counter balances their sugar content. Also, citrus fruits such as grapefruits and lemons, provided you don’t add sugar to them, are great for weight loss as they seem to boost metabolism. Try squeezing them into a cool glass of water in place of your morning coffee for an excellent pick-me-up. Eat all other fruits sparingly, perhaps once a week as a desert option.
Vegetables – Obviously some of these are out, especially pre-packaged and prepared or cooked. Root vegetables, such as yams and potatoes along with squashes (technically a fruit) are excellent cooked replacements for grains, provided you don’t add butter or sugar. Most raw leafy vegetables contain high amounts of fiber and water, and very low amounts of sugar. They make excellent courses of food that fill you up longer.
Seeds and Nuts – If you are desperate for your couscous and pasta, try replacing it with seeds and nuts instead. Going gluten and corn free may be your best option for weight loss. Seeds such as quinoa and buckwheat are higher in healthy proteins than grains and are low on the glycemic index.
Protein and Fat – one of the things a lot of people cut out when on a diet are proteins and fats due to their high caloric content. Be advised, this spells disaster. It’s better to eat balanced and provide the body with nutrient dense sources of energy, than starve it. Eat fats and proteins sparingly, but at every meal. Then, compensate for their caloric content by eating fewer calories at other times and exercising more. Opt for raw sources of fats, like nut oils, and stay away from processed vegetable and animal fats like cooking oils, butter, margarine, and lard. Eat lean meats with high sources of omega-fats like salmon, or lean meats such as chicken. Better yet, eat beans and nuts instead, when you can.