What is Nutrition Part Four- Carbohydrates

Do you really need to eat grains? The great carb debate. 

The final post in my What is Nutrition series is on the ever controversial carbohydrate. Low carb, high carb, no carb, why carbs? That could be a line in a Dr. Seuss book! 

My 9 year old daughter was telling me she was learning all about nutrition from her gym teacher and how frustrated she was about the information she is learning because she knew her truth to be something different. I asked her what he told her class - “Oh Mom” she said, “He said we should eat grains at every meal.” I smiled. “And he said we should stay away from fats and oils and I KNOW that’s not true!”  She didn’t dare say anything- she is not one to draw attention to herself but her and her celiac friend in class knew differently. I told her if she was tested on the information and she wanted to put her truth as her answers that I would support her 100%.  “REALLY? You don’t care if I get all the answers wrong?” Not one bit! She thought I lost my marbles. 

Now, back to carbs!  What are they exactly?

Carbohydrates = Fuel  

They make up about 2% of your body. 

They are found in grains, vegetables, fruits and sugar. They are the preferred fuel of your brain. How easy is it for you to think clearly when it is 2 or 3 pm and you are feeling that mid day slump? All you want to do is nap and you have at least a couple more hours before you can leave work. So you grab a pick me up- probably some kind of cracker or sweet treat to get you through. I would sometimes consume a whole box of shredded wheat crackers or thin wheat crackers (organic of course so it was okay- little did I know). Story of my life for many years. 

Grains are not a necessary component of your diet. You don’t need them to live. You may hear that you need to consume grains because that is where you get your B vitamins from and while it is true that grains are a good source of B vitamins which are important for many processes in the body processed grains aren’t going to give them to you. 

Here’s why. 

Lectins. Lectins are in all of our food but the ones in grains (and legumes) are hard for you to digest and they wreak havoc on the lining of your intestines. They can be a major cause of leaky gut (intestinal permeability) which is thought to be the main cause of autoimmune disease. This is not to say that immediately upon eating grains you would have a leaky gut. The body is pretty amazing at working to fix any damage we cause it. It is the daily consumption of them year after year that eventually causes the body to say “Hey, I have had enough of this. Immune system: ATTACK”

Carbohydrates in general are not bad for you. In fact, carbs do a lot of great things for your body

  • They provide fuel for the brain as stated before
  • They are a quick source of energy for the muscles
  • They regulate the rate at which your body uses fat and protein
  • They are a great source of fiber

There are two kinds of Carbs out there: Simple and Complex (refined and unrefined)

Simple                            

Refined: white sugar, juice, corn syrup

Unrefined: fruit, raw honey, maple syrup

Complex

Refined: processed foods like bread, pasta, white rice, and boxed anything

Unrefined: vegetables, legumes, dried beans, brown rice, properly prepared whole grains

Refined carbs are usually overly processed in a factory while unrefined are most like what nature gives us (there is very little if any processing done). 

In general your ideal consumption of carbs should be 40% or your daily intake in the form of unrefined and mostly complex carbohydrates. 

The problem with grains is that many of you are getting them from those refined and simple sources like the whole grain cereal, bread with more than five ingredients on the label (ideally bread should be water, flour, yeast, some type of sugar and salt), pasta and anything that comes in a box. 

For some people (absolutely no one with autoimmune disease) grains are okay to consume occasionally- they were never meant to be eaten at every single meal. They should, however, be purchased whole, soaked and sprouted or fermented (think sourdough). This process breaks down the lectins and helps the body digest them better. 

Note: when you have any autoimmune condition you are dealing with a whole different deck of cards and should consider an elimination diet before you consume any grains. 

So how do you get enough carbs in your diet if you aren’t eating cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta or rice with dinner?   You can get enough carbs in your diet from vegetables both non starchy and starchy. Keep the starchy carbs to about 15% of your total 40% intake for the day. 

What do you look for when choosing your veggies?

Ideally buying local, organic and seasonally when possible. This ensures that you will get the most nutrients from your choices provided you are digesting your food well. When this is not possible (who wants to wait until summer to buy broccoli?) Your best bet is to buy frozen veggies because they are frozen very soon after picking and their nutrient profile is greater than that of a fresh head of broccoli shipped from California to Nebraska.  I would recommend going to EWG.ORG and getting their latest list of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen for fruits and veggies.

Putting it all together.

These four “What is Nutrition?” posts are a basic guideline for anyone to follow. 

  • Try to have a balance of 30% proteins, 30% fats and 40% carbs remembering this is a general guideline and you can adjust according to your situation. 
  • Choose variety, choose locally, choose seasonally
  • Make sure you have clean, pure, filtered water to drink
  • Avoid refined and packaged foods
  • Include raw foods in each meal including raw dairy if you can get it and tolerate it (most Hashimoto’s folks won’t tolerate any dairy), sushi, fruits and veggies and even steak tartare
  • Include fermented foods daily like raw sauerkraut
  • Soak, sprout and dehydrate your nuts and seeds (they will digest better, but again, if you are autoimmune- nuts and seeds are not the best choice)
  • Soak, sprout and ferment those grains before consuming them if you tolerate them at all


Beat those carb cravings and start feeling better by working with me. With a six month package you will get twice monthly meetings with me by phone, skype or in person to help you get back on track with your health. 

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In health, 

Stephanie