Upgrade your carbohydrates to feel better

Upgrade your carbohydrates to feel better

You’re probably holding your breath and expecting me to reel off a list of foods I’d like you to cut out for the next month to help you achieve your 2017 health goals. Worry not.  I couldn’t think of anything worse to start the New Year.  Perhaps to your surprise (and hopefully delight) I won’t even be asking you to cut out any foods you don’t feel comfortable with.  At least not yet.  You may even find my advice peculiar to begin with.  I don’t want you to go on a juice fast. I don’t want you to starve.  And I don’t want you to cut out carbs.  Sounds great?  Brilliant.  We’re already off to a good start.

Right now, we’re living in the age of Paleodom.  After years of demonizing fats, they, alongside protein, are our new Kings.

I’m a big fan of eating carbs.  They’re clearly very satisfying, very moreish and very misunderstood.  Especially when it comes to weight loss, detoxing and plating up a dish that’s worthy of an Instagram like.  If I were to write a book on the history of trendy eating, it would tell a story that resembles the rise and fall of great empires. We love to hail the health benefits of one macronutrient over the other.   

Bare Biology Better in 30 health Feel better with upgrading your carbohydrates Kay Ali Nutritional Therapist Photo by Brooke Lark

Photograph by Brooke Lark.

Right now, we’re living in the age of Paleodom.  After years of demonizing fats, they, alongside protein, are our new Kings.  On the other hand, carbohydrates are the lowly paupers that no one wants to touch.  Apparently, all carbs make us fat, give us diabetes and bad skin.  In the world of social media, we’re constantly bombarded with images of scantily clad females and super buff men showing off how much steak and eggs they ate for breakfast.  And they really do look great.  But, while they may look like the image of health, what those photos don’t tell us is how well they’re detoxing, how often they’re going to the loo and just how much longer they’ve got before developing kidney stones (I’d bet good money they’re not passing their stools everyday).

Why you should eat more carbs when starting a detox

I might sound a little bit melodramatic but there are real health risks involved with isolating carbohydrates from your diet, and infrequent bowel movements is one of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to spark a revolt against fats and protein. You absolutely should be eating good sources of them too (we’ll talk more about that next week).  But, if you’re trying to detox and lose weight so that your insides look just as great as your outward appearance (after all, isn’t optimum health the ultimate goal?), you really should consider the carbs you eat first.

A healthy gut makes lighter work for our liver – something we all want after a month of heavy drinking.

This might sound crazy, but a good detox plan should start with your bowels.  Not your liver.  Scientists think of our guts as part of our outer skin; it’s a large part of our body that determines just how many toxins we absorb.  It sounds odd, but consider the route your lunch takes once it’s eaten, broken down and finally eliminated.  The nutrients from your meal can’t get into your body unless they pass through the lining of your intestines, a.k.a the gatekeeper.  It keeps nasties out and lets the good stuff in.  Therefore, a healthy gut makes lighter work for our liver – something we all want after a month of heavy drinking.  However, that’s not the only reason why we want to pay our bowels more attention.  While your liver works very hard to break down toxins, it’s primarily your bowels that remove them.  So there’s not much point supporting your liver if you’re not sitting on the loo at least once a day.  And it’s carbohydrates that help to make that happen.

Bare Biology Better in 30 health Feel better with upgrading your carbohydrates Kay Ali Nutritional Therapist Pizza photograph by David Nuescheler

Photograph by David Nuescheler.

I’d love to tell you that this means you can carry on scoffing cakes, crisps and pizza everyday.  Not quite.  Put simply, carbohydrates are a medley of sugars, starches and fibre; different types contain varying amounts.  It’s the fibrous carbs like beans, lentils and vegetables that you want to increase in your diet.  The goal is to crowd out the sugary, refined types of carbs such as cakes, sweets and crisps with the less sugary, wholesome types by day 30.

Here’s the plan:

This week I’d like you to focus on upgrading the carbohydrates you eat.  Nothing else.  Simple.

  • Start from where you are. Maintain your current diet, but swap the foods detailed below.  Be realistic with your goals.  You might not want to swap them all at once.  Start with where you feel most comfortable, but aim to make weekly increases.  By day 30 you want to have upgraded to all of the suggestions below.
  • Start low and go slow. After a month of pure indulgence, you might be tempted to jump in headfirst.  Don’t.  Eating too much fibre too quickly can cause excessive bloating and gas.  You’ll feel horrid and blame me.  Aim for one quarter of your plate to be a fibrous source.  For example, most people will serve an entire plate of rice.  Rather, we should serve only one quarter. The rest can be made up of vegetables and protein.

Drinking enough water, while eating more fibre, is important for maintaining easy evacuation.

  • Aim for vegetables with each meal.
  • Ensure you’re drinking enough water. The ultimate goal is about 8 glasses. However, again, you want to start from where you are and aim for a realistic goal so it’s something you can maintain.  If you’re drinking just 2 glasses a day you might want to start off by increasing this to 4, eventually working up to 8 glasses by day 30.  Drinking enough water, while eating more fibre, is important for maintaining easy evacuation.

Carbohydrate upgrades for beginners

If you eat:

Switch to:

White bread, pasta, rice and potatoes

Wholemeal bread, wholegrain pasta and rice, sweet potatoes, oats, beans, lentils and chickpeas

Refined table sugar

Honey, xylitol, stevia

Jams, marmalades

Nut butters, honey

Fizzy drinks, fruit juices

Fresh smoothies

Chocolate

70% dark chocolate

Sweets, cakes

Fresh fruit

0-5 vegetables a day

5-7 vegetables a day

Alcohol

Maximum of 3 glasses of red wine per week

Carbohydrate upgrades for the nutrition savvy

If you eat:

Switch to:

Wholemeal bread and wholegrain pasta and rice

Gluten free alternatives. Or switch to beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and buckwheat instead.

Fresh fruit

Low sugar fruits e.g. apples, berries and pears

Plenty of vegetables

Fermented vegetables e.g. sauerkraut

Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Sprouted nuts and seeds by soaking them over night

7 vegetables a day

10 vegetables a day

Alcohol

Going dry for 4 weeks!

Shopping list suggestions for high fibre food

  • Jerusalem artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus
  • Spinach, watercress, kale, rocket
  • Chia seeds, flaxseeds
  • Oats, all variety of beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat
  • Fennel, ginger and peppermint are super for reducing excessive gas

Kay’s suggestion: Try this great healthy carbohydrate recipe idea for breakfast.

bare biology Better in 30 Kay Ali Head of Nutrition and Nutritional Therapist

Kay Ali is our Better in 30 Nutritional Therapist.  She’s put together a food plan that’s so easy, you won’t believe it.  She is Head of Nutrition at Bare Biology.  She has over ten years experience working in the health industry and is a Senior Associate Member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Main photograph by Stefan Johnson.
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