No carb, low carb and slow carb - what's the deal with carbs?

There is a lot of confusion around carbohydrates, or carbs for short. Low carb diets, such as the Keto diet are all the rage, but some people are not getting good results with it. What’s up with that? I think one of the reasons is that they are missing a crucial point when it comes to carbs.

In this blog post, I will discuss why eating slow carbs is a better goal than going low or no carbs. I will also list different categories of carbs and how much to aim for. And lastly, I’ll briefly talk about how to put together the perfect meal.

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Why eating slow carbs is a better goal than going low or no carbs

Carbs have been vilified in the last few years and wholly been blamed for EVERYTHING. Low carb diets, such as the keto diet are all the rage, and some people have wonderful results with it. However, why are others not doing well on keto and/or losing weight? I believe that one of the problem is that they are focusing on the protein and the healthy fats, but they are completely missing the carbs. Wait what??? Yes, you heard me right. They are missing carbs, in this case vegetables!!! Vegetables are carbs, my friends. Have you seen keto recipes shared on Facebook, and it’s usually a meaty-cheesy dish with nothing green in sight? Yea, me too - all the time. People who predominantly eat meat and fat are missing out on essential nutrients, which are almost exclusively found in good-quality carbs, such as veggies, beans, fruit, nuts and seeds. Vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and also fiber. The fiber will help slow down the absorption of the food so your blood sugar levels don’t get spiked. Hence the term ‘slow carb.’ They also contain special compounds called phytonutrients/phytochemicals, which have special healing properties. And unless you are going to eat the brains, liver, kidney and bones of animals, you need to eat carbohydrates. For that very reason. So instead of going low carb, shoot for slow carb, because they are slowly absorbed by your body and therefore affect your blood sugar and insulin levels in a different way.

Different categories of carbs

Let’s look at some of the different carbs and discuss how much you should eat. The first category to focus on are slow-burning, low-glycemic veggies. These are crucial and you should load up your plate with these. Within this category are broccoli, asparagus, spinach, chard, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, celery, onions, bell peppers, zucchini and bok choi, for example. Eat these veggies as much as you want. As I said, load up on them. They are so healthy and good for you.

The next category should be consumed in moderation. These are the whole, gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, brown, black and wild rice, and buckwheat, for example. Up to half a cup per day is ok, however, in the beginning, when you first start to change your lifestyle for the better, you might want to avoid these altogether. Also in this category are beans, for example chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, split peas, and soy beans. Beans are high in phytonutrients and fiber. They slow down the release of sugars into your blood stream and thereby prevent excess insulin release. The same general rule of thumb applies - up to half a cup per day, but you might want to avoid them at first. Furthermore, we have berries in this second category. You have probably heard many times that berries are high in these phytonutrients that are super-beneficial to the body. Examples are blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries. They are all low-glycemic (meaning have a low sugar content), and the richer the color, the more nutritional medicine is in them. Eat as much as half a cup per day. Ideas for how to consume them are: adding them to a protein smoothie, to a colorful salad, or topping a chia pudding with them. Frozen berries are a great option for smoothies and are often less expensive than fresh berries. Other fruit that is also ok in moderation are stone fruit, such as peaches, nectarines and plums. They are full of fiber and medicinal benefits and the suggested daily intake is one piece per day. The same goes for apples and pears.

The last carbs category are starchy, high-glycemic veggies, as well as high-sugar fruit. Examples for the veggies are winter squashes, peas, potatoes, corn and root veggies such as beets. Since these veggies contain a lot of starch, they raise your blood sugar levels more quickly, so eating them in limited amounts is a good idea. A health tip is to eat these starchy veggies together with other foods that will lower the overall glycemic index. For example, if you have potatoes, make sure you add a few veggies from the first category, such as broccoli and/or spinach. And high-sugar fruit, such as all melons, grapes and pineapple should be limited to a half a cup treat per week (!). They have a high glycemic index as well, which can spike blood sugar levels.

And just to be crystal-clear, stay away from simple, processed carbs, such as breads, pastries, cookies, crackers, etc. Anything processed is a ‘no’ when you’re first trying to stabilize your blood sugar levels and you want to reverse your prediabetes. I also recommend you stay away from gluten, as it is highly inflammatory, as well as from dried fruit which is usually very high in sugar. By cutting out those simple carbs like bread, pastries, cookies, crackers, you will automatically eliminate a lot of gluten. So that’s a two for one which is always nice, isn’t it?

So what does this mean when you’re putting together a meal?

Ideally, you want to get some carbs, some protein and some healthy fats into each meal. Regardless of whether you are keto, paleo, vegan or whatever, you want to load up on the slow-burning, low glycemic veggies. Half of your plate should be filled with a variety of these. Then add some protein – meat, fish, beans or eggs – about a quarter of your plate. And the last quarter of the plate goes to healthy fats. This could be fish, nuts, seeds, or avocados, for example. It’s really not that difficult once you understand what you can eat and how much of it. Another little pro tip is to use herbs, fresh or dried, and spices, to make your meals super-delicious.

If you have prediabetes, high blood sugar levels or are dealing with insulin resistance, give this a consideration. For direct help, join my tribe and get a free ‘Ditch Simple Carbs’ guide. You will be the first to receive healthy recipes, as well as free workouts and tips to deal with stress - all necessary components of dealing with prediabetes.

The content in this blog post has been made available for information and educational purposes only. This content is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. Always work with a qualified healthcare practitioner when making changes to your diet, exercise routine, medication or overall healthcare plan.