As part of the ‘managing your macros’ series discussed over the last few months, this month I’ll be taking a look at carbohydrates (carbs) which seem to be the current macronutrient in the firing line! Fashionable diets such as the ketogenic diet or caveman/paleo have aided this demonisation. With an increase in things like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer, there has been a focus on the devastating effects the typical western diet, or SAD (standard American diet) is having on the population’s health.
“What’s the difference between simple carbohydrates and complex ones?”
The recently coined phrase ‘Carbotarian’, relates to those who live on ‘simple’ carbohydrates (carbs) such as rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, pies, cakes, cereals and biscuits. These are fast release carbs which easily spike our blood sugar. However, complex carbs are an essential part of a balanced diet and contain things like soluble fibres required for optimal digestive function and a healthy gut microbiome. They still turn into glucose in the body but supply a much slower release of energy and don’t cause spikes in our blood sugar making for much more regulated mood and energy levels.
“How do I possibly survive without my comfort foods?” I hear you cry.
Well, for a start, if you try decreasing the simple carbs and replacing those with other healthier options, you should notice a difference in energy levels, which in turn should encourage you to continue with the changes you’ve made. This can be done over a period of time so as not to overwhelm; I call it the ‘transition’ period.
As with all dietary choices and the impact on our health, it is extremely personalised. What works for one person may do the opposite for the next.
We are living in a time where precision nutrition is becoming more prevalent. With organisations like ZOE and the ZOE app, it is possible to understand our own biology and how our bodies respond to certain foods. Continuous blood glucose monitors are readily available to us to track our glucose levels with ease, allowing for a deeper and more intimate understanding of our own individual nutritional needs.
Some simple carb swaps
White potatoes – sweet potatoes, cauliflower mash, other roast veg.
Flours – coconut flour, ground almonds, buckwheat, milled flax with seeds: pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, hemp or chia for bread.
Rice or couscous – cauliflower and/or other veg pulsed in the food processor.
Pasta – made by putting courgettes or carrots though a spiralizer; if you don’t have one you could use a peeler and make ribbons, or most supermarkets sell ready-made bags. Edamame, black bean or lentil pasta.
Cakes and biscuits – have as a treat and use the above-mentioned flour alternatives, coconut oil and a decreased amount of sweetener; xylitol, stevia, honey or maple syrup.
Cereals – smoothies, berries, eggs with flax bread (see recipe). Try to think about breakfast as any other meal; cereals are highly processed, have very little protein and don’t keep you feeling full for long, setting you up for a day of craving and snacking.
Try and avoid carb-heavy sugary snacks as these will only increase symptoms and tiredness.
I often tweak a recipe slightly to suit my tastebuds by adding a little more garlic, lemon juice, something spicy or an extra glug of olive oil!
Linseed paleo/keto bread
If you are gluten and wheat free and missing bread this is a great alternative:
250gms of milled linseed (mill in a Nutribullet in two lots until fine and it-starts castling up the edges).
50gms sunflower seeds
20gms pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add ALL the water quickly stirring until it is absorbed. Make the dough into a loaf shape without kneading, just shape it. Put into a bread tin lined with lard or coconut oil.
Bake at 230º for 45 minutes, then cover just the top of the bread (not the whole tin) in foil and cook for another 30 minutes.
This should give you a nice dense loaf, if it is a bit moist to make sandwiches you can have it as toast. This recipe may need trying a couple of times as I find it varies slightly depending on the individual oven.
Simple snack swaps
A handful of berries.
Carrot and veg sticks with hummus.
Lightly toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds tossed in soy sauce.
Celery and nut butter dotted with raisins (frogs on a log for kids!).
Trail mix: nuts, seeds, goji berries, seaweed.
A couple of squares of dark chocolate (74% or more).
If you are interested in learning more about the science nutrition group ZOE and the ZOE app founded by Dr Tim Spector, Jonathan Wolf and George Hadjigeorgiou visit the website at: https://joinzoe.com.
For information on continuous glucose monitoring see https://www.freestylelibre.co.uk .
For some great gluten/grain/dairy free recipes check out christinebailey.co.uk.
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