The idea that grains were the most important food on the planet has been around for thousands of years, up until 1956 when the USDA created “The Basic Four.” The dietary plan that made up the Basic Four (vegetable and fruits, milk and dairy, meat and animal proteins, and starches) quickly conquered nutritional thought around the world. Cereal grains dramatically shifted from a place of honor and respect to almost taboo. To make matters worse, cereal grains became confused with breakfast cereals composed mostly of refined grains laden with sugar and other additives.
The traditional unyeasted sourdough breads made from organic stoneground flours transitioned to refined and enriched baked flour products. Both unrefined and refined grains became grouped together as “carbs” and because of the lack of nutrition gained from modern refinement techniques, they both became known as “fillers” that were simply calories devoid of any nutrients.
Contrary to popular belief, protein is not our principal nutrient. Glucose is our main nutrient and nourishes every cell in the body. Healthy glucose comes from grains, beans, and starchy vegetables which are complex carbohydrates (or polysaccharides). These complex carbohydrates slowly breakdown into glucose, a monosaccharide. The fiber in these foods guides them through the entire digestive process, allowing them to be absorbed in the intestines in a healthy way.
On the other hand, simple sugars and refined carbohydrates are absorbed directly into the blood without going through the entire digestive process. This immediate absorption creates an acidic condition in the blood, where we lose vitamins and minerals (especially calcium) in attempts to neutralize the acidity. It is, therefore, very important to separate the difference between sugar and refined carbs from complex carbohydrates. After separating the two, it should become clear that a low carbohydrate diet is not good for your health because of the lack of the most integral pieces of your diet being restricted with a blanket term like, “no carbs.”
For many people the good carbs are no longer a major part of their diet. This is why we recommend reintroducing healthy, complex carbohydrates in the form of grains, whole grain products, beans, and starchy vegetables as opposed to trying to avoid refined or processed grain products.
If you are set on maintaining a diet low in carbs, please be sure you understand the difference between complex and simple carbohydrates. A popular low carb low sugar diet may be advertised as a healthy nutrition plan – but in reality low carb diet plans avoid the good carbohydrates and sometimes even promote unhealthy, processed foods in their place.
Some examples of healthy carbohydrates are brown rice, barley, millet, oatmeal, bulgur, polenta, semolina pasta, and unyeasted sourdough bread. Any ‘no carb diet’ is going to be missing these critical pieces of healthy menu planning. When we begin to incorporate whole grains, we naturally begin to develop a taste for beans and starchy vegetables. Once your body begins to recognize and desire the benefits from adding these healthy carbs, you will no longer worry about what to eat on a low carb diet.
Complex carbohydrates are the body’s most satisfying and filling foods. They also provide the strongest energy, vitality, and flexibility for physical and mental activities. Athletes require the utmost attention to nutrition in order to succeed at the highest level of competition. This is precisely why more and more professional athletes and coaches are discovering the power and importance of these foods. The trend in athletic programs incorporating nutritional programs primarily based on vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian principles promotes smart carbohydrate intake.
Whether your primary goals include training for professional sports, simply maintaining a clear mind, or overcoming current physical ailments, it is vital to remember that foods described vaguely as having low carbohydrates should held with some skepticism. Food with no carbs may often have 30 different ingredients that can’t be pronounced. Simply ask yourself, “Would I prefer to eat foods that have been the primary staple of all human civilizations for thousands of years, or avoid carbs at any cost and consume food made in a laboratory with ingredients I can’t say aloud?”
The choice is yours…
For more interesting articles about Good vs Bad Sugars, Good vs Bad Protein, nutrition, macrobiotics, and living a healthy lifestyle, please visit Denny’s macrobiotic blog.