In recent years, no single food group has been “thrown under the bus” more than carbohydrates.
This carb backlash reminds me of how fats have been ostracized and treated as the “black sheep” of the food groups beginning with the 1980 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
In the early 80’s, I vividly recall my dad trying to lose a few lbs. and coming home from the grocery store each week with low/no-fat everything… ice cream, milk, cheese, cookies, crackers, yogurt, and even potato chips! Despite eating all of these low/no-fat foods he struggled losing those extra pounds.
The most disturbing irony of the low/no-fat diet recommendation is the more Americans have avoided eating fat – the fatter we’ve become as a nation.
The most telling evidence of the growing obesity epidemic is highlighted in the Centers for Disease Control figures beginning in 1985 that track the obesity epidemic in parallel with the low/no-fat craze (Obesity Trends). Yes… these are stunning, but there is much to learn from them.
Interestingly, the driving force behind the “low/no-fat” craze that’s swept the nation, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In fact, every five years, the federal government appoints a group of scientists to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (DGAC) with the goal of proposing updates to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Up until this year, the group has emphasized low/no-fat foods.
It’s well-known that private interests and industry lobbyists played a major role in the “misguided” food guide pyramids we’ve all been told to follow since 1980 and the ‘low/no-fat’ recommendation was the first example of this.
Fortunately, for the first time since 1980, the most current 2015 DGAC finally removed an upper limit on total fat intake. In other words, they lifted the ban on total fat intake and opened the door to accepting – even encouraging – dietary fat intake as a healthy part of the diet (Lift Ban on Fats – JAMA). Progress!
The scientific data is clear, we need to eat fat to burn fat and all fat is not the same (Big Fat Lie). A diet rich in healthy fats such as nuts (walnuts, almonds, macadamia), plant (olive, coconut, avocado, palm), and fish oils are the most nutritious and tasty. Opting for the full-fat version of (organic and local) milk, eggs and cheese are usually always better options than the low/no-fat versions… so don’t be fooled!
As an active nutrition scientist and consultant, I decided to write this blog to remove the “diet-clutter” and nutrition-misinformation and set the record straight on both fat and carbohydrate intake.
Now let’s revisit the modern-day “no carb” craze. We’ve all heard the comments, “Are you a ‘carb-lover’ or maybe a ‘carb-addict’? Perhaps you’re gluten-sensitive, have celiac disease or you’re boycotting all “GMO” carbs.
I get it… these are all valid and real reasons to keep an eye on your “carb” intake and not over-indulge. However, none of these are healthy and safe excuses to avoid carbs completely.
Carbohydrates come in many different forms including, vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans & nuts), whole grains, and even dairy. To suggest that a “no-carb” diet is remotely safe and healthy is dangerous.
Our body needs carbs because they provide energy, essential nutrients, boost immunity, and give food sweetness. The biggest challenge is choosing carb foods that provide the most nourishment and health benefits, yet also taste good. We love our bread, bagels, pasta, potatoes, rice and cookies, but we all know the benefits of eating fresh vegetables and fruits and the health problems of too many starchy carbs.
What if I told you that you can “have your cake and eat it too”. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, I’ve had the good fortune to examine all kinds of carb diets in my Human Nutrition & Metabolism Lab. What I’ve learned from others and discovered in my lab is there are types of carbohydrates known as resistant starches (RS) that are super healthy. Because the starch (carbs) is not completely digested, it passes into the large intestine (colon), undergoes fermentation and forms short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate which feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Essentially, RS is a potent prebiotic.
Here are the basic facts… there are four main types of resistant starch (RS):
RS 1 – Starch found in beans, seeds, whole grains and pasta with durum, contains a protein
matrix which hinders its digestibility.
RS 2 – Starch found in common foods such as uncooked potatoes and unripe bananas, are resistant to enzyme breakdown until ripening or cooking.
RS 3 – Also called retrograded starch, develops in starchy foods after cooking then cooling them (fridge or freezer) resulting in structures that make them resistant to digestion. Commonly occurs in cooked and cooled potatoes, grains (pasta, rice), and beans.
RS 4 – Chemically modified resistant starch that doesn’t occur naturally and is usually made with “hi-maize resistant starch.”
I’m a huge fan of RS 3 foods because they are “left-overs”, easy to prepare and taste really good. Next time you cook potatoes, pasta, rice or beans consider preparing them the night before and then refrigerate (cool) and eat the next day. You will create RS and lots of strong, healthy bacteria in your gut. (See the link to my Dr. Paul’s “Left-over Wonder Carb Rice Salad” Recipe)
In my lab, I tested RS 4 starches using a pancake breakfast I fed to women and men on four different visits to my lab. The results were astounding!
In the first study, after eating the resistant starch pancakes women burned 20% more FAT, reported feeling 80% more FULL and 25% less HUNGRY compared to traditional pancakes (Dr. Paul’s Wonder Carb Study). I encourage you to visit the link I provide of my published scientific study to learn about the benefits of eating RS 4. It’s very likely the other RS types (1-3) produce similar results. They truly are Wonder Carbs!
Human nutrition is evolving so rapidly, it’s important to have access to the latest scientific research on the health and performance benefits of all different types of food, including FATS and CARBS! Stay tuned for more updates…