All About Carbs (Part 4 of HMM Series)
Your body is made up of only 1% carbohydrates. This also means that your baby is made up of more protein and fat, rather than carbs! Carbs keep you full, but only for a short time, which is why they do not make a good energy source when eaten alone. Carbohydrates include fiber, starches, and sugar. Grains, potatoes, breads, pastas, and sweets are mostly carbs. Carbohydrates are found in grains (bread, pasta, rice, wheat, corn, etc.), beans/legumes, milk, non-starchy vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, peppers, etc.), starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, etc.), fruits, and sweets (cakes, cookies, pastries, etc.). It may seem like carbs make up a lot of different foods! But, just like protein and fat, not all carbs are created equal. In this blog post you will learn about the different types of carbohydrates and why some are superior to others.
First, let’s determine which carbs you should eat more of and which carbs you should eat less of or avoid…
Your Prescription: Aim for eating 1 to 3 cups of non-starchy carbs and ½ cup of starchy carbs at each meal. A balanced snack typically contains 1 to 2 cups of non-starchy carbs.
More About Grains:
Grains include wheat, barley, rye, sorghum, spelt, rice, oats, and corn (not a complete list). All grains (as well as legumes, nuts, and seeds) contain anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins, which inhibit the absorption of some nutrients, such as iron and calcium. Grains are difficult for humans to digest, which is why it is recommended to prepare them in a traditional way like sprouting, soaking, or fermenting. These methods help to breakdown the anti-nutrients and make them more digestible for you to eat. In addition, grains are commonly contaminated with mycotoxins, which can be harmful to people in very small concentrations. They can also cross the placenta and reach your baby. You can limit your exposure to mycotoxins by limiting your intake of grains and only eating meat from 100% grass-fed or pastured animals. *Not everyone can tolerate grains. You may need to limit or omit these foods if you have digestive or blood sugar issues.
What’s all this talk about gluten?
Gluten (gliadin) is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, bran, bulgur, couscous, durum, farina, faro, kamut, malt, matzo, orzo, panko, seitan, semolina, spelt, triticale, udon, and sometimes oats (from contamination). Gluten has morphine-like properties called gluteomorphines, which have neurotoxic effects, even on people who are not gluten-sensitive. This may be one possible reason why autistic people do better on gluten-free diets. Gluten is a well-known food offender causing gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease (an autoimmune disorder). Gluten sensitivity may manifest into Celiac Disease if the trigger, gluten, is not removed from the diet. People with these conditions must avoid gluten completely. Beyond this population, it is believed that 80% of the world’s population cannot digest gluten properly. For these reasons, many people decide to avoid gluten-containing foods. If you are suffering from digestive issues and/or an autoimmune disease you may benefit from eliminating gluten from your diet. Check out my website for more information about food sensitivities and how foods can cause symptoms.
Carbohydrates & Blood Sugar:
Eating sugar creates a cycle of highs and lows in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. When you eat sugar, your blood sugar level rises and your pancreas responds by secreting insulin. The pancreas usually overestimates how much insulin to release, especially when you eat lots of sugar at once. The insulin surge causes a fast drop in blood sugar, which renews the craving for sugar. This is one way that sugar is addictive. This cycle of highs and lows can lead to insulin resistance in your body, as well as expose your baby to big fluctuations in insulin, potentially setting him up for diabetes later in life.
Prevent Gestational Diabetes by controlling your blood sugar! Here are a few tips:
• Eat a diet lower in carbs with moderate protein.
• Eat more non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables or fruits.
• Avoid foods high in carbs like bread, pastas, desserts, etc.
• Choose low-sugar fruits like berries, avocado, tomato, papaya, and citrus fruits.
• Limit your sugar intake (especially simple sugars).
• Eat balanced meals and snacks with all 3 macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbs.
• Eat plenty of healthy fats to keep your blood sugar and energy levels constant without highs and lows.
• Eat 3 meals per day with a few snacks to stabilize your blood insulin levels.
• Incorporate resistance exercises into your weekly routine. This will help to improve your glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.
• Look for locally grown, organic produce. Consider signing up for a CSA box!
• Read food labels to avoid unfermented soy products.
What’s the deal with unfermented soy?
Soy is actually a legume and a good source of protein. However, soy is high in phytates and phytoestrogens. A diet high in soy may lead to mineral deficiencies and altered estrogen levels in men or women. In addition, soy is a goitrogen meaning that it can negatively affect those with an existing thyroid condition. For these reasons, it is recommended to limit or avoid your intake of soy. If you choose to eat soy products make sure they are fermented like miso, natto or tempeh. Fermentation helps reduce the phytic acid content of soy and deactivates its potent enzyme inhibitors.
• Buy organic, non-homogenized milk from Jersey or Guernsey cows. Although raw milk is preferred, it is not available to everyone. *Homogenization has been linked to heart disease.
Why is raw milk better?
Most people believe that pasteurization is beneficial and needed to protect us from getting sick. The truth is that this method cannot guarantee cleanliness or prevent outbreaks of salmonella from contaminated milk. Pasteurization destroys the beneficial organisms in raw milk, called lactic-acid-producing bacteria, that protects against harmful pathogens. Heat also destroys vitamins and reduces the availability of minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. In addition, pasteurization destroys the milk’s enzymes, which makes it harder to digest. For these reasons, raw milk is preferred over pasteurized milk. To find raw milk in your location go here. Make sure your local dairy sells raw milk from grass-fed Jersey or Guernsey cows that have been tested free of tuberculosis and brucellosis. If raw milk is not available in your area then choose organic, non-homogenized milk from Jersey or Guernsey cows.
Check out this video to learn more about raw milk.
• Avoid soft and blue-veined cheeses because of the risk of listeria. Some examples are Brie, feta, Camembert, queso, fresco, bleu cheese, Stilton.
• Limit fructose intake by avoiding juice and buying lower-sugar fruits, such as berries.
What’s wrong with fructose?
Fructose can lower insulin sensitivity and raise some risk factors for heart disease (triglycerides). For this reason, it is recommended that you limit your intake of fruit. Choose fruits lower in sugar, such as blackberries, raspberries, oranges, or papaya. Avoid juice! Juice contains a large amount of sugar. Although it is “natural” sugar, it is concentrated and lacks fiber. If you must drink juice, dilute it with water.
• Avoid refined carbohydrates by shopping the perimeter of your grocery store so you don’t get stuck going down the chips or cookie isle!
What are refined carbohydrates?
Refined carbs are foods that have been processed and are full of simple sugars. They have little nutritional value because the refining process strips the food of its vitamin and mineral components. Examples of refined carbs include baked goods, desserts, candy, and soda. These foods commonly contain white sugar, white flour, or corn syrup and often have more than 5 ingredients. These foods should be eaten sparingly, or better yet, avoided.
• Ditch your morning cereal! Most nutrients are destroyed during processing and can have negative effects on blood sugar, even if they are whole grain.
• Soak or sprout grains and legumes before cooking to decrease the amount of phytic acid and increase their digestibility. Many people who cannot tolerate grains do well with grains that have been sprouted or soaked prior to eating.
• Pressure-cooking grains destroys a number of mold toxins.
Important Points to Remember:
• ADD more live foods (fruits and vegetables) to your plate. Aim for 6 to 10 servings per day, but focus more on eating non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables or fruits.
• AVOID refined carbohydrates, juice, and unfermented soy products.
• CHOOSE fruits lowest in sugar, like berries, avocado, tomato, papaya, and citrus fruits.
• BUY organic produce and raw milk (if available).
• PROPERLY PREPARE grains and beans/legumes before eating by using the traditional methods of soaking or sprouting.
• Asprey L, Asprey D. The Better Baby Book. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc; 2013.
• O’Bryan T. The conundrum of gluten sensitivity, why the tests are often wrong. Purring vs. Rumbling. theDr.com; 2014.
• Fallon S, Enig, M. Nourishing Traditions. Maryland: NewTrends Publishing; 1999, 2001.
I offer nutrition services for women who are pregnant, postpartum, or trying to conceive. At Halley Holloway Nutrition I use Medical Nutrition Therapy with a functional medicine approach to best help my clients. Nutrition is not “one size fits all”, which is why I work with you to develop an individualized nutrition plan that supports your health goals. With your commitment I can help you boost your fertility, have a healthy pregnancy, and ultimately have a happy baby! I will be your teacher, coach, and motivator!
Stay tuned for next week’s post, Exercise During Pregnancy, Part 5 of my Healthy Mommy & Me series!
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