Making Healthy Choices: Carbs

Carbs can be delicious and nutritious, it just takes a little planning!

In this article you will learn:

  • How to make healthy choices for carb sources

  • What various options are and what to look for

  • The top things to avoid when it comes to carbohydrate decisions

Lazy Author Alert:

This article is based on research and years of practice, but if you want the full gory details then grab yourself a copy of my book, Dance Your Way Through Life: A No Bullshit Guide to Hacking Your Body, Mind & Soul for Success, where I share precise action plans, over 1500+ scientific references and a lot of nerdy biohacking goodies. Plus, you also get 30 minutes with yours truly to hash out your goals, so it's totally worth it.

The Details:

This is going to be Part 3 of a 4 Part series. I will link the next article at the end. If you need help implementing these principles, don't be afraid to reach out. Below are my guiding rules for making healthy, lifelong choices with carbohydrates:

  • Minimize simple carbohydrates from processed sources like candy, junk food, ice cream, pastries and soda. Always read the nutrition label and understand how much added sugar something has. Regardless if it’s brown sugar or white sugar, it will still make an impact on your body. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. Personally, I avoid anything that’s “fun” food unless I’m at someone’s special occasion and then I’ll have a taste. What’s also true is that your general nutrition status (your gut microbiome, deficiencies, stress level etc.) will determine if you crave sweets in the first place. Do a good job there and you’ll never crave the bad stuff anyway.

  • Be careful with juices. Even if the label reads “100% Juice” it might as well say “100% sugar” for our intents here. Juice is right up there with soda unless its something like celery or kale juice. These are extra sugar bombs that can easily add to the burden for your poor blood when you’ve already bombed it with your meal. Unless it has pulp which carries most of the nutrition and fiber, juice by itself is not something to consume on a regular basis.

  • Stick to a majority of complex carbohydrates from vegetables with some starches like rice, potato varieties and so on. If you are trying to minimize glycemic impact, consider getting a blood glucose monitor and testing various foods to see what you are OK with. Sweet potatoes, for example, are generally much higher in glycemic impact than brown rice even though they both can be a source of resistant starch. In general though, avoid refined foods like white flour, white pasta and white bread as these have been totally stripped of nutrition and are basically just sugar. Opt instead for the whole grain version with lots of fiber like sprouted grain bread and always make sure that your vegetables and rice are organic whenever possible.

  • Try also not to rely on wheat as your main source of carbohydrate because of the zonulin and pesticide issues discussed previously, as well as it will distract you from eating a varied diet rich in vegetables. There are other gluten free options like quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet and teff. Oats are marketed as gluten free, but their version of the gluten protein, avenin, can cause intestinal inflammation in some Celiac’s patients so I wouldn’t overdo it on these either. Again, stick to a majority of vegetables with a little grain and starch and you’ll be good.

  • Try to always eat protein and fat with your meals. This will help you stay satiated and avoid crashing, as well as minimize the impact on your blood sugar from the carbs. Eating plenty of protein and fat with your meals will also prevent you from the downward spiral of snacking on more carbs which can have negative longterm impacts on your blood sugar and oral health.

  • While there are many explanations for sugar cravings, generally there are a few main ones:

— Your brain needs more energy so you’ve been stressed out, sleep deprived

or working intensely

— Your are deficient in some nutrients

— Your blood sugar is not being manage appropriately for whatever reason

— You have a gut microbiome problem (SIBO, Candida, etc.)

  • Eating an abundance of healthy fats, nutritious vegetables, quality protein and healthy complex carbs usually eliminates most sugar cravings. If you do have cravings, know that reaching for a sugar bomb only worsens the problem because your blood sugar spikes which prompts a crash later. Find a healthier alternative for the short-term or use healthy sweeteners like monk fruit and stevia while you realign your diet and health.

  • When considering how many grams of carbohydrates to eat, remember this simple statistic that I learned way back in high school and which stayed with me forever because it’s super depressing: the average person will burn about 100 calories in a 6 minute mile. This is the equivalent of 25 grams of sugar. Remember that sugar is live energy and, as long as you are using that energy up, it’s useful. We all have a resting metabolic rate that will vary depending on weekly activity and muscle mass, but there are wild variances in coming up with this number so I largely ignore it in my own decision-making. Rather, I consider something a little more practical: if I want to drink a can of soda with 50 grams of sugar in it, do I want to take a 2 mile run at an intense pace as the price?

  • Arriving at your “carb number” or percentage of carbohydrates per day out of your diet is something that I will encourage you to do after you have done the following:

— Come to terms with your protein intake using the previous chapters

— Come to terms with your fat intake in the next chapters

— Eliminated the sources of refined sugar from your current diet.

  • Getting rid of the junky sources of carbs will help reduce how many grams you actually eat per day because you will only be eating what you actually need. Nobody needs a giant cup of milk and sugar, so considering these kinds of foods as part of your total is erroneous. Of course, always give yourself permission to slide a little per our 80/20 rule, but how many carbs you actually “need” is a different story. Keep in mind also that eating enough protein and fat will deflate your total as well since you will be more satiated, snack less often, have less cravings and still have plenty of energy.

  • Incorporate the practice of health testing to determine how you respond to various foods and choices. Some tests to consider specifically as a way to monitor your blood sugar and the principles we’ve been discussing are:

Hemoglobin A1C. This gives you an idea of blood sugar management over

the last 2-3 months

Insulin Resistance Score. Some labs or doctors can order this for you as a

calculation of how reactive your body is to sugar. A great tool use as part of

your yearly physicals to monitor any changes, or if you have altered your

diet in some way and want to see the impact.

Fructose sensitivity testing. If you suspect you may have an intolerance to

fructose, you can get tested for it either through your doctor or by ordering

a kit online at a reputable source. This will give you some valuable data

when deciding how much of it you should include in your diet (which

shouldn’t be too much anyway) and what choices to make regarding fruit

and other foods containing fructose.

Blood glucose monitoring. If you are a super nerd (welcome to the club) and

want to see how your body responds to various foods, this is a great tool to

give you real time insight. What’s exciting is that various technologies are

now emerging where finger pricking will be a thing of the past, allowing monitoring of blood sugar to be done through lasers at a high accuracy,

empowering you to really understand what food does to your body right

after you eat it.

Genetic Testing. This is done through many avenues. Most companies today

can import your 23andMe results into their algorithms or they can map

your genome for you. I was one of the first for 23andMe when it opened up

and so I transfered my results to Self Decode, a company that generates

blog articles and specialized reports on a variety of genetic issues.

Specifically the reports on nutrient metabolism are significant to know how