The most common question and confusion my clients have is whether carbohydrates are important. In the last couple of years, several books have been published by doctors and researchers alike claiming that gluten and wheat are toxic. And indeed, they are correct… if you have coeliac disease (which is underdiagnosed) or have an allergy. However, the vast majority of people are trying to sift through the media and books to make decisions about whether to radically change our diets. Even I, with my nutrition expertise, scheduled a meeting with my ex-classmate, Dr. John Sievenpiper, who finished his PhD in glycaemic control in diabetes, then went on to become an MD. He is a consultant physician for the department of endocrinology at St. Michael’s Hospital and spends about 90% of his time dedicated to research. I believe it’s safe to say that John is one of THE experts on carbs – who has no hidden agenda to make people sick from eating carbs. I sent him an email asking if the recommendations for carbohydrates have changed and if I should be changing my nutrition counselling. His answer and the latest research reassured me that not much has shifted.
Very low carbohydrate diets (such as the Paleo diet, Grain brainn) gluten free and wheat free (such as Wheat Belly) are part of the latest nutrition craze. To be sure, popular nutrition trends do make the academic and clinical world question our recommendations. So a good reminder that 45-65% of the total calories in our diets should be carbohydrates, is a huge range. That means that we need to be feeding our brain, heart and muscles with glucose, which is from carbs. It is well documented that the need for protein increases as we age to minimise muscle atrophy (loss) and to ensure that we are satisfied from our meals and snacks. So we need to plan our meals around protein. We also need to choose our carbs wisely. That means that we should be eating a variety of whole, unprocessed grains, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils, fruit and dairy as part of our carbohydrate sources.
Aiming for meals and snacks with low glycaemic index loads (slow absorption into the body) keeps us full, focused and mood stable! But eliminating or deamonising carbs (especially grains) is really not necessary or recommended. Interesting to note, that good old al dente pasta has one of the lowest glycaemic index around! It’s also important to be mentally well – stressing about eating bread and avoiding social situations to follow rules, rather than gentle guidelines is not healthy. So let’s vary up our grains, aim to increase vegetables and enjoy proteins with meals. Focus on the foods we’re missing, rather than on restricting absolutely. Bon Apetite!