Almost everyone has tried them at least once. From Atkins to South Beach, everyone has a version of a “low carb” diet that they have tried. Most people find that they work beautifully for weight loss but “fail” as soon as they resume “normal” eating again. So what is the answer? Is low carb eating really the answer to our obesity and diabetes epidemic? Part of the answer lies in the definition of “normal” eating.
As Americans, we have been lead to believe that we should start the day with cereal, milk, and juice, eat a Subway sandwich for lunch, and have rice with dinner to try to fit in our “whole grains” servings recommended by the USDA. When someone mentions “low carb” eating, we automatically envision days of absolute deprivation from treats and sweets, quick and easy weight loss, but also a short term “diet” plan. But what if we re-defined what normal is supposed to be? Most of us have learned by now that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. A life of complete deprivation is unreasonable, but a steady diet of grains and starches has also lead to an increase in diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. So I challenge you today to read the benefits below of staying away from starches (for the most part) and building a regular diet on vegetables, lean protein, and moderate fruit. Make this your new normal. Research shows that the benefits of making this your lifestyle are great!
The following are some of the great benefits of living a lower starchy lifestyle:
Better Insulin Regulation –
Insulin is responsible for 3 major functions in your body:
- It removes excess levels of glucose from your blood.
- It allows cells to absorb and use glucose for energy.
- It allows glucose to be stored as fat if the cells don’t need glucose for energy.
When we eat more sugars and starches than we need (which causes increased insulin), the insulin tells our cells what to do…..to store the extra glucose as fat for energy. So insulin actually tells the body what to do with our calories, whether to store them or to burn them. One of the great benefits of keeping starches low is that this keeps insulin levels low and cells insulin sensitive.
Many people think that the reason that lower carb food plans are more effective because they encourage more fast water weight loss. While this is true in the beginning (as carbs and insulin have an effect on water retention), studies across the board show that lower starch food plans are more effective in both short and long term weight loss as well as show higher losses in visceral fat. Some studies even show 2-3 times higher weight loss results with lower starch v/s low fat plans.
Reduced Cardiovascular Risk
Research has now found that fat is not the enemy or the cause of heart disease, but that sugar and excess starches are a larger contributor. A great book to read on this subject is The Great Cholesterol Myth. Studies have shown that a reduced starch diet significantly increases HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases triglycerides compared to a low fat diet. Decreasing starches also decreases inflammation which makes it less likely that cholesterol particles will stick which leads to decrease in the buildup of arterial plaque.
Studies (and the experience of those who have done it) show that decreasing starch content helps to regulate cravings due to the blood sugar and insulin balance in the bloodstream. When you eat a starchy or sugary food, your blood sugar elevates for a period of time, causing increased energy and the “feel good” feeling, but this great feeling spike is met with an equal blood sugar crash. The body increases cravings on the heels of a blood sugar crash to help normalize glucose levels in your blood. So, lower starch eating makes maintaining a healthy weigh less of a fight as you are not having to battle cravings.
Hormone and Appetite Regulation
Food cravings, blood sugar, and appetite are all connected by insulin and grehlin levels. Ghrelin and leptin are often called our hunger hormones as they are responsible for regulating appetite and satiety. Studies show that lower starch diets actually increase ghrelin and decrease leptin levels, making those who eat this way naturally less hungry and have less cravings for sugary and starchy foods.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Think about how many starchy foods you are currently eating. Remember that we should be getting the majority of our "carbs" from fruits and vegetables. The occasional starchy food should be considered more of a fun treat than a regular occurrence. Read through the list above and think about some of the things in your weight control plan that would be made easier if you shifted to a higher veggie/less starch plan. Weight control should not be a fight, and eating this way helps in so many ways to make it a more natural process.