Crusty bread. Tender pasta. Soft cinnamon rolls. They are hard to avoid and have made a big impact on our food culture; yet cutting out these culinary favorites is a growing trend as people are starting to question the necessity for carbohydrates in their diet, claiming they add weight or decrease energy.
Carbs have become the latest nutritional villain, replacing saturated fat. Despite growing awareness of the need to cut the carbs, breaking ties with muffins, breads and crackers is difficult for many people, and an effort to curb the carbs may leave you craving carbs more than ever!
Currently, the most debated topic in the world of nutrition is carbs. We hear about good carbs versus bad carbs; processed carbs versus whole grains. Others say glutinous grains are the problem and non-glutinous grains like quinoa, millet, and rice are safe.
Some take it further saying that whole grains need to be soaked and sprouted before consumption. There are success stories from Paleo eaters, and then equal success from avid whole grain vegetarian eaters. However, one thing that is universally agreed upon is that the processed carbs need to go!
Humans love sweet things and we live in a society that requires on demand energy. As a result, sugar, caffeine, and processed carbs have become the go-to, providing this short-term energy to help us temporarily focus. Over time, however, these short term remedies eventually exhaust our natural energy supplies, leaving us craving more to get the boost. It is a hard to break the addiction cycle, and that is why cutting out carbs is not as easy as it looks.
Knowing the difference between a “good” and a “bad” carb will determine your success or failure in the carb curbing mission. Processed carbs are products made from grains and flours that are stripped of the fiber, germ and bran present in whole grains. What this does is make cakes, muffins, breads, and cookies more shelf-stable, easy to chew, and easier to digest.
However, easier-to-digest foods often lead to sudden blood sugar spikes, mood swings, and crazy cravings. Processed foods do not serve our bodies in any way beyond the taste buds (and yes, they can taste really good!). They also contribute to inflammation, which is the underlying cause of most chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Everyone will benefit from removing processed foods from their diet, whether the objective is to lose weight, manage autoimmune issues, or feel more energetic.
The current trend suggests replacing these processed carbs with more meat. However, while this diet change may work well for some in the short term by providing more fat and protein to fuel cells and balance blood sugar levels, in the long term, consuming more meat is not the answer. In fact, an excess of meat can also lead to inflammation and sugar or carb cravings, leading you back to square one.
However, where there is a will, there is a way. With these five tips, you can curb your carb cravings and increase your energy, while enjoying food to the fullest!
1. Make your plate colorful: Tell the brown and beige to move on over, and replace that space on your plate with colorful foods like leafy greens, vibrant sweet potatoes and bright red peppers. A constant craving for processed carbs can signify nutritional deficiencies, and be a warning call from your cells. By incorporating more whole foods [fruit, vegetables, whole grains (for some), nuts, seeds] into your diet, you provide the vitamins and minerals needed to fuel your cells. You can do this by making sure you have a colorful vegetable at every meal (add spinach to your eggs, salad at lunch, and a vegetable at dinner).
2. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth: Unfortunately, fruit has fallen victim to the no-carb trend, when in fact fruit is one of the most important components of a healthy diet. In its whole form, fruit provides fiber, antioxidants and nutrients that fuel the body and brain. It is also the perfect pick-me-up snack or the ideal thing to reach for if you are craving sugar. Fruit is transportable and easy to keep around the house or at the office so it is there when you need it. Leave a bowl in the kitchen or on your desk to make it visible and available.
3. Don’t be afraid of fat: Fat has been vilified for decades, but science is now redeeming fat and putting it back on our plate – in the healthy way. Good fat from avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and pastured or grass-fed meats can help stabilize blood sugar levels, provide long lasting energy, and keep you satiated longer, thereby reducing cravings. Fat is also essential for hormone health, and hormones gone crazy can also cause insane cravings.
4. Drink enough water: Often we crave food when we are indeed thirsty. When the craving to munch arises, drink a glass of water, and then wait twenty minutes. More times than not, the craving will subside. If you are a caffeine drinker, adequate water is especially important as caffeine dehydrates the body. If you find water boring, liven it up with fresh citrus slices, cucumbers, or herbal teas.
5. Examine your emotions: To curb a craving you know is not related to blood sugar or an imbalance of nutrients, start to look at your emotions. Write down your craving and why you think you have this craving. Are you bored? Are you missing something in your life? Are you overwhelmed? Often we eat for reasons we are not aware of, and once this is brought into awareness, we can find other ways to deal with the emotion.
Once you figure out the what, when and why, then you can work to answer your body’s call, and make the right choice. Those chocolate chip cookies may look appealing, but they are not going to give you the energy you need to conquer the 3 p.m. slump. Instead, choose a piece of fruit and some nuts. For lunch, while a burger and fries smell amazing, it will probably contribute to a desk sleeping coma a few hours later. Opt for a grilled chicken salad or a grain bowl with salmon to sustain you longer and give you more stable energy.
You are the expert on your body. Carb or no carb, grain or no grains, you have to first find out what triggers your cravings, and what best fuels your body. However, one thing is fact; when you leave the processed foods at the door and replace them with quality, whole foods, you will start to feel better.
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.