Living in the Philippines, our main food source is rice! There is no meal in here that isn’t served with rice, and if you bring go to any restaurant, all meals will almost always be accompanied by it. And it’s an awesome source of carbohydrates to get us through a work day.
Carbohydrates are easily digested, breaks down immediately into glucose and you get a burst of energy in just a few minutes upon eating. But as I continue my study & experimentation into prolonged fasting, I’m slowly straying away from eating carbohydrates all together. And maybe after reading this, you would stay of carbs as well.
This series will be broken down into the following parts:
- Fat Doesn’t Make Fat, how we misunderstand carbohydrates.
- The body doesn’t need carbs, how the body sustains itself without carbohydrates.
- What else if not Carbs? what are our alternatives to carbohydrates.
The ‘Fat’ Misconception
The food pyramid tells us that the foundation of our nutrition should come from carbohydrates and the least should come from fats and oils. It was claimed for a while that consuming fatty and oily foods contributed to various types of diseases and was the cause of weight problems.
Even with the new food pyramid, fats and oils are still recommended to be consumed at a low amount.
In some ways it makes sense. Fat turns to fat. So in order to avoid getting fat, we should just avoid fat? But looking at the history of obesity, as food products evolve and improve, the rates for obesity only rises:
And this is despite the Food and Drug Administration’s campaign to healthy eating. And why is that?
As I was researching on this, Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything just so happened to release an episode targeting this very subject. And as I went around and read more about the subject, the biochemistry of weight accumulation and what we know about eating just doesn’t add up.
The Biochemistry of Eating
As a student nurse, anatomy and physiology is one of those courses where I would be pulling on my hair on a daily basis. I never knew the body was so complicated, and maybe it was this complexity that made me unable to realize the context of what I was learning. Because I knew the process of digestion, how food breaks down, which body part utilizes them, how nutrients are stored, but applying them to real life was another thing in itself. (And that is why I’m doing what I’m doing in this blog).
But it goes to show that knowledge isn’t really power until you grasp it, so for this part let me simplify things as much as I can for you.
When you eat, food goes to the stomach to be broken down by the stomach acids, this tears apart the structure of the food into it’s base components before entering the intestines where what needs to be absorbed is absorbed and everything else discarded.
In the small intestines the melted down goo is subjected to more body chemicals which further breaks it down so that the intestinal lining can absorb all that it can absorb before churning out the un-useables. Here, sugars, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals are sent into blood stream where other carriers will begin bringing them to their designated areas.
At this point you may think that the fat will be brought into the fat cells, while protein into the muscles, and sugars somewhere else right?
Well no. When blood sugar levels rise, the liver and muscles will begin taking them via insulin, but those organs can only store so much. Which is why glucose is broken down into another form which can be stored somewhere that can easily expand to accomodate the excess sugars: the adipose cells, or more commonly known as fat cells.
But wait! What happens to fat then? If sugars go to the fat cells, where does ‘fat nutrients’ go?
In the simplest way to describe the route: fats turn into triglycerides which will also be stored into the adipose cells. But just because that is the point to point journey of dietary fat, does not mean that it is a main contributor to weight gain.
Now why is that?
Well simply because fats play more important roles in the body and not just as nutrition. Dietary fats are broken down into enzymes and acids that play an important part in:
- Brain Function (the brain is 60% fat, did you know?)
- Immune response (handles inflammation)
- Cholesterol Management
- Tissue and Organ development
- Energy (when glucose stores run out)
As compared to Carbohydrates which is only for energy, fats are more essential than carbohydrates in every way.
[In the next part, I’ll talk about the benefits of a low-carb to no-carb diet]
We all know if for a fact, sugars are bad, but what we don’t know is that carbohydrates are sugars only in a more complex form.
Now, don’t let this discourage you from eating any form of carbohydrate. I’d hate to cut out pizza, pasta, bread, rice, starches…etc. from my diet completely. Because personally, as I continue to play along with my diet and experimenting on what works for me, I intend to just reduce my carbohydrate intake to maybe once a week.
The key take-away from this is to not demonize fat as the cause of weight gain, because it is simply not true. An exclusive diet is just as bad, as we live in a diverse world, our intake of it should also have some variety. Weight gain is caused by excess, too much of anything will turn your into too much of a person.
Carbohydrates are not bad, but too much of it is.