This post has been in my head for months. I’ve completed posts in this fertility series on– protein | fats | how much to eat | caffeine | chemicals | trans fats | dairy — but I’ve left out carbs. There is SO much to say about CARBS! Carbs are good but they’re bad. I will try to limit this post down to the essential info and then I’ll expand with future posts!
The down and dirty. Are carbs good or bad?! Well, both! Eliminating all carbs is definitely a BAD idea. We need carbs. The brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose (carbs). They give us energy and fill up our muscles. They are often filled with fiber too, which is very important (and I’ll post separately on fiber, soon.)
All carbs are not created equally. The slower the better! You want to eat carbs in their most NATURAL form! (This is true for everything, really!) Let’s use OATS as an example. Steel cut oats are better than old fashioned oats which are better than instant oats (ground up into about half the size) which is better than instant oat packets (which add sugar) or oat flour (which is oatmeal ground up to the consistency of flour). When we industrialize food, we are making it easier to cook and we are breaking down the food ourselves, rather than letting our bodies do the work! It’s best to eat the steel cut oats (or a more natural form of the food) because it will be “slower” to process those carbs and turn them into energy. They will fuel the body longer and raise the blood sugar slower….which affects our weight and overall health.
How do carbs affect our weight? Excess and refined carbs can be stored as fat. We’ve already addressed that we should be eating “slow” or complex carbs rather than sugars and refined sources of carbs. BUT, it’s also important to remember that if we eat TOO MANY slow/complex carbs in one meal (i.e. Olive Garden Endless-Pasta-Bowl plus breadsticks, plus Black Tie Mouse Cake – of course, I know nothing about that combo!) some, most or all of it will be stored as fat, especially if that meal has a large amount of fat in it as well!! We all know that 3500 calories makes 1 pound of fat and when you’re trying to lose weight you usually count your calories to try to cut a pound of fat at a time BUT that’s not ALL that goes into this equation as I just explained! Too many carbs at one meal, even healthy carbs can be stored as fat and too many carbs with too much fat is even worse b/c your body gets confused. It doesn’t know how to burn the fat AND the carb so it kind of gives up.
What happens when we eat refined carbs? Insulin Resistance. Here’s the deal. Your body uses the sugars/carbs you eat through producing insulin. Eating refined carbs too often or too many carbs in general over the long run makes our bodies insulin resistant (your body can’t keep up w/ the prolonged demands you’re putting on it) and we seem to be in an “insulin crisis” in this country right now. Short story…When your body is unable to keep up with the demands of all the sugar you are feeding it, your body can no longer regulate your blood sugar and the extra insulin stays in your bloodstream (insulin resistance), promoting fat deposition, hindering fat breakdown and causing a ton of metabolic effects…many that effect fertility! This becomes a cycle that is impossible to win.
How does this affect my fertility? Insulin Resistance is the underlying cause of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is a leading cause of infertility. Insulin resistance also leads to obesity. PCOS affects 5-10 % of reproductive-aged women but 75% of the population is prone to insulin resistance.
This relates to pregnancy also. In pregnancy, we are already more susceptible to diabetes and have a harder time processing sugars. I know you’ve all heard of gestational diabetes. So, if our bodies are less capable of handling sugars during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to start eating less refined carbs NOW! (in my opinion, of course).
Sugar. DON’T EAT IT! There are no nutrients in sugar. They are simply there for taste. They are addictive. They are high in calories. They are the devil 🙂 To me, they really are the devil! It is best to eliminate sugar from your diet completely. I find that I do better without it than when I eat it. I tend to crave it more when I eat it more. AND, I can’t stop once I start so it’s best to not eat it. I’m like an alcoholic with sugar cookies. So, I can’t tell you the last time I had one. 🙂
What do I do for my sweet tooth? Dark chocolate. Fruit. I LOVE apples for this! They satisfy my sweet tooth and they also fill me up! They are GREAT! I often cut out the grains and eat a fruit at the meal for “dessert” instead. It’s the perfect ending to my perfect meal of lean meat and veggie!
So, then, what do I eat?
- Eat whole grains. Check the ingredient list on bread products for 100% whole grain versus anything that says “enriched.” Brown rice and yams are excellent lunch and dinner options!
- BREAKFAST: Oatmeal for breakfast is a winner! Breakfast cereals are usually too high in sugar to consider, though there are some that are probably okay. You have to watch your portions with them though. You must watch your portions w/ bagels also – 1/2 a bagel is usually a proper portion. And, again, check the ingredients! Don’t fall for the “advertised whole wheat” selling tactics. They’re trying to fool you!
- Beans are a carb! But, they’re high in protein and fiber as well and an excellent choice because they are packed full of nutrients.
- Whole fruits and vegetables are ALWAYS an excellent choice due to their nutrients and fiber content!
- Some other great foods are popcorn (watch the fat/butter), couscous, quinoa, and bulgar.
- What did I miss? What are your favorite healthy carbs?
I’ll try to do a post on portion sizes soon. For now, a rule that I usually stick to per meal is 1/2 cup for these carbs at meals. (I’m talking about 6 meals a day too!) But, I try to keep the carbs only at meals 1-3 or 1-4 at the latest to avoid eating carbs too late at night (if I’m not working out) b/c those nighttime carbs are often stored as fat if not used.
Questions? Ideas for additional posts on carbs? I could have worked on this post for another year and still not been done! There are entire books written on this subject so I’ll have to expand more later!
sources and more info: Kimball’s Biology Pages |