What Do the Slimmest People on the Planet Eat?
Did you know a multicenter study of 4,451 people published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found the slimmest people actually ate the most carbs, (from whole plant sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and the heaviest people ate the fewest carbs? (1) This research concluded your odds of getting and staying slim is best when carbs make up at least 64 percent of your daily calorie intake, obviously a far cry from the typical low-carb diet!
The truth is, the quickest way to gain weight is to routinely avoid “whole” carbohydrates in favor of calorie-dense, pro-inflammatory, phytonutrient-poor foods like meat, cheese, oils, sugar, and flour. Swapping calorie-dense, yet not-so-filling meat, oil, dairy, flour, sugar, and refined packaged snack foods (chips and pretzels) for calorie-poor but nutrient-dense, clean, “whole” carbs such as fruits, vegetables (including starchy vegetables), unrefined whole grains, and beans is one of the easiest things you can do to lose weight without hunger and without food cravings.
There is no doubt that whole carbs are your very best bet for maximizing nutrition for minimal calorie buck. But the only way to benefit from a health and weight loss standpoint when it comes to eating carbs is to eat them “whole”.
Go for the Whole Shebang!
Here’s the deal: Eating a diet rich in carbs is going to do absolutely zilch to reduce inflammation and optimize the way you age, look, and feel if the carbs you choose are not nutrient-dense, fiber-rich “whole” carbs. In fact, if the majority of carbs you eat are bad empty carbs you will accelerate aging, increase inflammation, and increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And you’ll gain a lot of unwanted pounds too.
The bad empty carbs we are talking about are highly refined and stripped of all the good stuff we need to support a speedy metabolism and stay healthy. Refined empty carbohydrates are devoid of naturally occurring nutrients, they contain no fiber, and they are easily overeaten, contributing substantially to obesity and type 2 diabetes. If eaten in excess, refined carbohydrates can also be converted by your body into saturated fat, which increases inflammation, worsens the symptoms of numerous inflammatory conditions, and can even contribute to heart disease. Refined carbohydrate consumption can cause the proteins in your body to be less functional and, as a result, directly age your immune and arterial systems and even your joints.
Processed empty carbs contain almost no bioavailable antioxidants or phytonutrients or any of the other many health-promoting substances found in whole carbs that are essential for cellular normalcy, prevention of disease, and slowed aging. For example, to make enriched wheat flour, whole wheat kernels are first stripped of their nutrient and antioxidant-rich germ and then their fiber-rich bran is removed, leaving behind nutrient-poor, fiber-free, calorie-rich starch that is then enriched with synthetic nutrients your body can’t use in the same manner as the naturally occurring nutrients found within the original whole wheat kernel. Even worse, digestion of empty refined carbohydrates calls on your body’s own store of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes for proper metabolism. Naturally occurring bioavailable B vitamins are absent in most refined carbohydrates, yet the breakdown and metabolism of carbohydrates cannot take place without B vitamins!
If all this weren’t bad enough, refined carbs enter our bloodstreams very quickly, thus igniting a nasty flood of insulin that then causes blood sugar levels to tailspin, stimulates hunger, and promotes fat storage. It’s no wonder carbs have gotten such a bad rap because the majority of the ones most of us eat are from refined, fattening sources that include white rice, white pasta, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and baked goods made with enriched or bleached flour such as bagels, breads, muffins and packaged snack foods like pretzels and crackers.
Plant-based “whole” carbs, on the other hand, are the ones found in their most natural and unrefined form, the form that comes naturally packaged with nutrients and bulk from calorie-free fiber. Whole carbs give us the whole shebang! They fuel us with maximum energy and mega nutrition for a minimal calorie buck.
Super Healthy Carbs
Examples of super healthy whole carbs are all fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains (such as steel-cut oats, quinoa, millet, brown rice, and corn). When consumed in their whole, unprocessed form, these carbohydrates are nutrient dense, low in calories, loaded with fiber, full of disease-fighting phytonutrients, and chock-full of anti-aging antioxidants.
Whole carbs enter your bloodstream slowly, raise blood sugar slowly, offer solid nutrition, and keep us healthy on many levels. These are the carbs that will help fight heart disease, control blood sugar levels, curb food cravings, boost energy, preserve metabolism-boosting lean muscle mass, keep you feeling full for hours, and even improve your mood. Whole carbs provide the fuel your body craves and needs most.
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Understanding Carb Cravings
The reason we innately crave carbs is because we crave nutrition, and in nature, “whole” carbs are one of our best sources of nutrition. Whole carbs provide vitamins to support a healthy immune system; minerals to assist with proper cell function; antioxidants and phytonutrients to fend off disease, slow aging, and reduce inflammation; and fiber for detoxification and natural appetite control. Our bodies instinctively know “whole” carbs are healthful, which is one reason why food cravings can become unbearable on a low-carb diet!
There’s even a scientific explanation for why we crave sweets. Fruits, for example are a whole carbohydrate that also happen to naturally be one of the sweetest foods on earth. Not incidentally, fruits are also jam-packed with a whole array of nutrients. If we didn’t have our natural sweet tooth and we happened to live tens of thousands of years ago, we might be happy to hunt and eat nothing but animal foods like buffalo and deer. But luckily, nature saw to it we craved natural sweet foods that would make us healthy. If you don’t get enough of the right whole carbohydrates, you will absolutely have food cravings and you won’t be healthy.
The solution for healthy, clean eating is not to eliminate carbs from our diets but to simply change the type we are eating. Go for the whole shebang! Choose whole carbs for whole body health.
- A. T. Merchant, H. Vatanparast, S. Barlas, et al., “Carbohydrate Intake and Overweight and Obesity among Healthy Adults,“ Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109, no. 7 (2009): 1165–72.