By Dr Joe
I totally get your concern about eating carbs and gaining weight.
I have something for you here about not gaining weight despite consuming carbs that you are going to love.
It’s not a 2-minute read by the way because I go deep as to how and why you can lose weight whilst eating the carbs and as usual backed with the scientific evidence.
I love carbs. Yep, I do.
And you love carbs too, right?
Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you can employ to have a carbohydrate load any day of the week safely. These are long term strategies by the way, not some short-term fads.
If you’re non-diabetic, these carb eating plans will help you manage your weight.
If you have prediabetes, these carb eating techniques will help you bring your blood sugar levels down. And even if you are diabetic, you will find these carb eating plans very useful in controlling your blood sugar too.
If eating carbs is right up your street and you are weight-conscious…
You may have been pondering:
How do I eat carbs without gaining weight?
Well, buckle up and read on:
Carbs are everywhere, aren’t they?
Carbohydrates are the most popular foods on the planet. The whole world is awash with carbs and we (me included) can’t get enough of them.
Whilst we are like a bull in a China shop in terms of carbs consumption, it’s probably best to take time out and reassess how we interact with carbohydrate foods.
I am not in any way suggesting that we stop eating carbs altogether. No way!
I have tried that and it doesn’t work. Most dieters try that too and they fail miserably at least in the medium to long term anyway.
Asking people to cut out carbs is a classic example of being out of touch with reality.
But are carbs largely responsible for the obesity crisis we have the world over? Hmm, may be.
How do we get the bull out of the china shop and get him to calm down? That is the question. How do we take control of our carb cravings, rein them in and control our weight at the same time?
What do you do:
Depending on who you listen to, you get all sorts of varied advice regarding carbs and what to do with them.
Some gurus will tell you to cut carbs out altogether. Well, you can try that and see how that works for you.
I can almost guarantee that such an approach will fail. That approach may succeed in the short term but guaranteed to fall off the cliff in the long term. Wanna bet?
Another school of thought is the one preaching the very low carb high fat diet. Now, that is a valid approach that actually works. In my journey to a better health, I had initially gone with the very low carb high fat way of eating strategy.
…but for a short interval.
I did lose weight on it but I was not comfortable eating that way for the rest of my life. I shall be doing an article on why I came off the low carb high fat dietary lifestyle at a later date.
I am not trying to denigrate the low carb high fat diet here. Far from it. It works and it works for thousands of people all over the world but it’s just not my thing.
I’d rather have my carbs and reduce my fat consumption, in particular saturated fat. Regardless of what the evidence might be, scientific or otherwise, I do not think saturated fats are a thing I want to be friendly with.
By the way, see my article on how to manipulate carbs and fats together.
I will not eliminate saturated fat completely from my diet, but their content will be in the region of 6% of my energy needs. Unsaturated fats are fine. Unsaturated fats are the type of fats you get from olives, avocados, nuts and seeds.
Indeed, unsaturated fats should be welcome into the fold but saturated fats in the diet need to be handled with care. And that’s my opinion and I am sticking to it.
Do you know what? It’s not just my opinion, the heart health organisations do agree with my opinion having looked at and weighed the evidence on saturated fats. Hmm, I can see myself digressing…
Okay, let’s get back on track:
To the topic of how to eat carbs without gaining weight.
In fact, you can eat carbs to lose weight and use carbs for weight maintenance too, would you believe it?
Yes, you can. I do it (consume carbs) every day without any problems…at all.
You don’t need to cut out carbs from your life in order to lose weight.
Here are 4 ways to eat carbs without fear of gaining weight.
Before I go into the strategies, I would like you know (in brief) why we are doing this.
The reason we employ these strategies is to prevent us from spiking insulin when we consume carbs.
Why…because high levels of insulin lead to fat preservation and reduced fat burning. Insulin is a fat storing hormone.
We need insulin to survive but we don’t need a lot of it.
Now that I have underscored the reason why and you understand it…let’s get to the carb eating strategies:
- Cut down on the wrong carbs consumption
Going by what I said earlier on, it should be clear to you that I do not believe that carbs are your enemy. Carbs are actually your friends.
But like everything in life, you’ve got to choose your friends wisely. The same applies to carbs.
Even though we want to welcome carbs into our lives with open arms, we need to choose our carbs carefully. You need to eat the right carbs.
The right carbs are good for you and will help you lose weight and maintain your weight. The wrong carbs will do the exact opposite.
The proponents of the low carb high fat lifestyle have always argued that the national dietary guidelines that advised we eat carbs are wrong.
They also believe the guidelines have been the reason for the obesity crisis in the Western world.
Truth be told: the guidelines are actually correct. They might need a little tweak here and there but the guidelines are largely correct. The reason people are getting fatter is because they are eating the wrong carbs.
Eating the wrong carbs is the problem. Not the guidelines!
So, what are the wrong carbs?
The wrong carbs are the highly-refined processed carbs. The more refined a carbohydrate food is, the higher the glycaemic index and also the less the nutritional value of that food.
Carbohydrate processing strips away the bran and some of the germ of the food leaving it exposed and fluffier in texture.
The refined carb might taste better but it is nutritionally inferior to the whole grain and like I said earlier, its ability to spike your insulin level exponentially increases as the glycaemic index shoots through the roof.
Refined or heavily processed carbs lack fibre and micronutrients unless artificially added. Refined carbs are associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes too.
See image below which further explains why refined heavily processed carbs are bad for you.
What foods am I talking about?
Here is a list of refined carbs or heavily processed carbs you may want to avoid or at the very least drastically reduce your consumption, if you want to eat carbs and not gain weight:
- White bread
- Dough nuts
- Sourdough bread
- Refined white rice
- Breakfast cereals
- Refined white pasta
- Cookies or biscuits
- Most chocolates especially white chocolates
- High fructose corn syrup
- Chips or crisps
- Sweetened iced tea
- Instant oatmeal
- Waffle mixes
- Cup cakes
- French fries
The US Department of Agriculture USDA advises these foods should be eaten at no more than 3-oz per day.
The list is by no means exhaustive but you will be doing your metabolic health a big, big favour by avoiding those refined carbs on that list.
At the very least, consume them minimally. Going by the USDA recommendation, your consumption of them should not exceed 30 – 75 gm a day.
Whole grains are better any time of the day than refined grains. And that’s what you should be seeking in preference to refined grains.
Need some evidence:
This study couldn’t have put it better.
“Whole-grain intake is generally inversely associated with BMI; refined grain intake is not. Because overall dietary quality tends to be higher for high-carbohydrate diets, a low-fat dietary strategy with emphasis on fiber-rich carbohydrates, particularly cereal fiber, may be beneficial for health and weight control”
2. The Cheat Technique of Eating Minimally Processed Carbs
I have a friend who swears that eating rice is the only way she can have happiness in her life. She needs to get out more! Don’t you think?
Okay, let’s not be harsh on her.
Life is about being flexible. Whilst the best approach is to eat whole grain carbs, you can still eat selected minimally processed carbs and still get away with it.
By minimally processed carbs, I am not talking about candies and other sweet confectioneries. I am rather talking about foods like white rice.
By the way, there is the brown rice alternative but I realise that a lot of people hate brown rice, mainly because of the texture which I admit can be quite coarse.
Just to be clear minimally processed carbs are different from heavily processed carbs. This bit is about minimally processed carbs like white rice or pasta.
So, how can you eat something like white rice, if you are like my friend and not cause metabolic havoc to your body?
That is the question. And I love a challenge.
Here is what you do:
And I have tested this by way of blood sugar analysis, by the way. So, this isn’t some theory.
First thing is:
You have to reduce the quantity of the minimally processed carb in your plate of food. So, your white rice or white pasta will constitute about 30% of the plate. An example will be 100 gm of white pasta.
Next you make up the rest of the plate with vegetables. A mixture of vegetables will do but a good 60% of the vegetables should be green leafy vegetables or cruciferous vegetables. If you are a meat-loving kind of person, you will need to have a small portion of meat, preferably white meat like chicken. Fish is fine too.
The reason you want a smaller portion of meat is because meat in itself is insulinogenic. You don’t want another food that will trigger the release of high levels of insulin. That’s exactly what we are trying to avoid with this trick.
The idea behind this technique is that the leafy or cruciferous vegetables will slow down the digestive process such that the glucose broken down from the white rice or white pasta is done in a gradually controlled manner.
This prevents a sudden rise of blood sugar and consequent sudden insulin spikes which is what normally happens with these foods. Refer to my diagrammatic explanation above again to understand the principle.
The other day my family and I went out for a restaurant meal and I still wanted to abide by the same principle, if I could. So, I chose Mushroom rice as my entrée.
What I was served was far from what I was expecting. You could count the mushroom pieces in the dish. Pathetic! See image below.
So, what vegetables can we use here to complement our minimally processed carb?
Here is a list of vegetables you will need to consider:
Kale, spinach, rocket (arugula), artichokes and artichoke hearts, leeks, mushrooms, aubergines, asparagus, sweet peppers (bell peppers), okra, lettuce, onions, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans, turnips, courgettes (zucchini), celery, bean sprouts and cucumbers.
What have we succeeded in doing here?
- We have succeeded in reducing the serving size of our selected minimally-processed carb.
- We have succeeded in keeping our blood glucose down on an even keel.
- We have succeeded in bringing our insulin level under control – very important for appetite control, cravings control and indeed fat burning instead of fat storage.
Wondering what I am referring to:
Here are some recipes to guide you.
There are lots more recipes like that but you get the idea.
3. Eat Carbs high in resistant starch
Eating carbs high in resistant starch can actually assist in your weight loss efforts. Consider resistant starch as a prebiotic. It’s called resistant starch because it’s deliberately difficult for the body to digest.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, these foods with resistant starch derive their benefits by virtue of their resistance to digestion.
Resistant starch provides food for the gut bacteria. These bacteria in turn produce short chain fatty acids like butyric acid and propionic acid that have profound effect on both our colon health as well as overall health.
The net result is that eating resistant starch will provide you with benefits such as:
- Boosting your immune system
- Boosting cellular energy
- Improved your mental focus
- Boosting metabolism
- Aid weight loss by increasing fat burning and appetite regulation
- Aid the digestive system by reducing bloating, gas production and relieve constipation.
- Combat chronic inflammation
This is one of the best kept secrets of weight loss. All the talk about increasing fibre consumption revolves around this concept of resistant starch.
So, what carbohydrate foods are high in resistant starch?
Carbs high in resistant starch are all around you. You just need to pay special attention to them and incorporate them more into your diet portfolio.
Below is a small list of good carbs for weight loss mainly because they are foods high in resistant starch:
- Green bananas
- Minimally ripe bananas
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole wheat pasta
- Pearl barley
- Brown rice
- Triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid)
Triticale is a newer grain that is particularly good for blood sugar control. In fact, triticale is one grain that diabetics should choose if they love their carbs.
as a micronutrient.
Triticale has a high manganese content as a micronutrient. Manganese is important in glucose metabolism in the liver tempering the process of gluconeogenesis. If you aren’t diabetic, even better.
Triticale is effective for weight control and your bowel health because of it’s extremely high fibre content of 19 gm per cup. How cool is that!
Another king of the resistant starch parade is bananas and plantains. Bananas just like plantains have a great deal of resistant starch. The only problem with bananas and plantains is that the resistant starch content diminishes with each passing day as they ripen.
What do I mean by that?
A large green banana (8 inch) for instance has about 21 gm of resistant starch. That same banana when it ripens fully (you know the ripe banana with the brown patches on the skin) has only 7 gm of resistant starch. That amount of resistant is still better than most foods but it is still a lot less compared to the green banana.
The morale of the story is to eat your bananas at the point they are beginning to ripen.
As you know, eating emerald green banana is probably not going to be a pleasant experience. I have actually tried eating emerald green bananas and can confirm doing so can be a little tricky.
It does stick a little bit to your teeth and gums which can be a little unsightly soon after you have finished eating. Of course, brushing your teeth can sort that out. The texture of the unripe banana is sort of wet-crispy which may be off-putting to a lot of people.
The taste of the green banana is not that far off the usual sweetness of a ripe banana. The green banana is just less sweet and that is where the nutritional advantage lies.
Green banana has a lower calorie content than a sweet one.
Here is one way of eating an unripe banana – make a smoothie with it. The green banana smoothie should hide any unpleasantness. Try out that this green banana smoothie recipe. It’s awesome!
As for green plantains, they can be eaten but preferably in the cooked form – boiled, steamed, grilled and baked. In the same vein, green plantains which are usually larger than bananas have twice as much resistant starch at a whopping 48 gm per green plantain.
I have not eaten raw green plantains personally. Could the smoothie route work for green plantains? Maybe.
Actually, the more I think about the green plantain resistant starch, the more tempting the green plantain smoothie gets.
This represents the ultimate cheat pathway to eating carbs and still lose weight or maintain your weight…because a lot of the carbs in green banana and green plantain are indigestible.
Chew on that for a moment (no pun intended).
How much resistant starch to aim for?
Good idea to aim for about 30 gm a day of resistant starch. Preferably more. That’s when the benefits begin to add up.
And wait for it:
Even a simple short 3-day intervention with resistant starch led to:
“increased systemic levels of gut hormones involved in appetite regulation, metabolic control and maintenance of gut barrier function, as well as improved markers of glucose homoeostasis in middle-aged subjects, altogether relevant for the prevention of obesity and the metabolic syndrome”
Simple works every time, folks. It just does.
4. Add Turmeric to your carbs
What sets turmeric apart from a lot of other spices is that it contains an active ingredient called curcumin.
Curcumin has diverse therapeutic benefits inclusive of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and effective in weight management.
Curcumin in turmeric seems to have neuroprotective property as it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. So, using turmeric may protect you from conditions like Parkinson’s disease and new research seems to indicate turmeric may be good for depression.
Curcumin in turmeric has been compared to other spices for anti-inflammatory strength. Curcumin showed its power and potential in the “boxing ring of spices” as seen in the video below:
Not bad for a yellowish powder, huh.
What we want to do however is exploit another property of turmeric – weight management and insulin sensitivity.
A 60-day course of curcumin (turmeric) given to 44 people affected by metabolic syndrome resulted in reduction of body fat, waistline reduction, hip circumference reduction and a drop in body mass index.
The conclusion from that study being that curcumin does have a positive influence on weight management.
One more thing:
For new fat cells to begin life, just like any other new cell in the body, they need to establish a rich blood supply for themselves. Without a decent blood supply, life for that cell is a non-starter.
When the fat cell is established, that rich blood supply must be maintained, otherwise the cell will perish.
Cue curcumin. Curcumin in turmeric has been shown to suppress the formation of that rich network of blood vessels (angiogenesis) that fat cells need to start a new life and grow.
Curcumin was also shown in this study to enhance oxidation of fat and decrease esterification of fatty acids.
Curcumin does a lot more at cellular level.
Curcumin interacts with proteins in the liver, pancreas, muscle and fat cells modulating metabolic pathways.
With this action of curcumin inside the cell fuel machine, it does the following:
- Reverses insulin resistance
- Lowers blood sugar
- Lowers blood lipid levels
- Reduces other inflammatory symptoms associated with obesity and metabolic diseases
On this basis, the study authors recommended curcumin be included as part of a healthy diet, especially as it is safe and cheap.
This means turmeric should be part of your high carb diet plan. Just sprinkle it here and there and let it soak up glucose from the circulation when you consume high carb meals to lose weight.
5. Become a fan of Apple Cider Vinegar
I love apple cider vinegar. Weird, I know.
I love it because it does my body a lot of good.
Apple cider vinegar is a by-product of apples (as if you didn’t know that already). Crushed apples are fermented to form alcohol from the fructose in the apples.
The process doesn’t end there. The alcohol is converted to acetic acid by merely adding bacteria. The acetic acid constitutes the main active agent in apple cider vinegar.
You have probably read about some of the claims of the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. A lot of it is unsubstantiated and we won’t go into that here.
I need to mention one thing though. Please do not use apple cider vinegar to whiten your teeth or use it to remove dental plaques.
The only thing that will happen is the apple cider vinegar will facilitate the wearing of your enamel. You will be shaving your teeth away, literally, with time and predisposing you to form cavities. Not what you want. Wrong use, Bad advice!
Now where was I?
Yes, the reason why apple cider vinegar is good for your carb consumption. In particular, stopping you from gaining weight when you dose on your healthy carbs.
That keyword again “healthy carbs”. Never forget that.
If there’s one non-medicinal substance that has been subjected to numerous studies to test its effectiveness for control of blood sugar, it is apple cider vinegar.
The results have generally been consistent. It’s not a myth or some theory.
Apple cider vinegar is good for blood sugar control in healthy individuals, in diabetics and in individuals with pre-diabetes.
And you will be well within your human rights to exploit that.
You can grab a bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar from UK Amazon here.
Apple cider vinegar suppresses body fat. What happens when you expose obese Japanese people of similar body weight, BMI and waist circumference to a 12-week period of vinegar consumption having divided them into 3 groups for a study purpose.
Give one group a daily drink of vinegar containing 30 ml of apple cider vinegar, second group 15 ml and the 3rd group consuming 0 ml for the 12 weeks.
When body weight, BMI, visceral fat area, waist circumference, and serum triglyceride levels are measured after the 12-week period, the vinegar consuming groups had all 5 parameters lower than in the placebo group.
Vinegar is thought to affect the metabolism of glucose both in the liver and in the muscle long after food is consumed.
Any substance that positively influences metabolism of glucose in the liver and muscle is something you must welcome into your life. The liver and muscle cells are paramount locations to burn glucose.
Give people with type 2 diabetes a drink of vinegar at bedtime and check their blood sugar in the morning.
This small study showed that vinegar does reduce fasting blood glucose levels.
The study authors recommending that vinegar may be useful in type 2 diabetic individuals who experience the dawn phenomenon.
White bread is one carb we don’t like, right?
There is no stopping vinegar because when experimented with white bread, vinegar seems to have a blood glucose lowering effect on white bread consumption.
Insulin sensitivity is something you should be craving to have any day.
Can apple cider vinegar make you more insulin sensitive? Oh, yes, it can.
Cross-over study that recruited both type 2 diabetics and non-diabetics who were nonetheless insulin resistant.
Give them an unhealthy carbohydrate meal consisting of white bagel, orange juice and butter. Serve them 20 gm of apple cider vinegar and what do you get when you measure their insulin sensitivity?
You get as much as 34% increase in insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant individuals and a 19% improvement in insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics. This is with an unhealthy carb meal.
How cool is that?
Now you see why you should be including apple cider vinegar in your shopping list.
You certainly should include apple cider vinegar in your high carb diet plan. Apple cider vinegar is good for your carb heavy meals.
Apple cider vinegar will help you deal with glycaemic load when you have a carbohydrate heavy meal.
Apple cider vinegar will moderate your starch digestion whilst moderating your blood glucose. I don’t eat a carbohydrate heavy meal without my apple cider vinegar drink to accompany it. It’s regular practice for me
If you want to eat high carb to lose weight, well, I don’t know about you but for me it’s a no-brainer!
So, as you can see, you can eat healthy carbs without gaining weight. You just have to do it right. Employ one or two of these techniques and you can have carbs and still remain skinny…forever!
Suggested further reading:
Can This Delicious Elixir REALLY Ease Stress, Boost Energy and ERASE Belly Fat?