Paying Attention to Carbohydrates


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In previous lessons we’ve talked about controlling carbs. This week we’re going to dive deeper into some carb nuances that will help you better understand and progress.


The Way Our Ancestors Ate Carbs

During one of our recent LIVE streams a viewer asked, “People have survived for thousands of years on grains and carbohydrate-heavy foods. Is there something different about carb-heavy foods today that is making people unhealthy? Or, is it just the amount they're consuming?”


Key Points from Video:

  • The food we eat today is much more carbohydrate-dense than it ever was before.
  • With modified wheats, the amount of carbohydrates packed into your bread is much higher than it used to be.
  • Foods have morphed in ways that have made them more insulin-stimulating, and our population’s health reflects that.
  • We’ve hybridized grains to be starchier for baking.
  • 100 years ago, if our ancestors wanted bread, the bread had to rise on its own and it was always a little fermented.
  • There’s power in fermentation as bacteria eat some starches and sugars, leaving protein and fat behind.

“Keto-Friendly” Carbs From Bags & Boxes?

Our coaches often get questions about whether or not a certain “keto-friendly” food is OK to eat or not. It seems like store shelves are filling with more and more such products. Our coaches’ typical answer is often two-part...

First, there’s the consideration of whether or not that food produces an insulin/glucose spike. And although this certainly varies from person to person, answering that question is pretty straightforward. You can test it on yourself! Here’s how to do that:

  1. First, test your glucose. You should be two hours rested and fasted for the most accurate results, meaning you should not have done any vigorous physical activity or eaten anything for at least two hours prior.
  2. Eat the food that you are testing without anything else.
  3. One hour after eating, test your glucose again. Look at the change. You typically don’t want to see more than a 20-point spike. And if there is a spike, you want it to come back down within one to two hours.
  4. If you want to also test your ketones at that time, you can. Some people prefer to wait two hours after eating, and then test their glucose a second time and their ketones for the first time. That’s totally up to you.
  5. Experiment. See what provides YOU with the most useful data.

Second, there’s an addiction consideration. Here’s an explanation of that, recorded when an Insulin IQ client recently asked, “Are Mission Carb Balance tortillas okay for insulin resistant people to eat?”


Key Points from Video:

  • Regardless of whether or not that particular “keto-friendly” food spikes your blood sugar, there’s an “addiction consideration” here. What do we mean by that? If the hope of constantly finding silver bullet foods (many of which come in bags or boxes with barcodes) becomes a crutch that keeps you from developing the habit of eating real foods, then you might NOT want to consider such items.
  • However, if that low-carb tortilla helps keep you away from breads, pastas, or other carbs you struggle with, then there may be some use for it (at least until you’re stronger).

18g = 3g? Hmmm...

By now you’re diligent in carefully reading labels, right? Of course you are! Don’t just read the marketing hype on the front of the package. And don’t just look at the amounts of carbs and sugars—also take a look at the list of ingredients. This can help give you clues about a product’s insulin-spiking potential.

In this case, these tortillas include: Modified Wheat Starch, Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified and Hydrogenated Soybean Oils) and Wheat Gluten Isolate.

 


Generally Speaking...



Carbs, Micronutrients, and Sweetness

Recently, Ben did a Metabolic Classroom session entitled, Fructose and Fatty Liver Disease. The entire lesson runs 23 minutes, but there were two short segments that shed light on our understanding of carbohydrates and their role in improving our metabolic health.


Humans Do Not Need Carbohydrates of Any Kind to Live

At the conclusion of this particular Metabolic Classroom session, we took a few questions, one of which was from a viewer named Raj: “Don’t we miss out on micronutrients when we're not eating fruits?”


Key Points from Video:

  • Micronutrients are not macronutrients. They are things like vitamins and minerals.
  • Humans do not need carbohydrates of any kind to live. Humans can subsist 100% on animal-based foods that contain no plants.
  • However, there is certainly a place for these carbohydrates from plants that are rich in micronutrients.
  • People who eat high carb/sugar diets may not be getting enough vitamin C.

Sweetness, Apart From Carbohydrates, Is Unnatural

After Ben outlined the effects of fructose, the discussion turned to artificial sweeteners. At Insulin IQ, one of our fears about artificial sweeteners isn’t related to chemistry at all. It’s related to behavior. Here’s why… Although you’ve probably never thought about it before, in nature everything that tastes sweet is connected to a carbohydrate. So, if an artificial sweetener triggers a subconscious craving for carbs, that can be a problem for some people.

During the discussion about artificial sweeteners, we took a few more questions as well. Nancy asked, “Do artificial sweeteners like stevia lead to the same outcomes?”


Key Points from Video:

  • The majority of sweeteners will not spike insulin.
  • There are some that do, but it would always be less than sugar.
  • For most people, aspartame has little or no impact on insulin. However, for some people diet soda triggers permissive behavior It is unnatural to taste something sweet and not have carbohydrate come with it.
  • In general, sweeteners are fine to satisfy cravings from time to time.

Sweeteners: From Better to Worse

Recently, Dr. Bikman published a great article about sweeteners on HLTH Code’s website (the other entity Ben cofounded). You can read that article >here.

We get lots of questions about which sweeteners we think are better to use. The visual guide below, from our friends at Diet Doctor, is helpful in answering these questions. The numbers you see below next to the individual items are based on the effect each sweetener has on blood sugar and insulin response, for an equal amount of “sweetness” compared to white sugar. (The question marks next to some numbers are just a reminder that, as is always the case, there can be exceptions for some individuals. So, if you’re concerned, test yourself!)

For example, a packet of Splenda provides about the same sweetness as two teaspoons (8 grams) of sugar. Each packet contains about 0.9 grams of carbohydrate from dextrose. That’s 0.9 / 8 = 0.11 times the effect of sugar, for an equal amount of sweetness. So, in this example, pure 100% sugar has a number of 100, which means that Splenda gets a number of 100 x 0.11 = 11.



Suggested Action Items:

If you have your Insulin IQ Success Journal handy (or a sheet of paper), account for your goals last week, and then set some goals for the upcoming week!

Suggestion 1:  Go Through Your Pantry Again - Take a hard look at those boxed or bagged items you picked up at the store because the company printed a giant, bold “KETO” on the front of the package! Read the labels. Perhaps even test one or two on yourself. Maybe they’re fine? Or maybe not?

Suggestion 2:  Don’t Beat Yourself Up - Do things that are attainable for you. Here at Insulin IQ, especially early on, we don’t do you any favors by holding you to something you just won’t do. If you need a substitute for preparing real foods once in a while (on this road, to get you to where you’re going) that’s OK. Just be honest with yourself.

At the same time… Remember that you are probably capable of much more than you think! Listen to your body and your inner voice.

Suggestion 3:  Don’t Fear Artificial Sweeteners -  However, be smart about the ones you use in cooking and the ones you’re consuming in store-bought products. Again, simply reading labels is the biggest help with this. Also, although we’re recommending that you don’t fear artificial sweeteners, keep in mind that everyone is different and if you suspect one is spiking your blood sugar you may want to test it yourself and see.

When cooking this week, if a recipe calls for a sweetener other than stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, or xylitol then consider substituting it. Keep in mind though that the amount(s) you add may need to be adjusted from what the recipe says. Start with less. It’s always easier to add more than it is to take some out!

Suggestion 4:  Don’t Fear the Right Carbs -  Having just read this lesson you may be tempted to think that we’re “plant bashing.” No, that’s absolutely not the case. Non-starchy vegetables and low-starch vegetables are important in providing taste and variety to your nutrition plan.