Imagine being able to easily make healthy food choices! How would it feel if you were no longer compelled to say yes to the chips, to the second helping of pasta? Imagine if you just didn’t feel as hungry. In this article, we look at how your choice of carbs can either help you bring your body into balance and set up the conditions for lasting weight loss or hinder it.
The type of carbs you eat may drive you to eat more of them, or they may be making you feel satiated. If your choice of carbs is causing imbalances in your body, it’s going to be a struggle to say no to the cakes and biscuits, to the bread and pasta; it’s going to be tough not to overeat; it’s going take a huge amount of effort to lose weight.
Carbohydrate foods include grains, beans, pulses, fruit and vegetables. We covered fruit and vegetables in article 13. Beans and pulses contain protein as well as carbohydrate and are covered in article 14. So, in this article we are going to mainly focus on grains.
Picking back up with Emma, we find her having whole-grain toast at breakfast. She was also starting to experiment with other breakfasts and found she really liked chia porridge with oats, nuts and fruit. She was doing well with her fruit and vegetable intake. And although snacks didn’t always go as planned, most included protein.
So now she was ready to look at carbs. Emma regularly ate white rice and loved couscous. For her, changing to brown rice was a fairly easy swap. But she wasn’t keen on whole-grain couscous. She experimented with quinoa, found she liked it and took it for a good alternative.
The carbs she had great difficulty giving up were the ‘treats’, particularly on weekends—products like scones or cakes. Made with white flour, many of these foods were also high in sugar, which Emma knew was an issue for her.
For now, she decided to focus on having complex, unrefined carbs at meals and to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates she ate outside of meals. Her plan was to stick to just one scone or one small slice of cake. Emma was starting to notice that she no longer wanted to reach for food automatically to keep herself going. When she had cake or scones, it was with awareness, noticing how her body felt afterwards.
She didn’t have a sudden epiphany, but to her surprise, they seemed sweeter now. Whilst some days were harder, it was starting to get easier to eat smaller amounts and less of them or less often.
How unrefined carbs help you lose weight
Complex, unprocessed, unrefined carbohydrates such as beans, pulses and whole grains help bring your body into balance. Whole grains include such foods as brown rice, oats, millet, barley, rye, bulgur wheat, whole wheat pasta, whole meal or granary bread, buckwheat and quinoa. (Buckwheat and quinoa are technically seeds, but are eaten like grains.)
Unrefined carbs reduce your appetite, including the following day
Unrefined carbohydrates, being high in fiber and micronutrients, are more filling. Eating high-fiber foods has a significant effect on your appetite. You eat less, not only of your current meal but also of subsequent meals.
After a high-fiber meal, you release more of the intestinal hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), which suppresses your appetite. Researchers found that a high-fiber evening meal increased levels of this appetite-suppressant by 34 percent the following morning. Participants who had the high-fiber evening meal felt less hungry the whole of the following day.
They also ate 12 percent less calories at lunch, compared to participants who had a low-fiber meal the night before. Refined ‘white’ carbs such as white bread, white rice, white pasta and white flour are low in fiber and micronutrients and don’t support your body.
Because they have had the fiber removed, they are less filling. Do you eat refined grains, white bread, sweets and desserts? The more of these foods you eat, the more likely you are to gain weight. If you eat whole grains and other foods high in fiber, you are less likely to gain weight.
If you eat unrefined carbs, you excrete more calories
Not only do high-fiber foods help you eat less, you also excrete more calories in your stool. This means you are absorbing less of the calories you eat, which is helpful if you want to lose weight! If you currently eat a low-fiber diet, you may need to increase your fiber slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
Unrefined carbs help balance many systems in your body; refined carbs don’t
We’ve looked at how carbohydrates are broken down in your body into sugars. Remember, unrefined carbs still have their fiber, so release their sugars more slowly. As a result, whole grains have less effect on your blood sugar levels than refined grains. And as you know from the proteins article, this in turn helps balance your female hormones and regulate your stress hormones.
Whole grains contain insoluble fiber, which helps eliminate environmental and old oestrogens. They also contain B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. which support your female hormones and your adrenals, which is particularly important when you are stressed. Additionally, the nutrients in whole grains support your thyroid, which controls your metabolism.
Whole grains also support your liver and gut. Your liver detoxification enzymes need the B vitamins. Plus, the fiber in the whole grains helps food pass through your digestive system. So whole grains help your elimination process, including the excretion of obesogens. A high-fiber diet could also change your gut bacteria, leading to weight loss.
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Read Also About Breakfast to Lose Weight
Tailor to the imbalances in YOUR body
In this section, we look at which whole grains have additional properties that can help with specific imbalances.
Female hormone imbalances
Brown rice and oats contain phytoestrogens, which help balance your female hormones.
Gut bacterial imbalances
Oats contain prebiotics, which support the bacteria that can help boost your metabolism and reduce fat storage.
Your next step
Your next step is to look at the type of carbs you are eating and to replace refined ‘white’ carbs with whole grains.
With many carbohydrates, you have a choice between the unrefined whole-grain version and the refined white grain. For example, with bread you can chose between whole grain or white. Similarly, with brown or white rice. You could swap your regular pasta for whole meal pasta. Instead of couscous, you could have whole grain couscous or bulgur wheat.
If you find it hard to change from refined to whole grains, do it gradually. If you don’t like whole grain bread, try starting with bread made from half whole grain and half white flour. Or make your sandwich with one slice of whole grain and one slice of white.
You could also replace your refined carbs with a different type of whole grain. Instead of refined breakfast cereals, have oats or make oat or millet porridge. It may take a bit of experimenting to find what works for you. If you are used to refined carbs, it may take a while for your tastes to adapt.
Key things you have learned in this article
- Complex unrefined carbs such as beans, pulses and whole grains are high in fiber and nutrients, which helps you feel fuller for longer.
- If you eat unrefined carbs, not only you are likely to eat less, but you also absorb less of the calories you do consume.
- Carbohydrates are broken down in your body into sugars. The fiber in the complex carbs slows down the release of these sugars. This means that complex carbs have less effect on your blood sugar levels than refined carbs.
- Refined ‘white’ carbs make it harder to lose weight. They are low in fiber and nutrients and cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. Blood sugar imbalances can increase fat storage and trigger cravings.