Ideal Body Weight: Part Three
Maintaining an Ideal Body Weight: Part 3
More About Carbohydrates
We now know that the body perceives all refined (or “simple”) carbohydrates to be the same as sugar. In other words, simple carbs cause an insulin spike which easily leads to many of those carb-derived calories being stored as fat. The average North American adult already consumes approximately 150 lbs of sugar per year. So, when we appreciate that, to the human body, all pasta, bread, breakfast cereal flakes, rice cakes, fruit juice, flour products, white potatoes and white rice, are no different than sugar, we can begin to see why obesity and diabetes are becoming endemic. However, when considering this information, there are a couple of other factors to be aware of.
Many conventional low-carb products on the market are artificially sweetened, as a way to reduce the calorie content. Most such foods are sweetened with sucralose, sold as one of the safest artificial sweeteners available. However, this is not true: sucralose is patently unsafe for long term use. All artificial sweeteners are dangerous, in my opinion, but there are a few safe, natural zero-carb sweeteners, some of which are even finding their way into commercial foods. These include, erythritol, monk fruit, stevia, and xylitol.
But, be aware; if you begin ingesting erythritol or xylitol too fast, you can get gas and sometimes loose stools. One has to start with no more than a teaspoon daily, and gradually increase this amount until the body is comfortable with it. (Lately there has been an attempt in mainstream media to paint erythritol as dangerous. This has been well debunked.)
We desire (and crave) carbohydrates because they raise our levels of serotonin, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the nervous system. Therefore, those who strictly adhere to a program that severely restricts carbohydrate intake (SIBO, Keto, Paleo, Carnivore) for extended periods, may start to find increased levels of anxiety and/or depression as a result. If one notices signs of this, and still chooses not to eat even some complex carbs, there are a couple of supplements that can help to naturally raise serotonin levels. These include St. John’s Wort, 5HTP, tryptophan, L-theanine, vitamin B-3 (niacinamide), and melatonin.
Having Your Cake
Now for the good news. After vigorous physical exertion (i.e. breaking a sweat,) there is a block of time (45 to 60 minutes) when carbohydrates are stored as glycogen deposits in the liver and muscles. This is energy stored for the next day’s activities. During this time one also requires protein or we can burn muscle instead of fat. So, believe it or not, whatever your secret carb desire is, if you can channel it into that time after exercise, it will not be fattening. Thus, if you’re going to eat refined carbs, do so after a workout: then you can have your cake and eat it, too. Now we have an additional motivation to exercise, which will further facilitate healthy weight loss.
That being said, a candy bar will steal nutrients, whereas potatoes, rice and whole grain pastas, will still provide the body with some nutrients, and so would be a better choice. Even among refined carbs, a glass of orange juice and a banana will also provide nutrients along with their sugars, unlike other cheap junk food sources of simple carbs.
More on EFAs
It is important to distinguish between “good” fats and “bad” fats. Good fats support health and longevity, and include oils from avocado, coconut, fish, flaxseed, and olives. A moderate amount of saturated fats, from butter, coconut, eggs and lean animal proteins, can also be beneficial both for general health, and to aid in maintaining an ideal weight. Also, ingesting good fats reduces cravings for bad fats (a desire for chips and deep fried foods).
Excessive animal fats, as consumed by many of those on Keto and Paleo diets, can contribute to heart disease and inflammatory conditions, especially if the meat is industrially produced. Thus, one should choose organic and grass-fed meats, and choose beef over chicken.
The problem with chickens is that they are full of omega 6 fatty acids, due to their commercial diet; cows, due to their multiple stomachs, are able to transform omega 6 fatty acids in a manner that prevents their meat from being overloaded with this inflammation-inducing fat. And, omega 6 polyunsaturated oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, sesame) not only contribute to inflammation, and all the diseases inflammatory in nature, but also drastically raise estrogen levels and are heavily implicated in obesity.
Other bad fats include hydrogenated oils (especially margarine,) all vegetable oils (except coconut) when they are heated to high temperatures, especially when repeatedly heated, as when making chips and French fries. These bad fats actually steal good fatty acids from the body, and are about equal to smoking for the amount of free radical damage they cause to the cells.
Foods That Promote Weight Loss
Consuming adequate protein is one of the most important of all nutritional requirements for attaining an ideal weight. We should eat high quality proteins at each meal to stabilize blood sugar levels (in part, by balancing out the carbs). Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, tofu, and tempeh top the list.
- Cottage cheese is high in tryptophan, which produces serotonin, and, as previously established, low levels of serotonin can cause us to crave simple carbohydrates. It’s a suitable high-protein food if you can digest lactose and casein (milk protein).
- Deep-water fish are the richest source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids protect against cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and are very helpful in treating inflammatory conditions. Deep-water fish are thought to be less susceptible to environmental toxins than other fish, and include anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and trout. Also contain iodine, which stimulates the thyroid.
- Goat milk and cheeses are healthy dairy-protein sources that are closer in composition to human milk than cow’s milk is, and thus can help to normalize body weight.
- Shellfish, especially oysters, are high in zinc, a building block for the thyroid hormone thyroxine, and most crustaceans are also high in selenium, again required for a healthy thyroid. But, even more importantly, the crustaceans (crab, lobster, prawns, oysters, scallops, shimp) are richer in iodine than most other seafoods, making them a boon for any weight loss program. However, the crustaceans are not considered healthful for those with blood types A and AB. (What to Look for When Buying Fresh Shellfish.)
- Soybean foods are often used in Asian medicine to aid in weight reduction. These foods include miso, tofu, tempeh and soy milk. People eating soy on a regular basis need to also eat seaweeds (or take kelp tablets) in order to balance out the dampening effect of soy foods on the thyroid. Tempeh is one of the best vegetarian forms of protein, rich in amino acids and fiber.
- Yogurt is an example of how fermentation changes the properties of milk, reducing the lactose levels, and making the protein, and minerals, more easily assimilated by the body. However, ensure your yogurt has live bacteria added to it, which can be determined by reading the ingredient list (many commercial yogurts are technically ‘dead’). Good bacteria (friendly flora) improves digestion and cleans the digestive tract, and since the status of the microbiome very much determines our digestive abilities and even, ultimately, our body weight, consuming fermented foods of all kinds is of great value to a weight loss program. For those who can’t or won’t consume dairy products, the marketplace now offers many alternative forms of yogurt (in a base of almond, cashew, or coconut milk), and there are of course also the other non-dairy fermented foods (kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, etc). And for those who dislike such foods, there is always Lactospore, or Provide Smoothie, our prebiotic products that ensure a healthy microbiome.
- Chamomile Tea is defined as “bitter and pungent” in oriental medicine, and is highly recommended for weight loss because it aids digestion and calms the nerves.
- Dandelion root (a good coffee substitute) doesn’t elevate insulin levels or stress the adrenal glands like coffee does. It also aids in liver detoxification and stimulates the production of bile, which promotes better digestion (especially of fats). Dandelion (both leaf and root) has a mild diuretic effect, which, unlike over-the-counter diuretics, does not deplete the body of potassium. In fact, it is actually high in potassium.
- Green tea slows the digestion of carbohydrates, preventing an insulin surge, which is extremely helpful for those still consuming carbs during a weight loss program. This is believed to be the reason that many Asians are lean, even though they consume a lot of white rice (which is high on the glycemic index). Green tea can be thermogenic (burns fat), but only if steeped under heat for 30 minutes (which makes it quite bitter). In order to receive the full benefits of green tea, you must drink at least 3 cups per day. A green tea tincture, or concentrated capsules, are a good way to get the full thermogenic effect, fast, easy and frequently.
- Water makes up 70% of our bodies, so we need to constantly replenish this vital fluid. Even low-grade dehydration can cause fatigue and water retention, so we need to drink at least 4 cups of good quality water per day (more if you are doing intense exercise or saunas). Water helps to cleanse and detoxify our bodies, promotes good digestion, and improves skin tone.
- Yerba Mate is a popular coffee substitute from Paraguay. It is thermogenic (burns fat), but is gentler on the body than coffee. It also provides energy without that jittery feeling.
In Part 4 I will finish up with a further listing of all the foods with a scientific and/or traditional track record for aiding in weight loss and maintaining an ideal weight.