The Bad & the Ugly of Processed Carbohydrates
Experts say the answer to carbohydrate craving and addiction is not simply a matter of will power - it's a matter of biology. In other words, biological factors are generally considered to be the main trigger for carb cravings.
We all know that highly processed foods have little to no nutritional value. Yet we, as a society, crave and consume an enormous amount of non-fiber carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, cereal, rice, potatoes, some fruits, cookies and candy on a daily basis. Why?
THE ADDICTION CYCLE
Carbs are sugar to the body. Refined and processed convenience foods act like a drug that feeds an addiction. The drug (carbs) creates a high (blood sugar rush) that stimulates an over-release of insulin ("hunger" hormone). It's a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. After blood sugar spikes, it falls to a level the body deems dangerous. The body then craves the one food that can steady the blood sugar level the quickest...MORE CARBS! More carbs + blood sugar rush = escalating and recurring carb cravings. Hence, the vicious cycle.
The body can become insulin resistant. Over time, too much insulin creates a strong impulse to eat too often. When carb-rich foods are consumed, insulin now signals the body to store the food energy in the form of fat resulting in weight gain. Unfortunately, as many as 75% of those who are overweight (and many "normal"-weight individuals) are carb addicted. Most people think that decreasing fat in their diet is the key to weight loss. But, fat is not the problem. A diet loaded with carb-rich foods is what leads to increased bodyfat and weight gain.
ARE YOU ADDICTED?
A long-term insulin increase is serious. Fat cells can shut down leaving blood sugar no where else to go but trapped in the blood stream. This can create a vulnerability to many chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. So, how do you know if you are a addicted to carbs? See if the following statements apply to you:
- I get tired and/or hungry in the afternoon.
- I feel lethargic after a meal.
- I have a hard time stopping once I eat my favorite carb foods (refined snacks and sweets).
- When I feel stressed, my first response is to want to eat something.
- I can't live without my favorite carb foods.
- I have a tendency to binge.
- I frequently crave high-sugar, refined foods (pasta, breads, chips, crackers, sweets, etc.)
- I wish I could control my compulsive eating.
- I am overweight even though I don't really eat that much.
Experts agree that by eating enough wholesome and natural foods at mealtime and healthy snacks throughout the day, you can minimize carb or sweet cravings. And the best part, you lose fat and lose weight!
- Focus on getting enough PROTEIN. (Protein gives the body extended energy, helps balance blood sugar and keeps cravings at bay.)
- Eat SMALL meals or snacks containing some protein every 2 -3 hours to maintain steady blood sugar levels. (Skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop which leads to the desire to reach for processed carbs and sweets for energy.)
- Eat carbohydrate foods rich in fiber such as fresh vegetables and selective fruits. (Avoid processed, nutrient-stripped foods made with white flour, white rice, refined sugar, and highly concentrated sweeteners).
- Have protein-rich snacks like raw nuts and hard-boiled eggs handy when you feel your energy drop.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- If you must, eat whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and barley.
- If you must, eat SMALL portions of seasonal goodies AFTER eating a protein-filled meal or snack. (Sweets on an empty stomach trigger blood sugar lows that lead to the desire for more sweets.)
- Limit intake of alcohol, fruit juice and non-diet sodas. (They cause abrupt blood sugar spikes followed by unsettling blood sugar lows that leave one starved for energy.)
If you deem yourself a carb addict and want to break the cycle, in addition to the above recommendations, focus on getting your carbs from fibrous fresh vegetables and small amounts of berries and fruit. Unlocking the grip processed carbs have on your diet is part of the key to unlocking your success in weight loss.