Why Counting Carbs is Stupid

  • April

    COUNTING ANYTHING ALL DAY IS EXHAUSTING. It can be as damaging mentally and emotionally as unhealthy habits are physically. Being over-consumed by your food doesn’t allow the freedom for you to actually enjoy eating. Let’s see why counting isn’t helpful and what’s a better approach:

    Not All Carbs Are Equal– Carbohydrates include breads, pastas, crackers, and rice. But what about sugars (ie. fruits, honey, candy) and starches (ie. potatoes, root vegetables, beans, lentils). All these foods breakdown into the same energy sources for your body to utilize, while also storing the excess as fat.

    While I practice a ‘low carb diet’ I don’t look at it as all carbs being equal. I know that I digest rice products better than grains, sugars or starches after doing a hypo-allergenic diet test. I also know some foods make me feel very bloated and mentally tired, even if they are healthy (ie. bananas and sweet potatoes). So for me, I remove those ‘carbs’ that make me feel worse and aren’t adding any benefit to me, such as fiber or vitamins.

    Not All Calories Are Healthy– This one gets me upset. Thinking of only calorie intake to lose weight may work short-term, but they won’t have you feeling your optimal self unless you are choosing healthy calories.

    It’s true, the science is concrete:

    Calories in - Calories used = Fat loss/ gain

    If you eat less calories than you use via exercise, you will lose fat (and probably gain some muscle weight with exercise)

    If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain fat because this is your storage form of energy.

    But this doesn’t make sense…

    1 milk chocolate bar(44g)= 5 servings of Broccoli(740g)
                             = 250 Calories

    Does this mean that to lose weight, you should be eating a chocolate bar instead of 6 servings of nutritious vegetables that will give you the vitamins and minerals for your body to function at optimal capacity while preventing so many genetic and functional diseases?

    Quality is above and beyond quantity.

    Serving Sizes- I think it’s a good idea to measure and record your food and beverage intake once in a while. For example, chart your weekly intake in a diet diary every 4 months to identify what habits are going unnoticed.

    Are you sneaking more than just a cookie a week from the staff lounge?

    Or are you drinking only 3 glasses of water when you thought it was closer to 7?

    Diet diaries are a great way to track what foods you are actually taking in, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it all the time. I prefer to take a less calculated approach and use this diagram as a general rule of thumb for serving sizes:

    Photo credit: Healthy Choice

    One serving size equivalents. Photo credit: Healthy Choice

    *Get all my worksheets free by subscribing to the Daily Dose Calendar.


    A new look at the food pyramid

    The old food pyramid looked something like this:

    Photo credit: SafeFood.eu

    Photo credit: SafeFood.eu

    What looks off?

    • Heavy carbohydrates at the bottom at a minimum of 6 servings
    • Fruits and veggies are mixed up with only 1 broccoli representing for all the dark leafy greens that have the highest nutrients
    • Dairy has it’s own level (which many people are intolerant to), and it’s more than next row of other protein sources (ie. eggs, fish, meat, nuts, beans)
    • Fats are only in small amounts and it doesn’t seem to show any healthy oils from nuts, seeds, vegetable (ie. olive, avocado)

    What do I recommend?

    Food Group Servings/d Examples
    PROTEIN 3-5 Lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes, beans
    HEALTHY FATS 2-4 Avocado, olive, nuts, seeds, dairy
    CARBOHYDRATES 6 or less Especially avoid artificial sugars and refined carbs
    VEGETABLES Unlimited Eat lots of leafy greens and bright veggies
    FRUIT 3-5 Bright colored fruits
    PURE WATER 8 glasses Pure water is essential for a healthy body

    Here’s a look at the above table in a pyramid format:

    Daily Food Recommendations - Dr Alison Chen, ND

    Daily Food Recommendations – Dr Alison Chen, ND


    What’s the difference between carbs, sugars and starches?

    Classically, carbohydrates include breads, pastas, crackers, and rice. But what about sugars (ie. fruits, honey, candy) and starches (ie. potatoes, root vegetables, beans, lentils).

    As mentioned above, counting carbs is silly because sugars and starches break down in your body into the same glucose molecules, which are then converted into energy (ATP). If your body is ‘burning calories’, it requires ATP and releases heat.

    If your body is stagnant and not consuming energy, it will be converted to a storage form of energy (ie. fat).

    But… even if you aren’t running a marathon, your body will always use energy to stay alive. This is what we call resting metabolic state. And when you do a resistance or strength training exercise (ie. building muscle) your resting metabolism increases even after you stop working out, more than endurance training (that’s why the same amount of time dedicated to strength training is more effective than cardio for weight loss).

    Since carbs, sugars and starches convert into energy in the body, it’s important to choose the ones that will give you the most nutritious benefits (ie. vitamins, minerals, fiber, alkaline forming, omega fatty acids, amino acids). For example:

    • Carbohydrates: high fiber, whole multi-grain, wild rice, oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, spelt, rye, nuts, seeds
    • Sugars: bright colored fruit, unpasteurized honey, stevia, black strap molasses, dates
    • Starches: root vegetables (carrots, parsnip), sweet potato, yams, squash, beans, lentils, peas

    Why do I need sugar substitutions?

    Sugar causes a spike in your blood sugar levels, insulin and dysregulates your hormones. The epidemic of obesity, diabetes and metabolic diseases are highly correlated to high sugar intake.

    After having a sweet dessert most people get really giddy and hyper (fun), then crash hard and can’t peel themselves off the couch (not so fun). Now imagine this happening in the middle of the day. What are you going to do to get yourself back to your desk or to the gym? Probably caffeine and more sugar.

    Photo credit: Pixabay.com

    Photo credit: Pixabay.com

    This yo-yo effect destroys your hormone balance and mental stability.

    Eating sugars (including starches and carbs) with protein and fiber (vegetables) help to modify this blood sugar spike by slowing down the release and absorption of sugar.

    If you do indulge in sugars, make sure they are offering you more than just a sweet taste. Choose healthier sugar substitutes that give you physiological and nutritional benefits:

    • Unpasteurized Manuka ad Kanuka Honey is a strong anti-microbial that helps fight gingivitis, ear infections and strengthens your immune system (note: unpasteurized products should not be fed to pregnant women or infants)
    • Stevia is a natural sugar from a plant found in Central and South America. It is up to 40x sweeter than sugar and won’t spike your blood sugar.
    • Xylitol is also a naturally occurring sugar found in foods like beets, corn and berries. It’s not as sweet but has a low glycemic-index (slow sugar absorption).
    • Black Strap Molasses is molasses that has been cooked in a cast-iron pot and has a very high level of iron. This is a great source of iron, especially for vegans and vegetarians.
    • Natural fruit sugars or juices contain very concentrated nutrients. Having a modified amount of fresh juice is always recommended over concentrated.
    • Brown rice syrup has a mild sweetness and is hypo-allergenic.

    Avoid synthetic sugar additives whenever possible:

    • Artificial Sugars are non-caloric sweeteners that don’t absorb through your digestive system. Although have not shown to increase blood glucose levels (except slightly with acesulfame-K), recent studies show them to alter gut microbial communities, leading to glucose intolerance, dysbiosis and metabolic disease. High doses of aspartame also leads to increased irritable mood, depression, and worse work performance.
    • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and sucrose are both comprised of glucose and fructose subunits. They have a similar effects on the body and evidence has linked HFCS to metabolic syndrome and associated comorbidities, implicating fructose as a potential factor in the obesity epidemic.

This website is NOT to be used as a diagnostic or treatment tool. Always consult with your Conventional Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor for specific concerns. In cases of medical emergencies visit your nearest hospital or call 9-1-1.