The Healthy, Plant-Based Flexitarian Diet III: Carbohydrates

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We are coming to our last and final part of this three part series on the basics of a healthy, plant based flexitarian diet. For all my meals, I usually make sure to have a lovely balance of clean proteins, high quality fats and nutrient rich carbohydrates. I have told you about the benefits of proteins (here) and fats (here) before, so let’s move on to carbohydrates. They are so super important because they keep our moods stable, provide our body with energy and if the rights carbohydrates are chosen, they also come with a boat full of nutrients (ok, boat full may be an exaggeration, but you get my gist). Essentially, they are complementing high quality fats and clean proteins, both of which keep us full and our blood sugar stable, in our meals perfectly!
Most of you know probably that carbohydrates digest into simple sugars. There is just one problem: recent scientific evidence points towards sugar (not fat!) being responsible for a whole range of metabolic diseases that include Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Does this mean you are better off on the Atkins, Paleo or another low carbohydrate diet?

The simple answer is: No! It all comes down to the quality of your carbohydrates again. Food containing simple sugars (like sodas, sweets, cakes, processed foods including things such as baby food and shop bought pasta sauces) and refined carbohydrates (anything made out of white flour such as cakes, most breads incl. many wholemeal varieties) cause large fluctuations in our blood sugar which makes it difficult for the hormones that regulate blood sugar to do their job properly. Even if we have lots of fats and protein with our meals! These ‘simple’ carbohydrates are empty of nutrients and mess up our hormonal balance and overall wellbeing in the long term so that chronic diseases of our metabolism are the common outcome.
For a healthy, plant based flexitarian diet we want to focus on so called ‘complex’ carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are digested very slowly into simple sugars, so their release into the blood stream is equally slow (and even more so if combined with clean proteins and high quality fats) which does not upset blood sugar regulation too much. Way easier for our body to deal with, I am sure you agree.
Complex carbohydrates also have a huge advantage: they are incredibly nutrient dense and come in two varieties.

  1. The good old whole grain. Not hulled or shelled or treated, just the normal grain or a flour made out of it. Wholegrain rice comes to mind immediately, but have you ever tried amaranth, spelt, quinoa, millet or teff to just name a few? If you are really unimaginative, stick with wheat, although you may want to consider getting Kamut wheat as it contains less gluten and has less inflammatory effects on our bodies!
  2. Vegetables! You did not expect that, did you? And I literally mean all vegetables ranging from the starchy ones such as sweet potatoes and yams to less starchy ones like asparagus, cabbage, celery and whatever else you can think of. If vegetables are your main carbohydrate in the diet, particularly the low starchy ones, make sure to increase the amounts you are eating to still provide your body with the calories it needs for ideal functioning.

    vegetables
    vegetables at a market

So, I hope this three part series has helped you getting clear on what a healthy diet is. At a minimum, I hope I have raised your awareness about the fact that nutrient density, rather than calorie density of food is important.

If you are interested in learning more or how to apply what you now know to your individual circumstances get in touch now! I’d love to meet you in person and am offering 50 minute complementary sessions in which we can get to know each other, see what your specific wellbeing concerns are and how I can help you to find the (food) balance you need in your life.

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