Rob Heppell: Welcome to the “Your Best You Today” show. I’m your host, Rob Heppell. I’m joined, as always, with health expert, Dr. Kevin Jackson. Dr. Kevin is a Naturopathic doctor who has been helping people find natural solutions to health issues for over 25 years.
With the Your Best You Today on‑line radio show, we’re going to dive into common health issues and explore natural solutions to them. Welcome back, Dr. Kevin.
Dr. Kevin Jackson: Hey, Rob.
Rob: What are we tackling today?
Dr. Kevin: What I wanted to talk about today is carbohydrates. Carbs. It is a real buzz word nowadays. A lot of people are talking about carbs. There’s a lot of press about carbs, carbohydrates. A lot of people are confused.
There are a lot of mixed messages in the media. A lot of people don’t really understand what there is to be concerned about when we’re talking carbs. I wanted to delve into that. Just try and break it up and make it a little easier for people to understand, so that hopefully at the end of this episode and the next, they’ll have a good, firm grip on what carbs are good, what carbs are bad, and what to avoid basically.
Rob: Hey, Kev, all the people like me who have been hitting this diet yo‑yo and found that we could get results by Atkins style diets and South Beach style diets that were low‑carb. We’re attuned to it, but I’m sure we’re missing a lot of background information that we could always be making a better choice.
The great thing about our show is that’s not what we’re trying to do here. We’re always trying to find out what’s the better choice to make. That’s why we’ve got you on the hot seat here. We’ve talked about sugar, we’ve talked about caffeine, and now we’re going into carbs. All these things seem to impede people who want to lose weight.
Dr. Kevin: It’s not just weight, Rob. It’s just general health. Certainly weight’s a big issue for many people, but general health is affected dramatically by what we put into our bodies. A lot of people who don’t have a weight issue, but they have severe joint pain or that they’ve got some chronic pain issue or they’ve got severe skin issues or they’ve got severe gastrointestinal problems.
These often link to the foods we’re putting into our body, and carbs play a big role in that for many people, and we’ll get into the whys and wherefores as we go on.
Rob: I’ve heard of simple carbs, and I know carbs, the topic isn’t simple, it is complex. Where do we start with the topic of carbs?
Dr. Kevin: Carbs or carbohydrates are a macromolecule. They’re basically one of the three macromolecules that we digest and utilize from our foods, so there are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are a group of molecules that are basically made up of fiber, starch, and sugars. These are things that most foods have in them, especially vegetable‑based, plant‑based foods. For example, most of our protein sources like chicken, fish, beef, pork, lamb ‑‑ they don’t have any measurable carbs to speak of, they’re mainly proteins and fats.
The carbs that we all hear about, the bad carbs ‑ the breads, the pastas, the potatoes, the yams, the crackers really are, in most cases, very harmful to our health. They are the nasty ones and we want to look at why are they bad for you. What’s the problem with carbs?
Good carbs/bad carbs, the good carbs are really all about fiber. Fiber is a substance found in really only plant foods, fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, legumes. It’s the type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. That’s actually a good thing because other types of carbohydrates such as starch get converted into sugar and in the case of sugars themselves such as disaccharides (double sugars) they are broken down into monosaccharides, single sugars. They affect our blood sugar.
Blood sugar is a big player in the problems associated with carbohydrates. Fiber is probably the best part of carbs. Fiber is really the thing that we want to try and get as much as we can of from carbs because we don’t get it from anything else. We don’t get it from meats and most of the fats out there don’t have carbs mixed in with them, namely fiber.
What we need to do is we need to try and look at our labels and see how much fiber there is in the foods we’re eating. Take note of that because it’s the most important thing when we look at carbohydrate foods.
When we look at fiber, we have to look at what’s the benefit for us eating fiber. Foods containing fiber take up much more space than foods that don’t contain fiber when they get into our gastrointestinal tract. That usually means that you feel fuller after you eat it. That’s a good thing.
Rob: Is that why some of the diet products are fiber tablets just to give you that sense of being full, is that…?
Dr. Kevin: Absolutely. It’s a great way of, in some cases, tricking the body into believing that you’re satiated or full by filling up on fiber because you’re not absorbing any of that at all. It’s not converting into calories at all in your body.
As a result, it is a trick that some people use and some supplements use to help you lose weight because if your body thinks that you’re full, and you feel satiated but you’re not absorbing any of it, that can be a good thing.
Rob: Is there something that’s 100 percent fiber? I don’t know if that exists, you would not gain any weight?
Dr. Kevin: That’s correct. Yes, you wouldn’t absorb any of it. There are some products out there that are predominantly fiber. They are usually used to help with gastrointestinal issues like constipation and that kind of thing.
They can be very beneficial to our health. We have to be more cognizant, as a population, of the amount of fiber that we’re putting in our bodies just because there’s such a benefit there. If we can eat carbohydrates that are very high fiber, the net effect is it means we’re getting less sugar and starch into our bodies and more fiber which has the beneficial effects.
Fiber comes in two classifications, soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that actually dissolves in water or fluid. Insoluble fiber does not. It just passes through. Studies have shown that people who eat more fiber tend to be leaner and less likely to gain weight over time.
Soluble fiber as they say dissolves in water in your stomach. The soluble fiber you’ve eaten dissolves in water and the fluid or the digestive juices and basically turns into this viscous liquid or gel in your gastrointestinal tract.
It interferes somewhat with the absorption of fats and sugars. It helps keep blood sugar levels steadier which is helpful for the management of weight and for preventing diabetes and pre‑diabetic states.
Rob: What foods then would you suggest these soluble fiber foods?
Dr. Kevin: The big ones are legumes, peas and beans. They’re very high in soluble fiber. Barley, beef barley soup, or some people would have just pork barley as a side dish like they eat rice.
Rob: What about beer?
Dr. Kevin: No fiber in beer, unfortunately.
Rob: Like hops and barley?
Dr. Kevin: Unfortunately, we’re talking about the process that really leaves no fiber at all. You may wake up the next morning and feel you’ve had a lot of fiber. Maybe too much fiber but it’s not the fiber that’s doing it. It’s the alcohol that’s doing it.
Oat bran is another great source of soluble fiber. Chia seeds, one of the best actually.
Soluble fibers are also link to lowering cholesterol levels because it binds cholesterol. That’s another plus with soluble fiber. Most fruits and vegetables give you at least some soluble fiber. Psyllium husk ‑‑ Metamucil is the big product name out there that contains psyllium. It is a popular fiber supplement. It’s predominantly soluble fiber. Those are the best places to come up with your soluble fiber.
Rob: What’s insoluble fiber then?
Dr. Kevin: Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Basically, it absorbs water. It expands like the way a dry sponge expands when it soaks up water. You can imagine that this puffed up sponge moving through your intestines so you get the idea how insoluble fiber will work for you. It works like a broom almost to sweep the contents of the intestine out.
It’s a great treatment for the prevention and the treatment of constipation. For people who have issues around constipation, this is usually one of the things that you want to try right off the top to see if it’ll help as it’s a very innocuous, non‑invasive way of helping get the bowel movements to move regularly.
The main sources for insoluble fiber would be wheat bran, corn bran, oat bran, nuts, flax seed, are excellent. Flax seed actually has a little of both soluble and insoluble fiber, ground flax seed that is. Then the skins and the peels of most fruits and vegetables, especially apples and potatoes, they’re quite high in insoluble fiber.
Rob: What about wheat, aren’t we suppose to watch our wheat intake? Due to how wheat is produced nowadays or am I getting things confused?
Dr. Kevin: No, absolutely. That’s a separate subject. That will be another topic that we’ll be speaking about. Gluten intolerance is rampant at this point in time, certainly in North America. Wheat generally can be a problem for many people due to allergies or hyperallergenic states, or I should say hypersensitivities.
The issue is, I’m speaking of wheat bran, so if a person doesn’t seem to have problems with wheat and they use some wheat bran, it will help them move their bowels like the old adage says, you eat a bran muffin a day to prevent constipation.
The issue of course is, that the bran muffin usually has a lot of wheat not just bran and a bunch of sugar in there. We’ve already touched on sugar and what it does. That’s not such a good option. If you would just take the wheat bran, spoonful of that with a lot of water, that can be really helpful.
Again, we want to be cognizant of the fact that some people out there are just not tolerant of wheat or gluten. The next question really is how much fiber do we really need to get into our bodies if we combine the soluble and insoluble fiber?
What do we need? The recommendations for fiber are 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men. You can use a lot more than that, it still going to have ongoing benefits for you. That’s the minimum and a lot of people just don’t get that kind of fiber.
What you can do, Rob, is if you look at packages, a lot of the packaging nowadays tells you how much fiber there is in what you’re eating. You can get a rough idea of what you’re putting in your body. If you are not getting enough from your food, then you might want to try supplementing it with some of the sources that we’ve just spoken of.
Just to give you an idea of some of the foods that are high in fiber, split peas are right on the top of the heap, about 16 grams of fiber per cup when they’re cooked. Lentils are right up there as well, around 16 grams as well per cup cooked. Black beans, 15 grams per cup, lima beans 13 grams, artichokes around 10 grams per medium size vegetable, peas around 9 grams of fiber per cup cooked, broccoli around 5 grams, and Brussels sprouts just around 4 grams.
As far as the fruits go, raspberries are about eight grams, black berries around eight grams, avocados around seven grams, and pears five‑and‑a‑half grams per piece of fruit. There are lots of great foods out there that are high in fiber.
They’re very edible fruits and vegetables. Obviously, we all should be eating vegetables numerous times a day so we can get our fiber just from our vegetables. Fruits also can give us a good source of fiber, too.
Rob: For those of us who are aware and we’re conscious about carbs, we’ve been told to look at the package and nutritional facts on the back of the food source. When we’re looking at the carbohydrate section, and we start breaking it down, it shows carbohydrates are a percentage of the total and then sub categories are fibers and sugars.
What should we look for when we’re looking at that container because I’m sure these companies are masters of marketing?
Dr. Kevin: I think that’s a really important point, Rob. The first thing to look at when you’re looking at nutritional facts on any package is, you want to see what your serving size is because a lot of these foods that are high sugar, let’s look at a granola bar. You can have as much as six, seven teaspoons of sugar per granola bar.
Sometimes what they’ll do is, at the top of the nutritional facts where it says “serving size” it will say per half bar. That way they can cut the amount of sugars in half because you’re not going to probably eat half a bar, you’re going to eat the whole bar. It makes it look like there’s a lot less sugars in it.
First of all, what you have to do is identify what the serving size is. Usually, at the top, it’ll tell you what the serving size is. Then, you have to say, “OK, well, that’s not my serving size. My serving size is twice that, three times that, half that”. Then, you have to adjust the numbers accordingly.
After having done that, then what you’re looking at is how many grams of carbohydrates, first of all is there in the food you’re eating compared to the amount of grams of protein, and grams of fat.
Here’s what you are looking for and this is just in a general sense. Obviously, if someone’s got diabetes, we’re going to be talking completely different numbers, but just in a general sense, for the average person out there who’s trying to be healthy, if you can see that the grams of carbohydrates are less than 50 percent when you add up all the carbohydrates, the fats and the proteins, and obviously, if a percentage of those carbohydrates are high in fiber, then that means the actual amount of starch and sugar is going to be relatively low.
Rule of thumb, I say try to keep your carbs in packaging generally less than 50 percent of your total macromolecule intake, and the more fiber, the better. That’s a great place to start with for most people because a lot of people don’t bother to look at this information and some when they look at it, don’t really understand what it’s about.
Harkening back to our couple episodes on sugar, just a remember that when it says that there’s 32 grams of sugar in that product that you’re eating, you divide that by four, so 32 divided by 4 is 8, and that would be eight teaspoons of sugar, just to make it a little bit more identifiable to the average person.
Rob: Putting eight teaspoons of sugar in your coffee is really sweet.
Dr. Kevin: Exactly, and yet, people don’t think anything about drinking a glass of orange juice and for much of the orange juice out there, eight ounces of orange juice is about eight teaspoons of sugar. It’s really important to read those packages, read the labels, become accustomed to the info on them and feel comfortable looking at them.
When you’re purchasing products, it’s not just about getting better quality foods for you and your family, but if you make the choices of buying the lower carbohydrate, higher fiber, more protein‑based food, then you will dictate to the manufacturers what they’re going to come out with next.
We’re seeing more and more of that nowadays and we talked a little bit about that earlier before the show. A lot of the big retailers are now coming out with products that are higher in fiber, lower carbohydrate, more good quality fats, higher protein percentages. I think that that’s a great thing because with the way that our population is moving right now into this 21st century, with the mass amounts of people who are diabetic and pre‑diabetic and those numbers are just going up every year, we need to do something.
Reducing the carbs in our diet, and in some cases getting them out of our diet to the greater extent of what we eat is going to save people’s lives and certainly change the quality of lives for many people.
That’s probably a pretty good start on carbohydrates. Our next episode, we’re going to talk about starch and sugars, and what their effect on our health is about. We can delve into that. Hopefully, there will be a synergy between these two episodes for most people so that they can actually look at the foods that they’re buying and make great decisions for themselves and their family.
Rob: It’s going to be great because we’re going to give them the second part to looking at that very important carb section on the nutritional facts on the back of the packaging.
We’ll wrap up this episode now and once again we really appreciate you listening to Your Best You Today, and if you found this helpful, please let us know, leave a comment in the comments section below this article. If you’re listening to it on iTunes, head over to yourbestyoutoday.com and leave a comment in our show notes.
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Dr. Kevin: Also Rob, if people have questions, even if it’s not specifically related to what we’re talking about today, if it’s a health question, we’re going to do some shows coming up that’ll just be answering some of these questions. They may be just random questions, and we’ll just help people hopefully get some resolution to some of the questions that they have.
Rob: To do that, you just send an email to email@example.com, and we’ll make sure that we schedule them to the Q and A show.
Thanks a lot, Dr. Kevin, and we’ll come back as we dive into this next section about starches and sugars.