“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”

Since I started the “Bite Me” diet a few weeks ago I have received lots of support from people urging me on…which is one of the things I hoped would happen when I decided to do it in public. And along with the encouragement has come lots of advice, which I actually appreciate, as I have been able to incorporate many good suggestions into my new daily routine.

Possibly the most frequent suggestion I have received – particularly from other people going through their own weight loss effort – has been that I need to cut out carbohydrates, particularly bread, from my diet. I am told that calories from carbohydrates are worse than the same number of calories from other sources.

Apparently, the theory behind cutting out carbs is that it lowers the insulin levels in your blood, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately helps you shed excess weight and reduce risk factors for a variety of health conditions.

Some low-carb diets, including the Atkins Diet, say that their eating plans can prevent or improve serious health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

This is distressing to me because although the Robert Browning quote above is a bit of an exaggeration, I find it very hard to imagine not including bread in my diet…so I decided to do a bit of research to see what the truth was.

Turns out cutting carbs out of your diet is not only not beneficial for weight loss, cutting them back too far can be dangerous..as the Harvard School of Public Health says “…”don’t be misled by fad diets that make blanket pronouncements on the dangers of carbohydrates. They provide the body with fuel it needs for physical activity  and for proper organ function, and they are an important part of a healthy diet. But some kinds of carbohydrates are far better than others.”

That last point is key…it isn’t so much about cutting carbs from your diet…basically a calorie, is a calorie, is a calorie in terms of losing weight. In terms of your overall health however, it’s about the quality of the carbs you eat that can make the difference.

Rather than eat processed foods such as white bread, potato chips, refined grains, white rice etc, one should eat as many whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy. Harvard provides a handy list of tips for adding good carbs to your diet:

1. Start the day with whole grainsTry a hot cereal, like steel cut oats, or a cold cereal that lists a whole grain first on the ingredient list.

2. Use whole grain breads for lunch or snacks. Confused about how to find a whole-grain bread? Look for bread that lists as the first ingredient whole wheat, whole rye, or some other whole grain —and even better, one that is made with only whole grains, such as 100 percent whole wheat bread. Or try this recipe for hearty whole grain bread.

3. Bag the potatoes. Instead, try brown rice, bulgur, wheat berries, whole wheat pasta, or another whole grain with your dinner. Read “Health Gains from Whole Grains” for a list of whole grains and their health benefits, or check out these whole grain recipes.

4. Choose whole fruit instead of juice.An orange has two times as much fiber and half as much sugar as a 12-ounce glass of orange juice. Looking for juice alternatives? See six ideas for low-sugar drinks, a recipe for a low-sugar fruit cooler, and a recipe for sugar-free sparkling iced tea.

5. Bring on the beans. Beans are an excellent source of slowly digested carbohydrates as well as a great source of protein.

Now, unfortunately I do not see that most perfect of laboratory created foods – the Pop Tart – on that list. So unfortunately my monumental self-sacrifice will have to continue!! :) But as for the rest of it…I’m not so sure I will be adding a lot of bulgar, or wheat berries to my diet any time soon..but luckily I tend to eat whole grain breads, love veggies and beans…so Yeah!!!

All for now

Jim

Some helpful links:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/carbohydrates/

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/low-carb-diet/NU00279

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/carbohydrates-full-story/index.html

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