You eat carbs, do you?

The C-word.

No, not that one.

The OTHER one…

Carbohydrates are funny old things. Since the dawn of Atkins’ time they’ve been synonymous with evil. They’ve also, in my opinion, become one of the most misunderstood macronutrients.

To be fair, I’m as much to blame as the next person. When I first went Paleo I told everyone it was a ‘no carb’ diet. Lots of people still think Paleo is no carb. Worse, people think I’m no carb.

Paleo most certainly isn’t no carb – for all of the reasons that are about to follow. A typical Paleo diet is rich in vegetables and fruit, both of course carbohydrates.

First up, a quick recap of the basics.

A carbohydrate is one of three macronutrients. The others are protein and fat. Macronutrients provide the body with energy (calories). Macro means big. We need large amounts of macronutrients to sufficiently fuel ourselves.

They don’t sound so bad, so far, do they?

But here’s the thing. Not all carbs are created equally and some are indeed more evil than others.

All carbs are broken down into single units of sugar but different carbohydrates will impact our blood sugar levels in different ways. This is important.

What’s the deal with blood sugar levels?

To keep yourself in tip top condition you want to be constantly striving for balanced blood sugar levels. A slow release of nutrients helps you achieve this balance.

Good carbs

Complex carbohydrates are broken down by the body slowly and produce a steady release of energy to the body. A slow release of energy avoids any spikes or crashes and keeps everything ticking along in a nice balanced fashion. Rice, rye bread, oats, quinoa, sweet potato, parsnips and squash, for example.

A complex carb champion – smoked mackarel & spinach risotto

Mackarel risotto

Bad carbs

I’m fairly confident in saying pretty much anyone reading this post has been a victim of a Sugar Rush / Crash, right? You know the kind. The one that makes you feel pretty invincible and happy and buzzy for all of about 12 minutes before you end up with a blinding headache, desperate to crawl into bed.

A sugar rush is brought on by simple carbohydrates. Simple, as opposed to complex, carbohydrates. These peaks and troughs in energy levels are the result of simple carbohydrates releasing energy into the blood stream really quickly. A simple carbohydrate will often leave you not only hungry but craving more, more, more.

Anything white, anything moreish, anything that leaves you feeling a bit jittery will generally fall into this simple carbohydrate category – that processed nasty, horrid stuff – sugary breakfast cereals, bagels, white bread, sweets, milk chocolate, biscuits, fizzy drinks, it goes on…

Slightly petrifying that folks eat this for breakfast all the time!* 

Crumpets

So where does Let Her Eat Clean stand on carbs?

When I set out on my clean eating journey I was pretty much pure Paleo so my main sources of carbs came from fruits, veggies and regular helpings of starches like parsnips, sweet potato and butternut squash.

When I had a wedding dress to get into, from August 2011 up until the big day in December of that year I ate very little fruit and really monitored the amount of starchy veggies like sweet potato that I ate.

There’s absolutely no question that keeping carbs low keeps me so much leaner. I’m definitely in my best shape when I’m keeping a close eye on this.

But now I’m not so bothered. I bob around the 70kg, 18.5-19% body fat mark and I’m perfectly happy there. I can still get in my wedding dress and I’ve never enjoyed a slice of rye bread more.

So be sure to understand not all carbs are created equally, it’s just that some are more evil than others. Make wise choices. Match your nutrition – especially your carb intake – to your goals and you’ll start to not only get a much better understanding of what works for you but the chances are you’ll start to enjoy your food so much more.

Next time, I’ll share some of my complex carb faves and a bit more on matching them to your goals.

Are there any you’d like to add to the list before I do?

*Only ever on a Treat Day, only ever post workout and very, very rarely… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m definitely no purist. Especially when I don’t have a wedding dress to get into!

12 thoughts on “You eat carbs, do you?

  1. I love carbs. Leaner without them, but the gym is no fun at all when I haven’t had them. And what fun is life without the gym. Current favourite clean carbs to add to the list are plantain: green for starchier and yellow for sweeter. And chestnuts: flour or whole – nor highly nutritious compared to the holy sweet potato but starchy all the same and good for variety. Great post clean eater Ruth!!

    • Great shout on the plantain recommendation Ceri. I keep meaning to check out your recipes that you’ve posted recently. Feel free to link to them here. Interesting reference to chestnuts too – I’m not overly sure I’d know what to do with them but am never averse to giving them a go. Where do you buy each of them from?

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  6. So…is arborio/risotto rice better to eat than something like basmati or regular old white rice? Because I stopped eating risotto hardly at all, but it’s one of my favourite meals…

    • I guess the big question is why you stopped eating the risotto in the first place? (As that will help me answer your query in more detail) 🙂

      • Ha! Probably because when I started eating more meals based around veg rather than carbs I categorised it as ‘bad carbs’ rather like white rice and white pasta, and now I think of risotto as more of a treat than an every day meal like I used to. I mean, I literally used to eat it every week…

      • I wouldn’t put rice in the same bucket as white pasta, that’s for sure. Guidance is conflicted on white v brown rice – brown is fibre loaded but considered not as well processed and digested as white. However, white will create a greater insulin spike as it isn’t as low GI as brown. If someone’s goal is to lean out, risotto should be a rare treat. For general health and a nutritious food, once a week is more than fine. Following exercise is always a great time to have it. Couple of watch outs though – if your risottos are anything like mine they’re usually very wine, cream and cheese heavy so that, as I’m sure you’re aware, isn’t the type of risotto I’m advocating here… 🙂 Hope that helps and doesn’t confuse. Nutrition is nothing if not a veritable head f*ck. No question ever comes with a straightforward answer!

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