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Essential Carbs?

Don't Nutritionists recommend 5-6 grain Portions?

Yes, they do.  Did you know the Canadian Diabetes Association advises type II diabetics to eat starchy foods with every meal?   Why is that, when type II diabetes is associated with overweight?

I have spent a lot of time online looking for reasons why.  I didn't find any good ones to convince me I might be missing out on any essential nutrients if I don't eat bread or pasta.

Of course, grains give us a ready source of energy, but what if I already have plenty of energy stored away on my hips and thighs?


Bread is probably the world's oldest processed food.  So old, that we don't even think of it as a processed food any more.  It is a staple that we take for granted.  It's hard to imagine living normally without eating bread.

I also spent a lot of time looking for the nutritional benefits of bread.  Conventional health wisdom tells us that it's good to eat wholewheat bread.  Certainly, it's better than white bread.  However I have baked a lot of bread myself, and I know that even a wholewheat loaf tastes way better when it has a substantial portion of white flour in it.  Often wholewheat bread is little more than white bread with bran thrown back in.  So it's probably very seldom that you are eating a whole grain.

There's one thing you can be sure of:  the bread that is served in cafeterias, hospitals and other institutions is not whole grain bread.

As such, there are no essential nutrients in that bread that you need for optimal health.  It took me a while to realize that.  It's more about the sensory gratification:  the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste of a wonderful crust.  Isn't that why you eat bread?

I know what you're thinking.  Why give up something that smells and tastes so heavenly?  Well, what if I told you that after a little while off the grain ride, you will stop being drawn to bread in that way?  You won't even really be tempted?  That's what happened to me.  In fact, last night, after about 4 months without bread, I tried some.  It was good, but I was a little surprised to find it didn't quite have the same appeal it used to.  And my stomach felt really heavy in the morning - a most uncomfortable feeling.


Pasta is one of the cornerstones of the Western diet.  But, just like bread, it is made of wheat, and by far the most pasta eaten in the world is made of white flour.  Even wholewheat pasta has a high carb content.  So if you cut it out of your diet, your body won't be deprived of anything it can't miss.  You can easily substitute it though:  try spaghetti squash or julienned zucchini with your pasta sauce, perhaps with a sprinkling of toasted nuts for a meal that leaves you feeling pleasantly full.

Ancient Grains and Lentils

I spent a lot of time looking up the nutrients of other grains like quinoa, millet, barley and the like, as well as pulses like lentils.  They are undoubtedly better for you than a similar quantity of bread.  But they also contain a lot of sugars.  That's something to keep in mind.  You might want to continue to eat them in controlled quantities, or you may choose to eliminate them almost altogether, like I have done.   It's up to you.  As healthy as quinoa, millet and barley are, I'd love to see some evidence that your health is compromised if you don't eat them.

At the end of the day, weight loss occurs when you use up more calories than you consume.  Carbs give you a burst of energy, and then your blood sugar dips and you become hungry again.  At such times it's easier to reach for a starchy snack with a high glycemic load like a cookie or a glass of pop to make you feel good again.  Portion control is very hard for many people, and most of us are much more sedentary than our ancestors were.  This is how weight creeps up as we get older, especially after we reach middle age.  If you didn't see it already, please check out the post on the carbohydrate curve for a really visual explanation of what happens to most of us when we subsist on a carbohydrate-filled diet.

When you reduce the glycemic load in your diet, you won't experience the ups and downs as much and you won't feel as hungry because your body doesn't experience that down cycle nearly as quickly.  Ultimately weight loss comes from reduced calorie intake, but by getting off the grain ride, you can make it much easier on yourself.

Another way to put it is that something has to give in order to lose weight.  By eliminating the non-essential food choices, it leaves more space for the foods that are better for you and which won't leave you wanting to eat more than you need to.

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