Science Saturday – Carbs

Incase you missed it, also you may need to come back to this article a few times after future posts to remind yourself of some key facts.

Just like our fats post, this article will be as practical as possible, saving theory for later. Equally we’ll stick with standard veg and not super exotic ones as again we want this to be achievable.

The basic trend in this course is to add the optimal levels of good food to your diet before discussing removing suboptimal foods. Carbohydrates we eat come from three main sources: Veg then fruit and starch. We want to minimise and if possible do away with refined sugar and most grains in our kitchen.


Vegetables are great for us, and chances are we just aren’t getting enough. The simple fix is to eat more vegetables.

Pound-for-pound vegetables are the king of micronutrient density. They have huge amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytochemical and antioxidants.

Green leafy vegetables are what we tend to eat in salads. Spinach, rocket, and lettuce are all fab sources of magnesium, fiber, and a broad spectrum of phytochemical and antioxidants. Cruciferous vegetables (i.e. cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.) play an important part in providing fiber. They also detoxify the body in three main ways:

  • Break down toxins
  • Moving that toxin to the digestive track
  • Combining with fiber to remove the toxin from the body

There are no bad vegetables, anything in the shop is fair game. That being said, avoid canned soups or vegetable juice

I’ve included the list of “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” vegetables to prioritize which ones we should spend extra money on for the organic label.  The “clean 15” are the top 15 produce items with the least amount of residual pesticides in conventional farming practices; in contrast, the dirty dozen are the 12 produce items with the most residual pesticides from conventional farming.


Fruit is great for you, contrary to what some will tell you fruit doesn’t make you fat. It is also a good source of antioxidants and incorporating different types like berries, tropical and citrus will make your antioxidant profile more diverse.

Antioxidants are your cells’ defenders. Different antioxidants protect different cells, so it’s important to vary your antioxidant consumption.

The idea that fruit is ‘bad’ for you is as a result of how we prepare it. Lets look at fruit juice, a half pint glass of orange juice could take 4-8 oranges (depending on how juicy), who eats 4-8 oranges in one sitting?! Bottled juice is spiked with added sugar and preservatives. It’s also important to look that most juice won’t contain any fiber to fertilise the gut or blunt the insulin spike from the excess sugar. Unfortunately ‘juice’ is often just sugar water with favorings with a smattering of real fruit.

The only way to eat fruit is whole, fresh or frozen, avoid canned. Canned in syrup/juice often means sugar water.

Berries are great choices, Blue/rasp/straw/black etc. Polyphenolics in berries help clean up and recycle biochemical debris in the brain which can inhibit normal function. Without these ‘housekeepers’ the debris can accelerate age-related memory loss and other mental decline.

Berries must be organic, as conventional crops are sprayed. You can save some money by buying frozen organic berries and they are often also cheaper.
Citrus—grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes—is not just for fighting off colds but for recovery from workouts. Citrus is a potent source of intracellular electrolytes magnesium and potassium, which increase cellular hydration after a workout.

Citrus is also the best source of vitamin C, an anti-oxidant that aids in recovery. Training is a stress on the body that creates inflammation. Vitamin C reduces that inflammation, allowing the immune system to focus elsewhere. Reduced inflammation in the body also means fewer stress hormones are produced. It’s a win for everyone.

When shopping for other fruits, opt for organic apples, peaches, nectarines, berries and grapes. Save money and go conventional on pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, grapefruit, and melons.

Avoid juices (aka sugar water), dried fruits that are coated in sugar and/or preservatives, and canned or jarred fruits.


Starches have nutritional value, but their main purpose is fuel. Starch is a slower digesting carbohydrate that produces glucose at a slower rate than sugar, better managing blood sugar for red blood cells.

Potatoes, white, red, yellow, purple, orange—and all the others in-between—have value. Their nutritional profile varies, but they all are good for you. For example, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene but white potatoes are high in vitamin B6.

Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, ate 20 potatoes a day for 60 straight days and lost 20 pounds during that time, all while lowering his cholesterol from 214 to 147. That’s a 31% reduction in 60 days. Now, I’m not recommending you eat 20 potatoes a day for the next 60 days, but it’s important to de-vilify white potatoes.

White rice is basically glucose—a quality source of fuel, cheap, portable, and easy to cook. Be careful to cook your own rice so you don’t get rice made in corn oil or some other industrial seed oil.

Squash are both vegetables and starches. Summer squash such as courgette, have a relatively low starch content, but winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut squash.

Starchy or not, squash are highly nutritious. For instance, winter squashes are among the best plant-based sources of omega-3 (ALA) and beta-carotene. Further, the B vitamins and magnesium in both summer and winter squash aid blood sugar management.

When buying squash, choose summer squash for vegetables, winter squash for starches, and always organic for both.

Gluten-free rolled oats are great, but stay away from the instant varieties. Oats have a low impact on blood sugar due to the high fiber, particularly beta-glucan, which boosts the immune response to infection by neutralizing fungi and bacteria. Avenanthramide is a polyphenol unique to oats that is a potent anti-inflammatory. Incorporated rolled oats into your starch rotation for anti-oxidant diversification.




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