Eating naturally

Sugar and wheat free blueberry cheesecake from Helsinki based

With the advent of modern agriculture and processed food industries producing cheap and convenient foods designed with that perfect bliss point of sugar, fat and salt, the amount of refined carbohydrates in our diets has increased dramatically in recent decades. Carbohydrate is broken down into sugar, and insulin created in the pancreas is released to reduce harmful high levels of sugar in the blood by storing it as fat. Every gram of carbohydrate must be burnt immediately by the body or stored either as fat or glycogen.

As we age our individual genes develop different degrees of intolerance towards carbohydrates, known as insulin resistance, with the body having to produce higher amounts of insulin to be effective, resulting in increasing highs and lows in energy levels after eating. The role of carbs do not satisfy hunger they stimulate it so an insulin resistant person is always hungry and carbs become a food addiction. A high carb diet eaten for decades by those with insulin resistance inevitably leads to ill health.

A clear warning sign is the accumulation of fat around the belly but the body will only burn its own fat stores when there is no carbohydrate source available. Eating too many refined carbs makes blood sugar levels sharply rise and fall resulting in hunger soon after and more food consumption. A cycle of dependency that makes it impossible to lose weight long term without experiencing strong feelings of hunger.

Restricting carbs and eating more natural healthy fats means the body’s metabolism adapts to run on fat and will easily switch to burning its own excess fat stores in between meals, particularly for example while sleeping. Thus on a low carb, high fat diet a person is easily able to quickly return to their ideal weight without pangs of hunger or feelings of low energy.

Today there is a great deal of research in relation to carbohydrate intolerance and how the root of many modern diseases stem from obesity, inflammation and the mismatch with our Palaeolithic genes. Important thinkers such as science writer Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz have investigated and helped us understand the role of calories in the diet and the wrong hypothesis of fat being bad for us through extensive studies in ‘Good calories, bad calories’ and ‘The big fat surprise’. After developing type 2 diabetes, sports science professor Tim Noakes the definitive author of carbohydrate loading in his classic book ‘Lore of running’ came to the realisation of the error of his ways. Today Tim Noakes is one of the foremost intellectual voices in the world raising awareness of the dangers of too much carbohydrates in the diet.

In short you won’t go amiss cutting down on cereals, particularly wheat. It’s not the same as it was due to modern refining and faster dough fermentation. Wheat acts like sugar in the bloodstream, so if you are struggling with a belly it’s a good one to miss. Rye is less harmful but not ideal either and traditional bread making using stone-ground & sour-dough are better alternatives.

It should be noted that many people eat pasta and bread on a daily basis without suffering from runaway obesity, so it’s likely for many of us a certain amount of cereal is OK in our diet. It all depends on how insulin resistant they have become. Pasta is traditionally a small dish in a several course menu and rarely a meal based on one large bowl of pasta as has become common in the West, and 100 years ago sugar was rare and expensive. So use your sense in reducing these food stuffs and try reserving them for special treats instead.

Other animals get sick if given the wrong food and we are no different, we are omnivores and can eat vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, fruit, nuts and seeds, but should limit cereals, sugar and heavily processed foods such as seed oils. It’s a long delayed return to the way humans are supposed to eat informed by how our ancestors ate, the way many of us eat today is a diet fad invented by industrial food producers.

More information
Big fat lies
Gary Taubes
Nina Teicholz
Real Meal Revolution

The Big Fat Fix documentary examining the origin of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle and how you can apply the latest thinking in diet, lifestyle and exercise to our modern lives.