Reduce Grains and Sugar to
Lose Weight and Improve Health
Diet is a controversial subject with an abundance
of contradictory advice being offered. For example, Dr. Atkins'
New Diet Revolution advocates a high fat, very low carbohydrate
diet. Almost completely opposite advice (very low fat and higher
carbohydrates) is given in Eat More, Weigh Less: Dr. Dean Ornish's
Life Choice Program for Losing Weight Safely While Eating Abundantly.
Both authors would agree that refined carbohydrates (white sugar
and white flour) and trans fatty acids (the fat in french fries
and many baked products) should be reduced or eliminated. Beyond
this, the ideal diet may depend upon an individual's metabolic type
and preferences. The best solution may be somewhere between the
extremes, and for most people reducing grains and sugar is a good
For several million years, humans existed on a natural
diet that was not cultivated or domesticated. It was only with the
advent of agriculture a mere 10,000 years ago a fraction
of a second in evolutionary time that humans began ingesting
large amounts of sugar and starch in the form of grains (and potatoes)
into their diets. Indeed, 99.99% of our genes were formed before
the advent of agriculture; in biological terms, our bodies are still
those of hunter-gatherers.
The shift to agriculture has produced indisputable
gains for humanity, including the comforts of civilization and the
opportunity for longevity. But this dietary transition often contributes
to obesity and nutritional imbalances. The Paleolithic diet was
a combination of wild game and high fiber vegetation. Humans have
not suddenly evolved good mechanisms to incorporate the high proportion
of carbohydrates commonly found in the modern diet. Our sedentary
lifestyle compounds the problem. In addition, meat that we buy is
less healthful than that of our ancestors because animals are raised
in feedlots, where they eat grain rather than grass or leaves.
We eat an excessive amount of sugar and starch and
don't get enough exercise. Whole grain products are better than
refined, and whole fruits are better than white sugar or corn syrup.
Almost everyone can benefit from balancing carbohydrate intake with
exercise. The ideal diet depends upon metabolic type, but usually
includes changing from refined to whole, complex carbohydrates while
reducing overall intake of carbohydrates (even if whole).
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms,
chances are very good that the excess carbohydrates in your body
may be to blame:
Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates generates
a rapid rise in blood glucose. To adjust for this rise, the pancreas
secretes the hormone insulin into the bloodstream, which lowers
the glucose. Insulin is essentially a storage hormone, evolved over
those millions of years of human evolution, to store the excess
calories from carbohydrates in the form of fat in case of famine.
The body's storage capacity for carbohydrates is quite limited,
so that excess carbohydrates are converted, via insulin, into fat.
Insulin, stimulated by the excess carbohydrates in our overabundant
consumption of grains, starches and sweets, is responsible for our
excessive weight. Even worse, high insulin levels suppress two other
important hormones glucagon and growth hormone that
are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development,
respectively. So insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat
and then wards off the body's ability to lose that fat.
Excess weight and obesity lead to heart disease and
a wide variety of other diseases. But the ill effects of grains
and sugars do not end there. They suppress the immune system, contributing
to allergies, and they are responsible for a host of digestive disorders.
Excessive carbohydrate intake is associated with many of the chronic
diseases in our nation, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Cutting down on carbohydrates results in eating a
higher proportion of protein and fats. Since consuming protein and
fats produces a satisfying feeling of fullness, it is often easier
to reduce caloric intake. People who try to diet by "cutting
down" often spend too much time feeling hungry and deprived.
It may be better to eat more protein and "good" fats (see
Good Fats and Bad Fats article) for better nutrition and less struggle
with weight and diet. Even people with heart disease don't need
to worry as much about a "low fat/low cholesterol" diet.
It may be that excess carbohydrates and unhealthful fats that are
the biggest contributors to heart disease. For further detail, go
to Dr. Mercola's web site (see below) and search for the New
York Times article entitled "What if It's All Been a Big
Adapted from http://www.mercola.com/