What Carbs Should I Eat?

November 23, 2015

What Carbs Should I Eat? 

 Reference: Low Glycemic Food Table, Cox Diabetes Clin Research, J. Geriatrics Oct 2015, Paleo Diet Glycemic Index

 We humans are a unique bunch. We developed big, energy-hungry brains in the last 2 million years. To keep that development moving along, we had to adapt to diets with more calories in it. Fat provides more calories.   Eating animals provides a great way to get more fat. Cooking allows plants to be easier to digest and get access to more calories.   Cooking started, by our best archeological guess, over a million years ago. But prior to that, we had a metabolism set by mammalian history over 65 million years since the dinosaurs crashed out of existence and the first mammal crawled out its den. 

 Those first mammals were vegetarians. And likely remained mostly so except for those branches that turned into top-tier carnivores. Carnivores develop different teeth, different intestines, different metabolisms. Most hominids (monkeys and apes) remained vegetarian. To this day, they are still mostly vege munchers.   Orangutans eat some 20-25 pounds of green plants a day – leaves. With fruit season, they switch to pure fruit for two months and eat sweet sugar and gain weight. Chimps do the same. They eat some 150 different plants but prefer fruit when its around. Once in a while they chance upon a small mammal they kill and eat, but it’s rare. And you can’t count the few ants they lick off sticks as a major component of their caloric intake. 

Humans got big brains and smaller muscles. That’s the world we came from, plant-eaters. Hence, our basic, core metabolism started about being adapted to plants.   Plants make carbohydrates.   As a rule, there are two kinds of plant foods.   Leaves and stems (spinach and broccoli) are green, have carbohydrate bound up in the cell well, have a lot of fiber and often as much protein as carbohydrate.   Roots and fruits are the other class of plants that result from the plant storing carbohydrate, often with the seed for propagation. (Think potatoes, apples, corn, rice, pears, almonds, walnuts, cherries.) 

 In that world, we adapted our hormones that manage carbohydrates to absorb and use the fuel we got from them.   That fuel is glucose and a tiny bit of rare fats, usually in the form of omega fats but sometime saturated fat like coconuts. What is the hormone most tasked with managing carbohydrates? Insulin!   (And about 30 others in a beautiful nuanced ballet of control.) But insulin is the big kahuna of carbohydrate control. Insulin pushes glucose into fat storage. We secrete insulin in proportion to the rate of rise of blood glucose.   

Green plants release glucose so slowly, usually because the fiber is spinach, broccoli (etc) pushes the food down into the colon where our biome releases it as beta-hydroybutyrate for us to use, very, very slowly.   So slowly, in fact, that you almost don’t need any insulin at all. But potatoes and mangos cause a jolt in blood glucose, and insulin surges with the result that we then store those calories as fat. Getting fat once a year before a long spell of reduced calories makes sense. But it doesn’t make sense year around. Insulin lasts 6-8 hours.   

Think about that. If insulin lasts that long, throughout most of our evolutionary history, the majority of our food must have been of they type that releases glucose/BHB over the time period that insulin lasts.   It would not make sense to have foods that make us secrete insulin dramatically and push calories into storage.   Hence, those are the foods we are best served eating the most of. Did you get that?   Green plants that release glucose/BHB over 6-8 hours are our perfect match. They fit our basic hormone of glucose metabolism to a T.   We call them “low glycemic” or cucumbers, Brussel’s sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, - or any green plant that grows above ground.   Green peppers, eggplant probably fit too. 

 WWW.   What will work for me? We were designed, one way or another, to eat lots of green plants. Lots and lots. And some fat and protein whenever we could. But the green plants came first.   If you did that today, you would be skinnier, healthier, have less cancer, less heart disease, less diabetes. We could call it the alkaline diet, the Pritikin diet, the Esselstyn diet, the anti cancer diet.   Or just the human diet. Enjoy Thanksgiving!   

 Pop Quiz  

  1. Insulin pushes sugar into storage to it should be called our blood glucose controlling hormone. T or F                         Answer:  False, false, false. Way too simplistic, though that’s what modern health care calls it.   It is our storage hormone, waiting there for you to find caches of free carbs in that month just before winter, (aka, Thanksgiving)
  1. We are designed to eat potatoes year-round. T or F                    Answer:  False, false, false. Potatoes dramatically push glucose into your blood, forcing you to make insulin, forcing you to manufacture fat, forcing your LDLs up, forcing your to get fat. You want potatoes only when you want to store fat so that you can make it through winter. (aka: Thanksgiving)
  1. Our brains need a lot of calories, easily supplied with a raw, vegan, green diet. T or F       Answer:   False, false, false.   Our big, energy-hungry brains want fat and B12, both critical for survival. No B12 in plants. Found only in animals.  
  1. Insulin lasts 6-8 hours. That suggests that most of our carbohydrate calories should come from foods that release their glucose over 6-8 hours. T or F                      Answer:  That’s the hypothesis of this treatise.
  1. Humans like to have a big feed when they can? T or F.          Answer:   True. It’s how we express love and affection for each other when we can find all those calories. 
  1. It’s ok to get fat once in while.   T or F                    Answer:   Another premise of this talk: we have put on weight and lost weight throughout human history. So, enjoy putting it on once in a while. Make sure you do it with lots of love and company.   (Think Thanksgiving)
  1. So Happy Thanksgiving.