You know that Leonard Cohen song “Jazz Police?”
If not, now you do.
I know I wrote about carbs and fats a few months ago after I went to the Integrative Healthcare Symposium, but it’s been on my mind again recently after seeing posts by other bloggers about coping with feeling “shamed” for eating carbohydrates. All of a sudden grains are the “in” demon, and the media is crawling with Grain Police.
In short, this bugs the crap out of me. Here’s why:
So, basic stuff: carbohydrates may be found in grain form (breads, pastas, rice, etc), in starchy veggies (potatoes, squash, peas), beans/legumes, fruit, and dairy (though cheese doesn’t really “count,” since it’s mostly fat and protein). Then there’s everybody’s favorite little devil, sugar. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, raising our blood sugar (glucose). When our blood glucose is elevated (due to high consumption of carbs and/or impaired processing of glucose in the body), especially when it remains consistently high over an extended period of time, it can cause serious health issues. Protein and fat do not raise our blood sugar, which is why you’re always hearing you need to create balanced meals with protein and/or fat and a complex carb—this promotes steady blood sugar levels instead of a sharp spike upwards followed by a rapid drop.
Our body’s preferred source of energy is glucose, but when there’s not enough in the system, it will break down ketone bodies to make energy—aka ketosis. Essentially, the body becomes a fat-burning machine instead of a carb-burning machine as fat stores become the primary energy source, which is why low-carb diets are popular for weight loss. There is also some research showing potential benefits in certain neurological disorders and other health conditions. However, it’s not a perfect solution, as it can be tough on certain organ systems (hello, kidneys) and hard to sustain over time.
For healthy people balancing a packed schedule, regular workouts, and a life, completely avoiding carbohydrates is probably not going to be a great experience. And yet, every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, or turn on the TV or open a magazine, you’re being told that carbs will kill you and you are a bad person for eating bread that wasn’t made from almond meal. And that banana you’re about to enjoy? Murderous.
Do I sound defensive? If I do, it’s because I’m not immune to food shaming either! And I’m a f***ing dietitian. I also happen to be human, and therefore susceptive to the same bulls*** as anyone else. Sometimes I think twice about posting a piece of f***ing sprouted grain toast. More than once over the past few months, I’ve heard myself justifying my reasons for not being gluten-free! Seriously?
Sometimes I’ll be making a bowl of oatmeal and laughing, “OMG, better call the grain police!” Of course, it’s funny to me because on some deep, dark level, it’s true! My conscious brain says what I would say to a client: “Jess, you know better than to listen to those guys, and you’re awesome for honoring your personal needs,” but then that inner child who just wants to be liked by the grain-free cool kids is nervous that someone’s going to give her a hard time.
I’m not saying we should all go out and order pasta with a side of garlic bread tonight and finish it off with bananas flambé. What I am saying is that we should tune into our body and notice what makes us feel good. What makes us feel strong and healthy and like the best version of ourselves. If you feel your best without grains, cool. However, if you just don’t feel yourself without some quinoa in your bowl of veggies, that’s more than okay too! Remember, you (not the Grain Police) are the expert on your body.
How do you feel about all the carb-shaming in the media? Food-shaming in general?
I had so much fun linking up with the Running with Spoons Thinking Out Loud link party last week, I did it again!
*F***ing awesome banana photos by Oz
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