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Are you nutritionally confused?

nutritionally confusedWith all the information on food, what should we be eating to live a long, healthy life? How do we separate miracle diets, superfoods and weight loss wobble boards from sustainable eating habits that help to prevent chronic diseases, reverse some health conditions and support an energetic, happy lifestyle?

There are 7.5 billion people living on this planet and most of them do not experience heart disease, diabetes, cancer, atherosclerosis, obesity and other degenerative conditions at the rate we do. The reason is their eating pattern and lifestyle is different to ours. People in rural China for example eat a mostly locally grown wholefood plant based diet. The reason why people in rural China are doing better than us in certain areas of health management like chronic diseases is due to economics and availability of food. For most of us the easy access to animal protein and fat, vending machines and soft drinks is a convenient part of everyday living that impacts our health.

What is the traditional food of humans?

Whether rice in Asia, potatoes in South America, corn in Central America, wheat in Europe, or beans, millet, sweet potatoes , and barley around the globe, starch, found in complex carbohydrates, has been at the centre of food and nutrition throughout human history (McDougall, 2012). Throughout history, men and women who ate diets based on grains, vegetables, and fruits have accomplished history’s greatest feats. Caesar’s Roman Legions complained when they had too much meat in their diet and preferred to do their fighting on grains.

The starch solution

How often do you hear, “Don’t eat starches, because starch turns to sugar, which turns to fat, making you gain weight.” If this were true, there would be an epidemic of obesity among the 1.73 billion Asians living on rice-based diets. Relocating west and replacing their starch-based diet with animal foods often coincides with the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes (McDougall, 2012). People in Central Papua New Guinea are nourished almost entirely by sweet potatoes. In rural Africa, statuesque men and women thrive on starchy food such as yams, cassava, millet and beans. They have no need for Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine!

Starches satisfy your appetite

When you fill up on starches or complex carbohydrates you stay full for a long time, whereas when you fill up on fats and oils you still want to eat more.

Excess starch does not turn to body fat

After eating, our body breaks down the complex carbohydrates in starchy foods into simple sugars which are then transported to trillions of cells throughout the body for energy. If you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, it will be stored as glycogen in muscles and the liver. Any excess glycogen will be burnt off through body heat and physical movement. The same is not true of animal and vegetable fats. A passenger on a cruise ship gains an average of 3.6 kgs on a 7-day voyage – caused by buffets of meats, cheese, oil-soaked vegetables and high fat desserts.

The fat we eat is readily stored as body fat with an efficiency of 95% (only 5% of calories lost in the process). In contrast, carbohydrates in excess of our immediate needs are not readily stored as fat. They are used as fuel for our metabolic processes and stored in liver and muscles as glycogen – the storage form of glucose, the preferred fuel for our brain and muscles. The conversion of carbohydrates to fat (de novo lipogenesis) does not occur readily in humans and when it does, the efficiency is only 75% (that means that 25 out of 100 calories of excess carbohydrate are lost when those carbs are trying to make you fat).

Starches help us to radiate vitality

Every year, millions of people lose weight without necessarily improving their health by following  the latest diet trend. Often these diets are not nutritionally balanced and come at a price. A diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein (i.e. Atkins diet) can lead to ketosis where  the body is mainly fuelled by fat. Some side effects of a ketogenic diet  include constipation, hypoglycemia, reflux and kidney stones.  

imagesA starch-based diet, on the other hand, brings radiant health along with the loss of excess body fat. Endurance athletes know the benefits of ‘carb loading’. In addition to enabling peak performance, a starch based diet improves blood flow to all tissues in the body. The skin glows with a clear complexion from the improved circulation. Overall, people feel more active, energetic and youthful.

Find out more

Are you interested in a wholefood plant based eating plan that is based on scientific research? Dr John McDougall’s book “The Starch Solution” teaches you what to eat and what to avoid, how to make healthy swaps for your favourite foods, and smart choices when dining out. Even better, you will never go hungry and still lose weight.

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