Healthy Carbs . . . Our Ancestors’ Way
Carbohydrates are composed of sugar molecules that are chained together. They provide energy for the cells in the body and come in two categories: sugars and starches. Sugars are simple carbohydrates—sweet-tasting and usually found in fruit. (Table sugar is also an example of a simple carbohydrate.) Starch is a complex carbohydrate—and takes longer to digest. These carbohydrates are found in vegetables, bread, pasta, and rice, among other foods.
Of the three macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat—only carbohydrates are not essential to the human diet, if there are proper amounts of healthy proteins and fats in the diet. Historically, people didn’t consume carbohydrates as we do today. In fact, humans can exist for extraordinarily long periods of time without carbohydrates as long as their essential protein and fat needs are met.
This is good news when it comes to digestive health and a reduced-carbohydrate diet: reducing carbohydrates in the diet can lend improvement in the intestinal flora (thereby improving digestive health), as harmful bacteria and yeasts in the intestines feed on unabsorbed carbohydrates.
Some undigested carbohydrates do not pass out of the body and remain in the small intestine, where they feed harmful bacteria and upset the balance of the intestinal flora. When enough unabsorbed carbohydrates find a home in the small intestine, they attract the attention of microbes in the colon and some of these go to the small intestine and multiply, causing bowel problems. By restricting unhealthy carbohydrates, you foster the good bacteria and thereby foster intestinal health.
According to primitive wisdom and current science, the best carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. For proper intestinal and hormonal health, however, limit your consumption of sweet carbohydrates such as fruit. They are wholesome foods, but they are also concentrated forms of carbohydrates.
Generally, non-starchy vegetables are the best choice for carbohydrates. Non-starchy vegetables include: arugula, asparagus, bean sprouts, bell peppers (red, green, and yellow), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots (raw—cooked or juiced adds carbs), cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, radishes, snap beans, snow peas, spinach, spaghetti squash, summer squash, and tomatoes.
A Note on Grains
Our ancestors who ate grain prepared it very carefully before baking. They sprouted (germinated), sour-leavened, or fermented it to make its nutrients more bioavailable. Sprouting and fermenting also neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in grain. Phytic acid is found in the bran of all grains; in the intestinal tract, it binds to and keeps several different minerals—such as iron, calcium, and magnesium—from being properly absorbed.
Preparation techniques of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting help maintain the many important minerals that are essential to life, such as vitamins E and B. They are discarded, however, in the modern-day refining process. Fiber-indigestible cellulose, which plays an important role in digestion and elimination, is also removed.
For the most health-giving carbohydrates, you should eat organically grown nuts, seeds, beans and legumes (soaked first for optimal benefits), and sprouted grains.
There, that’s a quick overview on healthy carbs—our ancestors’ way. It is also a brief description on how reducing carbs can increase digestive health. Next week, we’ll look at healthy fats.