Carbs are everyone’s favorite. But it’s about damage control. Damage to the arteries, which really are the essence of health.
Eat the right ones, in the right amount combined with the right other foods and your arteries experience a massage, stay supple and say “ahhhhh”.
Eat the wrong ones, in large portions with the wrong other foods and the arteries become like old plumbing – coated with grease with spots of erosion and clogs.
I’ll focus on breakfast and lunch, since those are the most neglected meals and yet can have the most impact on health and weight. Furthermore, from my experience, when people start their day well, they usually end their day well.
How arteries can become like old plumbing
In the 60’s and 70’s when heart disease became more prevalent the nutritional guidelines focused on reducing saturated fat – the thought being that having only a high LDL was the cause of heart disease. But now, the research supports that having a low HDL, including the cardioprotective protein, Apolipoprotein A1, along with high triglycerides from consuming too many refined carbs also contribute to artery damage.
What that means is that the combination of sitting too much (which keeps HDL low), eating too many refined carbs stripped of their good stuff (which raises your triglycerides), in conjunction with lots of animal fats, oils for frying and trans-fats create the perfect plumbing nightmare for your arteries.
Foods that clog your arterial plumbing
For breakfast: cereal, bagels and cream cheese or muffins. Add juice and your arteries will growl.
For lunch: burger and fries or pizza. Add a soda and your arteries will scream.
All of these foods slam your body with big doses of carbs and saturated fat.
Just one slice of a Domino’s large cheese pizza topped with sausage delivers 330 calories, 28 carbs and nearly half of the daily recommended limit of saturated fat. Who stops at just one piece? Include a soda and your blood sugar will soar even higher.
Blood sugars after each of these meals will shoot up, and the fat will keep them up longer. Graph A represents a blood sugar pattern after eating a meal consisting mainly of carbs, no fat, fiber or protein – like many sugary cereals (Fruit Loops, Rice or Corn Chex, Corn Flakes) with low-fat milk or a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce.
Graph B represents what your blood sugar when you combine a refined carb with lots of fat, like after eating a “white” bagel and cream cheese, large donut or muffin, 2-3 slices of a large pizza, burger and fries or an Italian Hoagie from Panera. Add a soda or juice and it’s like pouring kerosene on a fire.
Graph B has nearly the same spike in blood sugar, but the fat keeps the blood sugar up longer. The bigger the serving of carbs and fat, especially if they are refined, the greater the rise in blood sugar and time it takes to return to baseline.
Your body can handle only so many carbohydrates at one time. Eat too many carbs and they will be converted to triglycerides. It’s not the occasional pig-out that’s the concern, it’s habitually eating too many carbs. Neither Graph A or B is desirable.
This should be your blood sugar graph goal
The goal is to have a lower blood sugar peak, with a longer return to baseline. This is what will keep you fuller longer, put less stress on your pancreas, help you lose weight and protect your arterial plumbing.
I’m not about perfect, just about better. Getting the right graph is about combining carbs, protein and fats in the right amounts. Limiting your carbs and unhealthy fats and adding lean sources of protein will give you the perfect blood sugar parabola, keep you fuller longer, and have your arteries purring!
You will work better, sleep better, feel better and be happier.
The right combination is:
If you go one step further and make those carbs whole grain or focus on fruits, legumes and some starchy veggies instead of cookies, cakes, donuts and candy, you will be healthier, you will get sick less often and you will lose weight. I’ll talk about that more in the next blog.
Creating the perfect parabola for breakfast
Breakfast is probable the most important meal of the day and the one that tends to get the shaft. If you could at least add some low-fat cottage cheese or a hard-boiled egg to get your protein and a piece of fruit, you’d be doing your body a huge favor. Otherwise try these suggestions for a perfect meal. If you really crave a donut (I understand donut cravings), at least eat some protein with it and skip the glaze or filling. Otherwise try these suggestions for breakfast:
- Eggs are probably the best and easiest source of protein for breakfast. Keep a dozen hardboiled in your frig and take a couple along with a piece of fruit if you are in a hurry.
- A half cup of any canned beans (I like navy bean or pinto beans) along with two scrambled eggs and a tomato.
- Have 3 oz. sliced turkey, a fistful of spinach and 1/4 avocado in a small whole grain wrap.
- A peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
- 3/4 cup cooked steel-cut oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and plain low-fat Greek yogurt.
- 3/4 cup of low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup cut up fresh fruit served on two Wasa crackers.
- And if you are in a real pinch – grab a low-fat Greek yogurt and the portion sized packets of almonds.
Getting the perfect parabola for lunch
For most people lunch tends to be on the fly, delivered to work or skipped in lieu of grazing on a box or bag of carbs.
It doesn’t have to be gourmet! A Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, a piece of fruit and some carrots and humus is quick and convenient and takes a second to pack. Heck, even a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain with a piece of fruit takes a second to make and doesn’t need refrigeration!!
If eating fast food is on the agenda, then here’s what you should choose at your favorite fast food:
- Panera: Get the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on Tomato Basil – a whole sandwich has a reasonable 440 calories, only 3 gms of saturated fat, 18 gms of protein, 6 gms of fiber. Unfortunately, it also has 1230 mg of sodium – nearly a day’s worth of sodium. Hmmm, that’s fast food for you.
- Domino’s: keep it to one slice of thin crust cheese pizza topped with veggies and a side Garden salad – just use a tsp of dressing by dipping the bite of salad in a bit of dressing. This will keep the calories to 380, the saturated fat to 8 gms, with 5 gms of fiber, 15 gms of protein and keep the sodium to 580 mg – that’s much better than Panera’s salt lick.
- Subway: Stick to 6”, choose the Multigrain flatbread with oven turkey breast (the Autumn carved is super high in sodium) roasted chicken or rotisserie style chicken, light mayo and lots of veggies. Skip the cookie; have the apple slices instead. If you must have chips, have either half a bag of regular or choose baked which has little fat, therefore about half of the calories.
- McDonalds: Stick to a single hamburger or filet-o-fish. Anything else and you’ll become a salt lick. If you must have fries, then at least stick to small. If this isn’t enough to fill you up then get a side salad with the low-fat Sesame Ginger dressing. Have unsweetened ice tea (and put a small amount of sugar or honey on your own) or water. Just please stay away from the smoothies, shakes and sweetened coffees – many have over 800 calories!
Keep your arteries supple
Most people know animal fats and trans-fats damage their arteries. But few people know that eating too many refined carbs also damages arteries. Eating healthy isn’t just about limiting steak and burgers. It also includes excessive amounts of carbs – especially the fried and refined ones.
You can have your cake and eat it too, just make sure it’s a small serving, and eat it right after dinner. And better yet, make it a fruit crisp with an oatmeal topping!