Nutrition Q&A: How to get enough carbs on a paleo-type diet?

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Today is the first in a new weekly series we’ll be doing here on Eat Naked, where you get to ask me your nutrition questions. We’ll be able to go a little deeper into topics that are of particular interest to you, my readers.

Have a question? We’d love to hear from you! Send an email to info (at) eatnakednow (dot) com with your question and we’ll add it to our topics for consideration.

Today’s question is from Charlene, who asks:

Can you talk about the paleo-type diet as far as eating no grains? Where can you get the carbs your body nutritionally needs?

Charlene, this is a great question and one we get asked a lot. Most people make assumptions about carbohydrates and the body’s energy requirements that need addressing here.

For one, there’s a common belief that our only source of energy is grains, or other starchy foods like potatoes or beans. We forget that vegetables and fruit – all of them – are carbohydrates as well. Vegetables in particular are an excellent source of carbohydrates because they provide a whole slew of additional nutrients in addition to being an energy source. Also, with all that fibre, the glucose is released into the blood slowly and thus more sustainably than with grains (yes, even whole grains convert to sugar in our blood far too quickly). This means we’re minimizing the need for the hormone insulin. This is a good thing.

Another thing to remember is that the body can make glucose from proteins and fats as well as carbohydrates. This is a process called gluconeogenesis. We don’t *need* carbs at all. In fact, they’re the only macronutrient that isn’t essential. You could survive just fine on a diet that contained exclusively fat and proteins. Certain traditional cultures do just that; you don’t see traditional Inuit eating salad or toast with their whale blubber…

How to get enough carbs on a paleo diet?  | eatnakednow.com

Now different people metabolize differently (this is the concept behind metabolic typing) so some will do best on a very low carbohydrate diet that’s higher in fat, while others will do better if you add in a little more starch. (I have to point out that no one does well on a low fat diet, but that’s a topic for another day.) There are lots of non-grain forms of starch such as potatoes and fruit, so you can still increase your starch content without having to turn to grains.

Low carb or not, you still have no nutritional requirement for grains. In fact, there are so many anti-nutrients in grains that unless they are prepared properly, grains actually leach minerals from your body and are extremely hard on the digestive tract. Any other nutrients grains contain are actually better found and more absorbable from other sources. B vitamins are an excellent example of this: they are far more abundant and bio-available from animal foods like meat and fish and certain vegetables.

So to sum up: you don’t need grains – for energy production or otherwise. If you are going to eat grains, I’d recommend you stick with gluten free grains such as rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth and buckwheat, that you prepare them properly, and that you have them as a small side to your meal, rather than its core.

2 Comments

  1. Great question posed by the reader, and great response – very educational and informative. I like that you address biochemical individuality by saying that each person may have a different requirement of grains. I’ve noticed I do well if I have steel cut oats in my diet. Having them twice per week really helps me to feel great. Otherwise, I’m fine without the grains. Thank you for a great post!

  2. Those food items that are foregone in a bid to follow the Paleo diet can be replaced by some proper natural alternative to it, for example, honey can be used instead of sugar and natural oil in place of butter. That does not mean that paleo diet followers should or do eat raw foods. There are thousands of Paleo-friendly recipes which are really delicious and very easy to cook.

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