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Carbs: What you need to know!

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The new science-based approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Photo by Praveesh Palakeel on Unsplash

With obesity and diabetes at epidemic proportions, it is clear the Atkins inspired carb-reduction pendulum has swung too far. With a better understanding of how different carbohydrates affect a person’s overall health, scientists argue the next big wave in food innovation supports the sensible and science-based slow-carb approach to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A much needed shift to the “slow carb zone” will be supported by the development of food and beverage products that help consumers keep their blood sugar and insulin levels in a narrow range, which is integral to weight management, disease prevention and sustaining energy.

Understanding Carbs

Low-carb to slow-carb

After 25 years as a pioneer in functional food research and development, I know one thing is certain; there is a serious disconnect between our prehistoric body and our modern diet and sedentary lifestyle. Unlike our ancestral food sources, the modern food supply is replete with highly refined, nutrient-poor, fast-digesting (high glycemic index) and carbohydrate-containing foods and beverages. These high GI products raise blood sugar levels rapidly, driving the interlinked epidemics of obesity, diabetes and the energy level shortfall.

Combined with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the results are staggering. The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) estimates that 61% of Canadians are overweight or obese and more than 25% are living with diabetes or prediabetes. It is projected that one in three children will develop diabetes during their lifetime if the food industry remains in the “fast carb zone.” In an attempt to address this crisis the CDA and Health Canada have proposed to roll out a low glycemic public education and food symbol program.

The slow down on carbs

Today, carbohydrates are arguably the most misunderstood nutrient. It is important to remember that carbs are the essential and preferred fuel for the brain, the central nervous system and muscles. All carbs, including starches and sugar, are converted by the body to glucose, which shows up as blood sugar. It is the rate at which the body converts carbs into glucose that is key. The lower and slower the better.

Spike, crash and crave

Our ancestors didn’t hunt in grocery stores and didn’t eat refined, nutrient-poor carbohydrates. They consumed slow-digesting (slow-release) carbs in the form of bark, roots and unripe fruits and vegetables. The body’s response to the ingestion of carbohydrates is a “hard-wired” evolutionary relic from the Paleolithic era.

The “spike, crash and crave” cycle evolved as a metabolic survival mechanism with insulin as the master fat storage hormone helping our ancestors store energy as fat when food was unavailable to survive the lean times. Ironically, this same mechanism is now compromising our health. The current food supply is plentiful, with main- stream grocery stores packed with processed foods that contain highly milled (pre-digested) carbohydrates that quickly enter the blood stream, triggering the “frugal gene” fat storage response. Simply put: our historic body design and the modern-day diet and sedentary lifestyle are incompatible, contributing to metabolic chaos that some argue is driving “diabesity.”

The blood sugar and energy rollercoaster

Preventing the blood sugar rollercoaster is also key to sustaining energy. The energy deficit is a consumer concern foremost because many people don’t have the energy to get through the day. The growth of the energy consumption category (bars, drinks and shots) is symptomatic of the human energy deficit as on-the-go consumers are increasingly dependent on such products to help them bridge the between-meal gap. Reaching for another blood sugar-spiking product that perpetuates the cycle exacerbates the problem and ac- celerates the slippery slope to insulin resistance and weight gain. Acknowledging that convenient foods are here to stay, a healthy alternative would be low GI nutrient-rich foods that promote satiety and provides slow-release sustaining energy, without provoking the physiological spike, crash and crave response.

Enter the slow carb zone

Not all fats are bad and not all carbs are created equal. The solution is not to eliminate carbs, but to manage them. The substitution of high glycemic foods and beverages in favour of low glycemic alternatives is a key recommendation of the CDA’s 2014 clinical practice guidelines.

Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels is not only important for people with diabetes, but the general population as well. Those seeking to manage weight, prevent disease and sustain their ener- gy should look to low glycemic options.

I invite you to enter the slow- carb zone and reap the benefits from food as your body was designed to function and in so doing help to re- verse these insidious epidemics.

More Insight: Check out this cool article on the 4 myths of supplements!

Author: Saul Katz is Founder of SoLo GI Nutrition, developer of the award winning SoLo GI® Low Glycemic Energy and Nutrition Bar. Saul is among the “Top 100 Health Influencers in Canada,” OptiMYz 2017.;


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