Carbohydrates - Why quality trumps quantity | Chris Kresser

Carbohydrates: Why Quality Trumps Quantity

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Do you obsessively count carbs? The good news is you probably don’t need to—if you eat the right foods. Recent research suggests that the answer to obesity and metabolic disease lies not in how much carbohydrate we eat, but rather what types of carbohydrate we eat. Read on to see what we can learn from ancestral diets, how the Paleo diet shapes up in controlled studies, and what carbohydrates should make up the bulk of your diet.

quality carbs
Quality carbohydrates such as these sweet potatoes are key to a healthy diet. istock.com/HausOnThePrairie

The media and scientific community are constantly changing their minds as to what macronutrient (protein, carbs, or fat) is making us fat. “If it fits your macros” is a common mantra among individuals in the weightlifting and bodybuilding community. Meanwhile, weight loss “experts” point to the total “calories in, calories out” as the answer to health. On the carbohydrate spectrum, you have people who eat plenty of carbs (but avoid fat at all costs), those who reduce carb intake so much that they enter ketosis, and just about everything in between. I’ve weighed in on this topic myself, with several blog posts about the risks and benefits of low-carb diets and how to optimize your carbohydrate intake.

As I pointed out in those posts, the bulk of the evidence suggests that the quality of food matters a lot more than the quantity of macronutrients—at least for most people. A recent hypothesis suggests that the dense, acellular carbohydrates (bear with me; I’ll define that shortly) found in processed foods may be contributing to our epidemic of modern chronic disease. The researchers propose that foods with a high carbohydrate density promote an inflammatory microbiota, leading to leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and obesity (1). In this article, we’ll break this down and see how we might use this information.

Leptin Resistance and Its Role in Obesity

Leptin is a mediator of long-term regulation of energy balance. It is secreted by adipose tissue and signals to the brain: “Hey, we’ve got enough energy stores!” This suppresses food intake and thereby induces weight loss. In fact, the most common mouse model of obesity is the mutant “ob/ob” mouse, which is unable to produce leptin at all. These mice eat excessively and quickly become two to three times the size of a normal mouse.

But most obese humans don’t have a problem secreting leptin. Instead, they have leptin resistance, where the body develops a decreased sensitivity to leptin.

Similar to insulin resistance, chronic overexposure to the leptin hormone results in a decreased sensitivity of leptin receptors to the circulating leptin hormone. To compensate, the body produces more leptin, almost as if “shouting” at the brain and other parts of the body that are not responding to the leptin signal. Meanwhile, the person does not get the food intake suppression signal and continues to eat.

So what causes leptin resistance? Studies suggest that inflammation can damage the hypothalamus (2), the center of the brain that receives the primary signal from leptin and suppresses food intake. Inflammation can come from many sources, but diet and the gut microbiota tend to be prime sources in developed countries. In the next section, we’ll look at leptin levels among ancestral populations and how they compare to the typical consumer of a Western diet.

Carbohydrates: why quality—not quantity—matters most.

Comparison of Western Diets with Ancestral Diets

We can learn a lot from looking at the diets of populations that eat more ancestral health diets. Many of them have similar macronutrient compositions to a Western diet, yet they have a virtual absence of Western-type diseases.

For example, the Kitavan Islanders of Melanesia live as horticulturists, with little access to Western foods. Carbohydrates make up 60 to 70 percent of their energy intake, much of that coming from fruit or tubers with a fairly high glycemic index (3). Their saturated fat intake is also high. Yet despite obvious similarity between Kitavan and Western diets in both macronutrient composition and glycemic index, Kitavans boast levels of fasting insulin and blood glucose that are even lower than the levels deemed healthy in Western populations (4, 5). They also have lower levels of leptin and a virtual absence of diabetes, atherosclerosis, and excess weight (6, 7, 8).

These people aren’t just genetically superior: islanders who leave for the mainland and begin to eat a Western diet quickly become overweight (5). Similarly, when they maintain a traditional lifestyle, the Ache hunter–gatherers of Paraguay and the Shuar people of the Amazon are lean and have low leptin concentrations (9, 10). However, hunter–gatherer populations that transition to a Western diet develop Western metabolic diseases (11). Maintaining high levels of physical activity only provides a small degree of protection (12).

Other analyses of modern hunter–gatherer populations, including the Masai, Kavirondo, and Turkhana, suggest that high intake of unprocessed meat and saturated fat does not result in poor cardiovascular or metabolic health (13). I’ve written and talked extensively on the meat-heart disease myth though, so for this article, we’ll focus more on carbohydrates.

Paleolithic Diets Prevail in Randomized Controlled Trials

In general, the absence of grains and refined carbohydrates in hunter–gatherer populations results in incredibly low incidences of Western diseases like obesity and metabolic syndrome. But what about in the Western world?

Many of us have adopted a modern “Paleolithic” diet in an attempt to restore our health. Does mimicking the diet of our ancestors have proven benefits?

Absolutely. While replacing refined grains with whole grains results in only modest health improvements (14), removing grains altogether and adopting a Paleolithic diet improves health across the board. Twelve weeks on a Paleolithic diet with unrestricted food intake reduced leptin levels by 31 percent and caloric intake by 20 to 30 percent (15). In another study, a Paleolithic diet resulted in greater reductions in weight and waist circumference compared to Mediterranean or diabetes diets and normalized type 2 diabetic glucose intolerance (16, 17).

Unfortunately, this is the extent of the RCTs assessing the effectiveness of a Paleo diet—after all, no pharmaceutical or food manufacturer serves to profit from a study that finds that real food prevents disease! Nevertheless, in these few studies, the effects of a Paleo diet in restoring health are robust.

The Role of Chronic Inflammation in Obesity and Metabolic Disease

Obesity is increasingly recognized as a condition characterized by low-grade, systemic inflammation that often begins in the gut. Early GI inflammation, changes in the gut microbiota, and increased GI permeability (leaky gut) precede and predict obesity in mouse models (18). A leaky gut allows bacteria and components of bacterial cell walls, like lipopolysaccharide (LPS), to cross the gut barrier. Termed “metabolic endotoxemia,” this influx of bacterial toxins into the bloodstream launches an inflammatory immune response that is thought to be a major mechanism in the pathology of obesity.

Furthermore, the microbiota of obese individuals show altered expression of bacterial genes involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, and amino acids (19). Microbial changes in the upper GI tract can result in leptin resistance in the vagus nerve, reducing satiety signaling (20). We’ll see in the next section how carbohydrate density might lead to these microbial changes and gut inflammation.

Carbohydrate Density

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. The amount of carbohydrates present in 100 grams of food is referred to as a food’s carbohydrate density and does not necessarily correlate with glycemic index.

Cellular plant foods have a low carbohydrate density compared to Western foods. Root tubers, fruits, leaves, and stems store their carbohydrates as part of fiber-walled living cells. These cells are thought to remain largely intact during cooking (21). The fact that carbohydrates are stored within cells means that the maximum carbohydrate density they can have is around 23 percent.

In contrast, flour, sugar, and grains are among the most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet and are considered “acellular” carbohydrates, meaning they lack intact cells. Processed foods made from these ingredients can have a very high carbohydrate density—as high as 75 percent. This leads to a dramatic difference in the slurry of food and stomach acid that reaches the gut:

“The chyme produced after consumption of acellular flour and sugar-based foods is […] suggested to have a higher carbohydrate concentration than almost anything the microbiota of the upper GI tract from mouth to small bowel would have encountered during our coevolution.” (22)

We can easily imagine how this increased carbohydrate concentration could lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), gut dysbiosis, and ultimately leptin resistance and obesity. Inflammation caused by changes in the gut microbiota can cause damage to the hypothalamus and afferent vagus nerve endings, inducing leptin resistance. Without leptin to curb food intake, overeating and weight gain is highly likely.

Paleo emphasizes foods that include cellular carbohydrates—like starchy plants, nuts and seeds, and whole fruits and vegetables—over those with acellular carbs, like sugar, flour, and processed foods. Switching to a diet that emphasizes the quality of carbs, like Paleo, could help prevent or reverse chronic illness, but making that change isn’t always easy. When it comes to changing your lifestyle, support can make the difference—and that’s where health coaches excel.

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Summary: Eat Real Food

Hopefully this research has helped convince you that food quality trumps quantity. Here are a few of the main takeaways:

  1. Macronutrient composition is important, but the quality of those macronutrients and the context they are found in are likely far more important. Our ancestors ranged from an intake of as little as 8 percent of calories from carbohydrate to as high as 70 percent calories from carbohydrate with few health problems. Only when they introduce refined Western foods do they develop metabolic disease.
  2. Low-carb diets are somewhat effective at achieving weight loss because they tend to reduce acellular carbohydrates, but if an individual is still eating enough to produce an inflammatory microbiota, he or she may stall in weight loss.
  3. Even small amounts of sugar or refined grains could lead to an inflammatory microbiota and leptin resistance. Ancestral peoples’ health tends to be very sensitive to even small influences of Western foods (23, 24). This means that the popularized 80-20 rule may not work for many people if that 20 percent is carbohydrate-dense enough to cause dysbiosis.
  4. Eat real food. Focus on fresh, whole foods that are minimally processed and have their carbohydrates encased in cellular compartments. These foods will not only have a lower carbohydrate density but will also likely be accompanied by a wide variety of micronutrients.

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  1. I really liked this article! I now truly realize that it is about the quality of the food that I am eating as opposed to what I presume a lot of people do which is obsess about the calories or about not eating as much. It is important that we educate ourselves as people on healthy foods to eat.

  2. Chris always provides valuable information but as I have learned in my practice, it all depends on the individual. There is no doubt we should always seek quality vegetables and fruits (as carbs) but some people perform better on different ones. In general, I find most people do well with quality proteins, healthy fats and quality carbs. Always best to know the patient’s numbers first.

    • Here it’s a matter of stuff that triggers an inflammatory response mediated by the microbiota.
      Refined carbs promote a bad biome, an environment laden of proinflammatory metabolites.
      The fact that some (actually few) people may “resist” better than others doesn’t make them the best one can eat anyway.

      • I never said anything about refined carbs as I know how terrible they are. I think you may have misinterpreted my comment on “some people perform better on different ones”. That comment means they should always still seek quality fruits and vegetables but some people for example perform better with dark berries and some people with broccoli and kale. It all depends on their underlying conditions and physiological makeup. I have SIBO patients, IBS patients and a wide spectrum of different health concerns and even some of my SIBO patients can’t have specific fruits and vegetables (obviously). I hope this clarifies. You may be surprised just how specific it can get with individuals. I always recommend knowing your numbers and where you stand.

      • I always like to have more data when working with patients. We try and keep lab fees to a minimum but there are some great labs that tell us a great deal about a person. Need to know where your gut stands (GI MAPS is a good lab), micro-nutrient testing is helpful, cardiometabolic panel is an effective, cost friendly lab, etc. I have a few that I like and it all depends how the person presents and their history. Chris does a great job explaining this. Always here to help.

  3. I have diabetes which I control with insulin. I stay up late and have a sugar binge addiction at nite. Low carb during the day. Am I hopeless? Never fill up at nite.

    • Are you getting enough protein? At least the palm of your hand size three meals a day? Are you getting way too much protein – kicks in like sugar spike and makes you crave sugar? Are you getting enough healthy fats? At least a tablespoon three times a day? And then filling in with tons of veggies from there? I had to go cold turkey from refined grains/carbs/sugar. I had to stop entirely and go through a tough almost week long headache and sore throats detox – I thought I’d have to go to the emergency room. However, now I feel invincible- frightening how even sneaking in a tiny bit of refined carbs or sugar makes me toxic and unable to stop eating it the next day. I hope that helps and you find strength and relief!

      • Cris. Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I have been refined carb, sugarless before and looks like I will again before this diabetes kills me. I will testify that I never felt so good when I was on the program

  4. Hi, Chris. I totally agree with your opinion here. I love to eat fresh, whole foods. But my kids like to eat fried food, I really worry about their health.

    • Do they shop on their own? Are they adults? If so your example is probably as good as it gets for them. Be a shining light!! All the best!

      I know my little ones wake up wanting candy, juice and gum constantly if they had this recently from family. They honestly will eat that exclusively if allowed?. However, I make their meals still (with their help) and we talk a lot about why we eat what we eat. They don’t have other choices- I don’t provide otherwise bc it just makes us all sick. Not that I’m perfect at all!! My youngest is the toughest – she doesn’t like brown foods or foods mixed with any other food… she gets the same thing we are eating I might just keep the foods separate for her. We don’t get into a power struggle. She has to try everything once and it’s the only thing she will be offered later if she didn’t eat a reasonable amount and finds herself still hungry. This works beautifully – she will eat it if hungry and often doesn’t eat it. But the next meal is coming soon enough. I do worry all the time knowing she would down a cup of juice and chicken fingers and French fries and we call her an air fern- despite this she is in the 98% for height and 50% for weight. Doc thinks she is doing great and is physically quite well- rarely ever sick. That’s a huge one with all the little ones getting sick with stomach flu and the like- we don’t get that! Whew! Best of luck!!

    • In a sense you have, but it’s not important. The carbohydrate density of the amount of vegetables in question does not change, it’s still the same percentage of the weight.

      On the other hand, if you juice a whole lot of carrots and remove as much fibre as you can, the resulting product is significantly more carb-dense as compared to the raw food itself.

  5. Why do not say anything about the time and meal frequency?
    This is a critical factor. Eating one – two times a day, mostly in the second half of the day improve leptin sensitivity, reduce the inflammation. The carbohydrates in this diet is not a problem.

  6. In regard to acellular carbs, and the breakdown of cell walls in flour — what about all the “Paleo” flours? Have they become acellular carbs, too? Does milling a plant food to flour affect the resistance of some resistant starches (e. g., plantain flour)? It seems many Paleo recipes use these flours to produce Paleo versions of more modern foods, although there is evidence that humans have been grinding foods to make flour for 30,000+ years. At what point (of fineness) does milling break down the cell walls to the extent that the internal starches are more accessible?

    • Annie, acellularity is a continuum shady curve, the more you refine a stuff the more you have acellular carbs. In light of that, 00 flour is far worse than 1 or 2 etc.. said that, any flouring process is going to increase the carb density, especially for grains that even in the raw condition show a very high carb density https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=20077&t=20077&h=&s=100&e=58.000&r=
      Nevertheless, I’m not an advocate of paleo flours either, because flours are far from being the evolutionary norm.
      let’s get rid of the concept of paleo and take into account the evolutionary term.
      why?
      It’s not about a certain thing that happened at a certain moment during the history, but more about the selective pressure exerted by that.
      let me explain: we have evidence of grinding in prehistoric times, and so what? It was more likely a practice during starvation times rather than the norm. The optimal foraging theory clearly enlights the shortcomings of that assumption.
      Grains in nature are really hard to harvest and processing them to make them edible requires a lot of energy, for little nourishment gained.
      Usually there’s a good balance between predators and preys and hunter gatherers rarely starve.
      However, when it happens, we surely looked for anything edible around, and grains provided such form of edible stuff.
      But it seems that they didn’t drive any role toward a fitness selection, since they were an occasional starvation food.
      We can almost indefinetly consume a food for eons, but unless it’s going to jeopardize our reproductive fitness (I don’t see the case since it takes decades to develop issues), we’ll hardly get well adapted to it.
      This is the reason why I’m getting uncomfortable with the word “paleo”, because it implies to stick to something “old” but not well defined.
      With the term “evolutionary” instead, we don’t exclude anything, given the proof of course.
      It’s a template to say: “if X didn’t represent an evolutionary force that given the chance and time for us to adapt to it, it’s very likely that it’s guilty until the opposite proof, not all the other way around”.

      • Furthermore, “modern” hunter gatherers neither eat grains nor make any kind of flour.
        When bushmen have been asked why they don’t want to start agriculture, they responded: “why should we? There are all the mongongo nuts you may want here around”.
        You have to put together anthropological and evolutionary evidence with science and when you triangulate everything, you are more likely to be in the right path toward the cause-effect connection.

      • “acellularity is a continuum shady curve, the more you refine a stuff the more you have acellular carbs. In light of that, 00 flour is far worse than 1 or 2 etc.”

        Assuming you are talking about grain flours, your assertion is wrong. Grains are acellular carbohydrate sources, even when they aren’t milled at all. The carbohydrate (mostly starch) content of grains – even intact grains – is *not* stored in cellular organelles within walled cells, as would be the case in the case of cellular carbohydrate sources such as root vegetables and tubers. In cereal grains and other seeds, the starch is stored in the endosperm and is thus acellular by definition.

        As to AnnieLaurie’s original question, small amounts of coarsely ground nuts might be totally ‘Paleo’ but large amounts of nut flours – especially defatted nut flours whose carbohydrate density will have been increased by the defatting process decidedly aren’t. I agree with Alessio when he says, “flours are far from being the evolutionary norm.” Those ‘Paleo’ versions of more modern foods are simply not ‘Paleo’.

        • Yes, in the following post I explained that the carb density in grains are extremely high even in they raw state.
          Nevertheless, the more you refine them, the more is worse.

        • Let’s clarify, when you take the whole grain carb density slightly decrease, not because the endosperm becomes cellular, but because you add fiber that lower the overall carb density.
          Anyway, the impact on the microbiota is still deleterious, it’s just a matter of details.
          Cellular carbs are a far cry from that.
          Moreover with whole grains you also add a lot of antinutrients.
          Skip all of them…

          • People have been eating grains for thousands of years and only recently have they gotten fat and metabolically deranged. While ultra refined grains are fairly new, grains themselves are not. I’ve been paleo since the mid 90’s, but recently went WAPF. Been making and eating 100% rye sourdough breads this past year, and diabetes markers and weight have stayed the same or improved (my current lab values of a1c, insulin, and fasting glucose are all ideal).

            • If it works for you, good.
              My perspective is that overall we can’t rely on observations.
              People have been sick for thousands years, have you seen the Egyptian mummies cancer laden?
              During the history we can observe cancer, autoimmune diseases, CVD, etc… they were always part of human history, from the dawn of civilization.
              Of course, nothing compared to the American disaster.
              When your researchers come in Italy to make observations, we appear to be healthy and fit, but it’s just about the biased perspective.
              We are far from being healthy, we just are “less sick”.
              This is the problem with observation, it doesn’t prove cause and effect.
              Health depends on many factors.
              In a context of a nutrient dense diet, lack of stress and pollution, physical activity, etc.., small quantities of properly prepared “safe” grains, are not likely to be a huge issue.
              On the other hand, this doesn’t make them the best food choice compared to the nutrient dense “paleo” friendly foods.

        • Here’s an extract from my interview with Spreadbury:
          “I haven’t looked into the protein make-up of rice to be honest, I’d merely thought of it as having a waxier more cohesive nature to its starches than is seen in industrially milled flour’s powder.”

  7. this makes sense. I have a leaky gut and a stool test I had over a year ago said I had good bacteria in my gut (which I work hard to maintain) but I have high gut inflammation and a thin lining. I try and maintain an 80/ 20 balance and do well for short periods of time and then the sugar and carb cravings take over. I also struggle keeping my candida under control. I think if I went more with plant carbs for my 20% I might do better. It all seems so complicated to me but I continue to learn. Thank you for your post.

    • If I were you I would steer clear of all cereal grains and pseudograins and any flour milled from them, as well as all highly processed/refined foods. Try to get all your carbs from vegetables, tubers, fruits and (a very small amount of) nuts.

  8. Let’s keep our feet on the ground shall we and quit looking for things that are not there!
    Very good article by the way.

  9. Where is the line drawn between cellular and acellular when dealing with whole food sources? What impact do blending or mashing have?

    • Interesting point. I make traditional sourdough rye bread from flour. At times I’ve made it substituting half of the flour with coarsely milled rye (very chunky) with the goal of making it more healthy, but after all that mixing and fermenting, the loaves turn out exactly the same in texture. It shows that you can do a lot of “processing” right at home in your mixing bowl. Either way, I do not get a glucose spike from this bread, nor do I gain weight or suffer any other issues.

      • The point is not only about glucose spyke and weight gain.
        A proinflammatory microbiota is about low level chronic inflammation that may trigger any kind of disease in the long run.
        Not to say that it’s your case, but reducing all to glucose and fat is misleading.

        • That is a valid point, Alessio. (I didn’t see your responses until now.) But I was under the impression that a long-fermentation resolved many of the anti-nutrient problems I assume you’re referring to. I always hear about Weston Price’s Swiss villagers with their rye bread and cheese–how they were the picture of health. I could just be safe and give up the bread, but if I did that for everything that might be unsafe, I would have to cut out most of my diet. There are strong arguments against so many foods.

          • I’m not refering to antinutrients that have been slightly overhyped and as you told can be partially defeated through fermentation for example.
            The issue for me is about bacteria issues that arise when you throw refined carbs into your small intestine.
            Microbes thrive with refined carbs and it’s going to be a mess when they are completely accessible to them as in the case of flours and refined stuff in general.
            On the other hand, carbs trapped into fiber “living” cells are far less harder to reach for bacteria and keep a “healthy” balance in the ecosystem.

            • I still find this idea of “refined” or “acellular” carbohydrates a little tricky as a concept. Pasta cooked al dente releases glucose more slowly into the blood stream than a plain baked potato. If this is the case, wouldn’t it seem likely that the glucose of the potato would be more accessible to bacteria as well? A cell can’t retain its integrity and release all its glucose at the same time.

  10. i would like to obtain the list of references noted in this article. how can i do that instead of having to click one link at a time – there are 24 ?

    thank you for the good information.

    hec

  11. Too right Ronald. I have tried to say the same thing twice, but both surprusingly and sadly Chris seems to be censoring me. Maybe Chris is a Hillary fan… ?

  12. While I think the cellular carb hypothesis holds quite a bit of weight, I do think some grains are relatively benign for healthy individuals and perhaps even beneficial.

    Personally, I thrive on oatmeal. Cereal and bread not so much, but I can afford a slice of gluten-free toast or two a week. But oatmeal seems to have an incredibly beneficial effect on my GI tract, regularity, etc. I don’t really care for rice, so I don’t eat/cook it.

    I think some grains are okay, even good. I eat WAP type diet I suppose, but lower in fat than most. I eat quite a bit of yogurt and homemade kefir.

  13. I’m sure I’m not alone in not tolerating fiber and fructose. For those of us with this dilemma the option of eating lots of roots and tubers just isn’t there. It may be SIBO, which I have tested over and over again -I’m always on some sort of antimicrobial, it seems, or a permanently altered miccrobiome, or simply hypothyroidism (although “managed” with drugs) which slows down SI motility enough that the cellular carbs fees normal microbiome too much. What ever the case may be, sometimes it would be nice to read that such and such dietary approach would be ideal IF tolerated.

    • Im not sure if you’re aware but references to the importance of individuality in dietary needs and tolerances are constantly elluded to and even very openly professed in all of Chris Kresser’s work!

      • Melissa,
        I am aware. However, there is no such caveat in the article I’m commenting on.

        I’m not simply griping here, I’m hoping to help another person in my position. I followed a “pure” paleo diet and, of course, avoided gluten and refined grains, for over a decade, long before it was the in thing to do. It hurt my thyroid function badly, as it lead to a very low carb diet (due to my intolerance of starchy and fibrous vegetables). The introduction of refined carbohydrates in small amounts, such as in the form of white bread and jasmin rice, has been amazingly helpful to my health. I feel better than I have in years, and have energy stores I haven’t experienced in over a decade. Nutritional advice is all too often cavalierly one-sided; presenting one approach as the truth and everyone not subscribing to it as wrong and ridiculously misguided. I suffered needlessly from being too impressed by online (self-appointed) health gurus and my only advice to people out there trying to get a handle on their health is to approach all such advice with a healthy dose of skepticism. Nutritional neuroticism is probably the most unhealthy approach to diet that there is.

  14. Hey Chris,

    thanks so much for the information in this article – I always enjoy reading your blog!

    I’m wondering, though, if sprouting the grains as well as fermenting them could make a big difference in how they affect the microbiome. I just noticed that generations before us could tolerate decent amounts of grains in the form of sourdough bread and the like without diseases like diabetes, cancer or obesity skyrocketing like nowadays. I’m aware that multiple things have changed within the last centuries – including the hybridization of wheat. But my question is: What if we took old variants of wheat like Einkorn or Emmer (or even glutenfree grains like buckwheat) and used the techniques our ancestors had for baking bread? Wouldn’t that change the carbohydrate density and lead to a completely different food?

    By the way, I’m following a real food diet (not completely Paleo but mostly grainfree) and am all for eating lots of veggies and the like ?

    • Debora, as said elsewhere, what we perceive as “healthy” or “unhealthy” is not black and white.
      Health is about many variables and it has many shades.
      It depends if you have an healthy lifestyle, free of stress, environmental toxins as well…
      If you compare a traditional culture with all the other variables matched with the average american disaster, the former appears to be a far cry, even if they are not at the zenith.
      We westernized have pushed everything too far.
      Meat, veggies and tubers are the best, and if you can choose, why do you have to take the other option?
      Sprouted ancient whole grains are surely “better” than the refined stuff around here…but they are still far from being the best you can eat

      • “Meat, veggies and tubers are the best, and if you can choose, why do you have to take the other option?”

        Alessio, one of the reasons is that it’s just really damn hard not to eat bread and other grain products in a society that seems to build over half its meals and traditions around them. You would know, if you are Italian like your name sounds 😉 Traditionally prepared grains are not inherently bad and have quite a bit of nutrition. If I recall correctly, Chris mentioned once that he didn’t recommend grains, mainly because people didn’t have the patience to prepare them properly. Well, some people do have this patience. Especially if it means they get to eat bread! You are so right that our modern lifestyle makes us more prone to disease, even if we’re eating a traditional diet. But a huge part of the problem of modern life is stress. For me at least, orthorexia is extremely stressful and isolating. Stress in general is probably my biggest health issue. Having some WAPF bread a few times a week, in the context of a super nutritious diet is incredibly comforting and makes me feel less neurotic and more healthy. You have to look at the whole picture when you’re striving for higher levels of health.

        • Here you perfectly hit the target.
          I completely agree with the latter points and I myself go outside with my family and friends eating “normal” food (also pizza, you’re right I’m Italian 🙂 ). In a context of a nutrient diet, doing a 85-15, or 80-20 if you are very healthy, you can enjoy breads and other foods without problems and even with benefits coming from social connection as you perfectly pointed out.

  15. I’ve always been curious about rice. It seems to not have quite the same effect as say sugar and wheat. Many Asian cultures have rice as the main staple and also aren’t as afflicted by western chronic diseases. Any thoughts or research on why that might be?

  16. Great content. Really inspiring article. I think everyone human being should its required carbs value and intake for a healthy living. Thanks for sharing your appreciable knowledge.

    • I was wondering about the exact same thing. But I would take it one step further:

      Even when you grind up these whole grains WITHOUT removing any parts, wouldn’t you still have the cell wall material, which qualifies a carbohydrate source as cellular?

      I’m personally not eating other grains than rice, but I think it’s important to keep reviewing these stances 🙂

      • Just look at the carb density of whole grains.
        Theoretically around 20% is the ideal value…they are far above even in the bran in raw form

    • Good question. I very much appreciate the information in this article and the depth provided to make it clear. Could you answer this question about cellular compartments inherent in whole grains? Thanks.

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