Are carbs making you fat?

You may think you eat well, but if you're carrying extra weight around your midsection, consider carb rehab to help you purge those pounds for good


Roberto Caruso

Eating ‘good’ carbs, such as quinoa, lentils or sweet potatoes, sounds like what you should be doing, right? But what if I told you even healthy carbs like those can cause a blood sugar spike and insulin surge in some people? In fact, instead of making you feel full and satisfied, those carbs might push your appetite buttons, making you eat more. Your body might even interpret them the same way it would a big bowl of chocolate ice cream. No wonder it’s so hard to lose weight! In this case, there’s no difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates. What matters is sensitivity.

What is carb sensitivity?
If you’re sensitive to carbs, your cells are resistant to insulin, which can make your overall insulin levels increase. This is a double whammy for your waistline, since insulin is the only hormone that instructs your body to store energy as fat and also blocks your ability to burn fat effectively. If you’re worried you might be carb sensitive, here’s a quick self-test: Pinch your waist. If you can grab a lot of excess fat, you probably have some level of insulin resistance, which means you’re likely prone to carb sensitivity. Your metabolism, hormone production and long-term health may all be affected as a result. And despite the temptation to slash calories in general, the right solution lies in altering the type and amount of carbs you eat.

Lose your belly in three steps

1. Test your sensitivity levels.
Start by eating more lean protein and healthy fat, and cut back on starchy stuff. Avoid bread, pasta, rice, grains, oatmeal, potatoes, beans, carrots and squash for a week. Instead choose leafy greens, broccoli and fruit. The next week, introduce one serving of starchy vegetables like edamame or carrots. At the end of the week, assess your weight, cravings, appetite and energy. If you don’t experience any digestion or vitality issues, reintroduce legumes and grains the next week. Keep a journal and make notes about how foods make you feel. During this process, pay special attention to foods that trigger cravings, bloating or mood swings — and consider eliminating them altogether.

2. Balance out your appetite, hormones and stress levels.
Here are four supplements that will help:

Relora: This natural herbal blend reduces cortisol (which can lead to cravings) and raises DHEA, a hormone that contributes to collagen production and usually declines with age. Take two 250-mg capsules at bedtime and one when you wake up.

Magnesium: This mineral reduces blood pressure, decreases cravings, relieves PMS tension, aids insulin sensitivity and helps you relax. Look for the glycinate or citrate form, which is most easily absorbed by the body.

Omega-3 fish oils: When we eat fish oils, our cell membranes become more receptive to insulin. And the more insulin receptors we have on our cells, the lower our insulin levels.

Vitamin D: It can lower insulin, improve serotonin, boost the immune system, control appetite and even improve fat-loss efforts. A study of New Zealand women published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed women who were given a daily dose of 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 showed improvements in their insulin resistance after six months of supplementation. I recommend 3,000 IU daily with breakfast for best results.

3. Add the right exercise.
Do 30 minutes of high-intensity resistance training three times a week. The wonderful thing about muscle is that it burns the sugar from our diets and the sugar naturally produced by our livers. The result? Fewer cravings and a slimmer waistline. A study in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation compared a four-month strength-training program with aerobic training in subjects with type 2 diabetes. The results showed strength training led to an improvement in blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Weight loss was similar in both groups; however, the participants in the weight room lost more than 9 percent of their body fat, while their counterparts on the treadmill lost an average of just 3 percent.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.