There was recently an article published in the Weston Price Wise Traditions Newsletter, titled "Why We Need Carbs" by Chris Masterjohn, PhD. It was great to see an article bringing attention to the importance of carbohydrates when there are so many people out there following highly restrictive diets that are severely minimizing or completely restricting carbohydrates, under the recommendations of many health advocates who mean well, but are misinformed or have been misguided.
While there are populations of people (such as diabetics, as an example) who absolutely need to pay close attention to their carbohydrate intake and restrict carbohydrates when necessary- the vast majority of people need not restrict or eliminate carbohydrates all together- but should instead focus on the quality of the carbohydrate (whole grain, sprouted, sourdough) while selecting a broad range of different sources of carbohydrates depending on what is locally available and in keeping with an individual's traditional background.
In the Wise Traditions article, Chris Masterjohn PhD reminds us that carbohydrates are integral to the body for structural purposes (for example,in DNA/RNA, in energy carriers, ATP, in extracellular matrices, and glycoproteins) for energy metabolism (especially for anaerobic glycolysis) and for antioxidant defense and nutrient recycling.
Many advocates of low-carb or zero-carb diets argue that we don't need glucose because our body can make it from proteins or fat via a process called gluconeogenesis. It is true that our well-designed bodies have made it almost impossible that we would ever actually suffer a deficiency of glucose- but gluconeogenesis has its downsides and forcing your body to compensate for excluding one of the key, basic dietary requirements may result in undesirable consequences to one's health.
Chris Masterjohn PhD explains, "Gluconeogenesis in primarily stimulated by the adrenal hormone cortisol. Cortisol antagonizes thyroid hormone [they compete for receptor sites] and, when chronically elevated, impairs immunity. As we move away from burning glucose and toward greater reliance on fat, free fatty acids elevate. Cortisol augments this rise even further by causing us to release free fatty from adipose tissue. High levels of free fatty acids can impair thyroid hormone's ability to carry out its physiological functions within our cells even if blood levels of thyroid hormones remain normal".
It is not recommended to restrict carbohydrate intake below 100 grams per day. If someone wishes to do so Chris Masterjohn PhD recommends "a prudent approach to safety[:]... monitor stress, thyroid, and sex hormones, to ensure they all remain in optimal range." He also stresses that "physically active people...need considerably more than 100 grams [of carbohydrate per day] to prevent these hormones from going out of range.
The most important advise anyone can receive in regards to nutrition is to listen to their body. Everyone is unique and therefor require varying levels of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Take into consideration where you come from, what your ancestors ate, as well as where you are living now and what is locally available. Those factors offer important clues for what constitutes an ideal dietary intake for someone. When it comes to choosing foods, it is always my recommendation to choose the most fresh, nutrient dense and properly prepared foods as possible. This ideally constitutes local, unsprayed vegetables and fruits, wild or organically raised, free ranged animal products and appropriate whole grains, lentils or pulses which have been soaked, sprouted or fermented prior to cooking and consuming.
There is so much conflicting information available out there now. It is not surprising that many people are feeling frustrated when it comes to the simple question of what to eat. Remember that beginning on December 9th, 2016 I will be available to help you with all of your "Nutrition Matters".