By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Yes You Need Carbs To Live Healthily!
It’s unbelievable, and quite frankly frightening, what some people practice when it comes to nutrition and diet. Take, for example, the story of this 25-year-old Instagram influencer who practices ‘Breatharianism.’
Basically, “...Breatharianism refers to the belief that human beings can sustain themselves through light and air alone, without need [for] food or water,” (Psychology Today).
The influencer, named Audra Bear, allegedly claims that she gives up solid foods and practices breathing exercises for energy, which have helped her reduce cravings and her hunger for solid foods. She also said she survived on just teas, juices and smoothies for 97 days!
Depending on the type of smoothies and juices she consumed, she may very well be getting some nutrients to survive. However, it is highly unlikely that she received a good balance of all the nutrients she needed from the non-solid foods she consumed.
I had a few things to say about this, which you can see in this report where I am referenced. I absolutely do not advise practicing Breatharianism, as it can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies, nerve and muscle damage and maybe even death in some cases. I recently discussed the story of a teenager who went blind after a diet deficient in certain nutrients.
When I heard about Breatharianism, I did some research and saw that there were other disturbing stories about this diet practice. Take, for example, the story of this Breatharian couple who claims they barely ate any food for nine years, surviving off just a piece of fruit or some vegetable broth only three times a week. The woman allegedly even had a Breatharian pregnancy.
Although it’s true you can’t believe everything you read (for example, it is possible that these people could be lying about what they did and did not eat), my biggest issue is the misinformation they spread and the unhealthy messages they perpetuate.
But even more shocking is the lack of information that the public may possess about nutrition. When I looked at the comments received on the article about Audra Bear, I was surprised to see what some readers believed. For example, take a look at this reader’s comment about carbohydrates:
Essential nutrients are defined as those our bodies cannot make, but that are required to sustain life and health. They include certain amino acids (from protein) and essential fatty acids (from oils and fats); but do not include carbohydrates.There are very few cell types that require glucose (carbs); and the body can and does make glucose to supply those needs.
Humans evolved over millions of years, eating fats and proteins; carbohydrates were not available year-round until the advent of agriculture, less than 10,000 years ago.
Now, it is true that essential nutrients are nutrients our bodies cannot make (or that our bodies cannot make sufficient quantities of). However, after the first sentence of the above comment, a few things need to be clarified.
There are two types of essential nutrients, macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Carbohydrates are indeed an essential nutrient our bodies need, and our bodies do not just automatically make glucose.
“Carbohydrates are foods that get converted into glucose, or sugar, in our bodies during digestion. Glucose is a main source of fuel for our body. It is especially important for the brain, which cannot easily use other fuel sources (such as fat or protein) for energy,” reports Harvard Health.
It is also very untrue to say that carbohydrates were not available to humans year-round until the advent of agriculture. Poultry, meat and seafood are essentially carb free, but carbs are pretty much found in every other type of food, including fruits, seeds and vegetables. It is not just grains and breads that are considered carbohydrates.
So let’s further clarify exactly what carbs are.
There are basically three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and fiber.
Fiber and starch are considered complex carbs, and sugar is considered to be a simple carb. The general rule of thumb is that you want to consume mostly complex carbs, because they provide lasting energy while simple carbs cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
To break this down a bit scientifically, “Simple carbohydrates contain just one or two sugars, such as fructose (found in fruits) and galactose (found in milk products). These single sugars are called monosaccharides. Carbs with two sugars — such as sucrose (table sugar), lactose (from dairy) and maltose (found in beer and some vegetables) — are called disaccharides,” according to the NIH.
And, “Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) have three or more sugars. They are often referred to as starchy foods and include beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, potatoes, corn, parsnips, whole-grain breads and cereals.”
Fiber is a complex carb the body cannot digest, however, it is essential to digestion. Fiber also promote healthy bowel movements and decrease the likelihood of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
“Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested,” (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).
“Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.” (This is why fiber is a great carb for people who are diabetic).
So this can all be a bit confusing because, for example, fruit may contain fructose (a simple carbohydrate), but it may also contain fiber (a complex carbohydrate). And as you likely already know, processed foods such as donuts, cakes, cookies white bread and pasta and sugar-sweetened beverages, like soda and fruit juice, contain simple carbs (sugars).
To make this all a bit easier to digest, check out how LiveScience breaks down carbs:
Good carbs are:
- Low or moderate in calories
- High in nutrients
- Devoid of refined sugars and refined grains
- High in naturally occurring fiber
- Low in sodium
- Low in saturated fat
- Very low in, or devoid of, cholesterol and trans fats
Bad carbs are:
- High in calories
- Full of refined sugars, like corn syrup, white sugar, honey and fruit juices
- High in refined grains like white flour
- Low in many nutrients
- Low in fiber
- High in sodium
- Sometimes high in saturated fat
- Sometimes high in cholesterol and trans fats
Basically, you want to eat a balanced amount of plant-based foods for good carbs, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Check out these older pH blogs for healthy carb options. And as always, speak with a competent healthcare professional about what foods to include in your daily diet.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.