Helpful Reference Plant-Based Nutrition

Carbohydrate Clarity & WFPBD

A WFPBD, or Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet, is a diet that consists entirely of plants and, ideally, in their most natural, or whole, state.  That is to say, a diet that is high in unrefined carbohydrates.  What I would like to clarify is that some people seem to believe that, with “Whole Food” as part of the term, most of their food needs to come from the Whole Foods grocery store chain.  Whole Foods is wonderful, but no, it has nothing to do with the term, even though I am sure that it comes to mind every time it is mentioned.  “Whole” refers to plants that have not been altered into products like cookies, crackers, chips, and so on, which comprises many thousands of different vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes.  Legumes are seeds or pulses, including beans, peas, and everything in between.  At any rate, all of this means that broccoli, apples, oats, and lentils are healthy plants, for instance.

Carbohydrates in their natural states are not a problem.  Carbon dioxide and water are all the waste product with which one is left after the body burns natural carbohydrates as fuel.  They cannot make you fat or otherwise unhealthy.  They are nothing to fear!

Carbohydrates become a problem when they are stripped of their fiber and nutrients, thusly converted to refined products.  All plants start out equal — as unrefined, complex carbohydrates growing in the dirt that are nourished by water, air, and sun, as well as nutrients in the soil.  Eventually, they become different things depending on the purposes for which humans intend to use them.  Their natural state, however, is always unrefined, or untouched.

 

Let us imagine that various grains are harvested.  The grains then are divided into two groups.  One group remains untouched (unrefined) and may be used in whole wheat products, or sold as oatmeal or any other fully intact grain that may be cooked and consumed.

The other group is milled down, stripped of its fiber and nutrients (becoming refined) in order to make white fluffy rice, white fluffy bread, white fluffy flour, and so on.  In some cases, gluten is removed from the grain in order to cater to fad diets and to the few people who legitimately have a gluten intolerance.  The grains all started out the same way, but the refining process takes a very healthy plant and renders it soft and useless.  When you take a plant and you strip it of its fiber and nutrients, it has no nutritional value at all, which is why many of these products are enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals (and these synthetic elements often can block the body’s ability to absorb genuine vitamins and minerals from other sources, so caution is advised). These refined products become chips, cakes, cookies, crackers, white bread, and every other junk food you can find at the market.  Of course, these are not healthy, since, often combined with sugar and animal products, these nutrient-depleted, calorie-abundant products can wreak havoc on the body. These refined products are the very carbohydrates to which all sources are referring when they caution you to avoid carbohydrates.  What they really mean is to avoid junk food.

The other carbohydrates are the healthiest foods on the planet, so fueling a phobia of them is only leading you down a dark, treacherous road that has a cul-de-sac in debilitating disease.  A plant-based diet is a high-carbohydrate diet and it is the healthiest diet in existence, which prevents and reverses countless diseases — and most especially all of those that are known to Western cultures (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, etc.)

Plant foods are packed with all sorts of health-promoting elements, including fiber, which is essential for a healthy intestinal environment.  Fiber makes up the bulk of a plant and is indigestible.  There are two forms of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble.  Most plants contain both forms of fiber but in varying amounts.

Insoluble fiber is unable to be digested or absorbed, so it makes its way through the intestines, acting like a soft brush and gently sweeps and binds together food particles in preparation for the elimination process.  Fiber is solely responsible for determining the frequency, amount, and ease of elimination.  Fiber is only found in plant foods and does not exist in animal foods at all.  Many people suffer from constipation in America, and most of that is due to their fear of carbohydrates, so, understandably, their consumption of fiber is low.  Supplementing with stool softeners while avoiding healthy plants is a dangerous way to go.

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material when combined with water and it promotes health by lowering cholesterol and blood glucose levels.  Another important function of fiber is to slow the digestion process.  Fiber ensures that the body takes its time to sift through and properly use all of the healthy elements a plant contains.  It staves off hunger because the body is still processing the plants that recently were eaten, and it ensures that the various sugars in fruit are metabolized slowly.  Mother Nature made sure that everything we needed could be found in plants.  Protein content is directly related to calorie content.  Fat content is low.  Cholesterol content is non-existent.  Fiber content is high, so most arguments presented about various sugars in plants are negated by the function of fiber.  Fiber is your traffic control, looking out for your wellbeing at all times.

Because refined carbohydrates have been stripped of their fiber and nutrients, what do you think the body does with these trash carbohydrates?  They are rapidly digested because there is no fiber to slow them down and there are no usable elements, so the body just puts them wherever it can.  This leads to spikes in blood sugar levels, spikes and lulls in moods and energy levels, clogging of the intestines and poor elimination, frequent hunger, among other things, and, when combined with animal products, these empty calories contribute to weight gain, cholesterol problems, and a whole slew of other health problems.

Unrefined plant foods are complex carbohydrates and they are nothing to fear.  Try to stay away from the junk food aisle and white, fluffy products since they are refined and are digested rapidly.  Try to do most of your shopping in the produce section since all of those carbohydrates are whole and unrefined.  Aside from animal products such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, the entire grocery store is filled with refined or unrefined carbohydrates (anything derived from a plant).  In truth, it is almost impossible to eat while avoiding all carbohydrates in some form or another unless one subsists entirely on animal foods.  All carbohydrates, while created equal, are anything but equal by the time they are presented to you at the store.  Again, you are safest in the produce section. So, don’t worry!

Danica De La Mora

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