Addie Dulaney Majnaric is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian.
Each week Addie answers your nutrition questions.
A: I get this questions quite frequently and always like to start by clarifying that carbohydrates are a macro nutrient that makes up many foods– NOT a whole food.
When choosing carbohydrate sources, you want to choose a complex carbohydrate (containing fiber and from natural plant foods) rather than a simple carbohydrate sources (processed foods, cakes, cookies, sugars and processed flours).
When choosing complex carbohydrate sources that contain fiber, your body is able to process these foods much more efficiently and slowly so that you do not have a big rise in energy and then a big drop soon after.
Whole food, plant based sources of carbohydrates (anything from fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans) are essential for optimal health and wellness and maintaining energy throughout the day and should not be feared or limited.
There are several fad diets vilifying carbohydrates, however carbs are the main and favorite fuel source for our brain to function at its best.
When in a starvation state, or a pseudo starvation state simulated by a high fat, low carb diet, the body can convert fat to ketones to be used for energy.
However, this can only be a back up source for a short period of time and our body does not function well off of ketones – leading to blood glucose abnormalities, low energy and potentially harmful health effects such as ketoacidosis.
Not only does our brain love and NEED carbohydrates, our muscles function off of stored glucose (from ingested carbohydrates) in the form of glycogen. Our liver’s stored glycogen is used for all other bodily functions and to help maintain a healthy blood glucose level.
In short, we need carbohydrates to survive – just make sure and choose the best sources that will ward off cravings and promote a healthy state like whole food, plant based options!
In terms of weight gain, any kind of excess calories will lead to weight gain. This can be from over consuming fat, protein or carbohydrates. Learning how much your body needs to maintain a healthy weight is important.
Create balanced meals, eat at designated meal times and with pre-planned snacks can help to achieve a healthful weight and maintain it in the future.
A: Avocados are, in fact, a high fat whole food. However, when we eat them in their complete natural state (not avocado oil) we are getting all of the vitamins, mineral, and fiber that they also have to offer.
Avocados are a great sources of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Nevertheless, as a high fat food they still need to be eaten in moderation.
I typically recommend up to half of a standard avocado a day as an appropriate amount.
Cravings often come up when we are not getting the proper nutrients in our diet. Our body then sends us signals that “Hey, something is missing here!”, which we then interpret with our cravings.
A: We all have our own personal cravings and tendencies. Some of us like sweet, and some of us are more prone to craving salty foods.
Our tendencies can be traced back to our childhood and the types of foods we ate, which lead to the personalization of our gut bacteria, our microbiome, and our taste buds.
Our cravings also can be connected with long term habits of using food to cope with emotions and stress. We crave these foods in unhealthy ways due to the addictive nature of the processed products. High fat, salt and sugar foods have been proven to set off pleasure receptors in our brains that keep us coming back for more.
Processed snacks are often much sweeter or saltier than anything found in nature, so when someone begins to eat more natural plant based meals, foods may taste bland to them and not satisfy those cravings.
But do not fear, our gut microbiome and our taste buds in our mouth have the ability to change when we consistently remove these processed foods from our diet and replace them with whole food options.
Our taste buds can actually improve within about 10-14 days with complete removal of these trigger foods. Cravings often come up when we are not getting the proper nutrients in our diet.
Our body then sends us signals that “Hey, something is missing here!”, which we then interpret with our cravings.
To kick this cycle to the curb, eat a high fiber, colorful diet and meals that leave you feeling full and satisfied. When we restrict too much and fall into the cyclical dieting trap, cravings our bound to come up. Instead, I promote a nutrition mindset change that is long term and focuses on the positive effects that your food can have on your daily life.
Send your questions to Ask Addie at firstname.lastname@example.orgAddie Dulaney Majnaric is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Licensed Dietitian.