Are carbs bad for you?
Some people believe that being Paleo automatically means you are on a low-carb diet. Some even believe that carbs are bad for you! I’m (not) sorry to burst their bubble, but these people are wrong.
Okay, let me rephrase that in a little nicer way: these people are misguided.
The truth is that BAD carbs are bad for you. (This means things like wheat, refined foods, and processed sugar.) Another truth is that too many carbs for your body are bad for you. In fact, not having the correct balance of ANY macronutrient (carbohydrate, fat, protein) is not healthy. Macronutrients are not inherently unhealthy, including carbohydrates, and anyone who demonizes any of these categories is, again, misguided.
Paleo is lower carb
With that said, eating Paleo is lower carb than eating the SAD (Standard American Diet). According to Chris Kresser’s book Your Personal Paleo Code, the average American on a 2,000 calories-per-day diet consumes 225-325 grams of carbohydrate a day! But the average person eating Paleo is consuming 75 to 150 grams of carbs per day.
Going too low-carb for too long can be dangerous
Not everyone will thrive on low-carb Paleo (50-75 grams per day) or very-low carb Paleo (VLC, aka ketogenic). In fact, being on VLC for too long (less than 50 grams per day) can wreak havoc on your health, such as causing gut dysbiosis, exacerbating adrenal fatigue, and contributing to insomnia. (Check out this blog post by Laura Schoenfeld, R.D.) If you are suffering from hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, are pregnant, or are highly active, you probably shouldn’t be on a VLC diet. (Reference: page 306 of Your Personal Paleo Code) On the other hand, when dealing with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, low-carb or ketogenic Paleo can be very therapeutic. Eating low-carb when trying to lose weight can also be beneficial. (However, if you’re eating low-carb Paleo and aren’t losing weight or are even gaining weight, that might signal you have cortisol/hormone issues.)
Eat your potatoes! Especially at night
There is no need to be scared of good carbs like potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, plantains, fruit, or even white rice (if tolerated). These types of food belong in a healthy Paleo template, especially if you perform daily physical activity like running, HIIT, or other types of strenuous exercise. Eating more carbs at night can also contribute to a better night’s sleep – which means that you should eat the majority of your protein at breakfast and lunch. (Isn’t it funny that the SAD is completely backwards: tons of carbs at breakfast and a nice big serving of meat at dinner!)
Another important point is that you should not count non-starchy vegetables in your carbohydrate intake. Because veggies like lettuce, broccoli, and bell peppers contain fiber, the amount of net carbs is negligible. So load up on the salads!
Personalize your nutrition
The biggest takeaway should be that Paleo is not a cut-and-dry diet. It is a template to be molded to your unique situation and health circumstances. Don’t get sucked in by the blanket “carbs are bad” statement. It’s important to experiment and find out what works best for your body!
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