This article was originally published on Now Cure Me, an online platform to search + share health tips and tricks for your common concerns + ailments.
Whether you should completely cut out carbs or just reduce your intake to focus on whole foods, such as starchy fruits and vegetables, is a contentious issue for nutritionists around the world.
Believe it or not, if your goal is weight loss, there is real science behind if you should completely stop eating bread, pasta, rice and potatoes or whether you should keep them in your diet but make better choices about what you’re consuming….and more importantly, when.
It comes down to keeping your hormones in check throughout the day.
In order to regulate your hormonal balance to promote weight loss, it could be as simple as adjusting the timing of when you consume your carbohydrates. Consider the following three suggestions for how to adjust your carbohydrate intake in order to promote satiety + balances hormones.
1. Don’t kick your day off with a carb-fest
First, swap out that steaming hot cup of plain coffee for a protein and healthy fat rich breakfast, such as eggs with kale and avocado, or full fat yogurt with walnuts and berries.
For best results in balancing your hormones, wait until after your first meal to consume caffeine. It’s been proven to tax the adrenal glands and spike cortisol, the stress hormone. If possible, start to wean yourself off of multiple cups a day, and certainly try to avoid caffeine after lunch.
If you consume a carb-rich breakfast, you’ll probably find yourself reaching for a snack just a couple of hours later. Despite the popular directive to eat every few hours to keep your metabolism humming, that will probably do you more harm than good.
Think about it: it wasn’t until only recently in history that we had constant access to convenience foods, and somehow the average individual survived just fine by eating less frequently than we do now.
Research suggests that by eating multiple times throughout the day, you are setting yourself up to unintentionally ingest more calories over all, even if you think you are diligently keeping track.
Put simply, the more often you eat, the more often you think about eating and therefore end up eating more in terms of volume than you probably realize.
2. Lunch time is the right time to add in a small amount of carbs.
Lunch is a great opportunity to load up on nutrient-dense, fiber-rich vegetables like leafy greens, as well as a chance to include a small potion of carbs.
An easy go-to is roast sweet potato tossed on top of whatever salad fixings you have on hand, like leafy greens and chicken or tuna.
If you aren’t a fan of animal protein, beans can be a good source of fiber and protein when added to a salad.
One easy and accessible option is a mozzarella, tomato and basil salad over arugula, with balsamic vinegar and good quality olive oil as a dressing, plus protein like white beans or salmon.
Just because you don’t need to eat every 2-3 hours doesn’t mean there’s not room for an afternoon snack, particularly if you an active individual. Be sure you are distinguishing between a snack and an additional meal, however. A piece of fruit with some nuts or seeds offers just enough protein, carbs and fat to curb cravings and keep you satiated until dinner.
3. Don’t ditch the carbs at dinnertime.
Dinner should be your most carbohydrate-dense meal of the day. Although this might be hard to wrap your head around, remember that carbohydrate-dense does not (sadly) equate to eating a whopping bowl of pasta.
If you do choose more processed carbs like bread or pasta, keep the portions reasonable and bulk up with more nutritious vegetables and lean protein.
A dish of pasta primavera, dressed with seasonal vegetables and topped with some shrimp or chicken would a perfect option that seems indulgent, but could very well help you lose weight.
The key to losing weight while eating carbs is making sure they are high quality, minimally processed, and timed to balance your hormones, which should be lower in the mornings and higher before bed.
When your hormones are balanced, you will sleep better, have fewer cravings, have more energy to be active, and find weight loss effortless and more importantly, sustainable.