Carbs don’t make you fat. Well, unrefined carbs, to be more specific, don’t make you fat, and I for one, can vouch for that as a carb-eating vegan of 10 months!
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now as I’ve lost count of the number of times I’m asked whether I fear weight-gain since moving to become vegan last weekend so here goes…
Medical conditions aside, it is the over-consumption of calories that lead to weight gain. To lose weight you need a deficit of calories, be it eating less and moving more, or both. It really is as simple as that. Yes, not all food is made equal in terms of nutrition but cals are cals and that’s that. There’s no tricking science!
Carbs have absolutely NOT made me fat, and I suffer from PCOS which I was made to believe for most of my adult life, was a condition which needed to be managed with a low carb diet, yet I’m actually slimmer since turning vegan (*insert thinking emoji).
PMS and Menopausal expert Maryon Stewart says this about PCOS and diet, ‘Foods containing phytoestrogen, the naturally occurring isoflavones found in soy, linseeds and red clover, help to moderate levels of oestrogen in the body starving the fluid filled sacks. Use soya milk instead of dairy milk which contains environmental oestrogen and has been associated in studies with an increased risk of PCOS’.
So veganism is actually good for my condition.
Now, I completely understand the prevalent ‘fear of carbs’ mentality as I used to suffer from it myself… I’d been brainwashed to believe that ‘low carbs’ meant low body weight but on reflection Atkins et al were not only unhealthy for me, they were also unsustainable and self-serving leading me into a vicious cycle of weight-loss and weight-gain and back again.
What you tend to lose on restrictive diets like that at the start, is water which duly returns at the bite of a carb. It certainly never worked for me long-term and worst of all, had me obsessing about carb content, taking the joy out of food.
Veganism put carbs back on the menu and helped me to relearn the negative voices around food I’d picked up over the years. I’ve also felt more relaxed and my sleep has improved too.
As My Gene Food states, ‘Carbohydrate rich meals spike insulin levels, which helps our brains make serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter responsible for sleep, mood, and even sex drive’ and I personally didn’t realise how low I felt until I fully-embraced them!
Yes, I limit food groups in that I exclude animal products because they don’t serve me/my health, the planet and certainly not the animals, but I never feel like I’m restricting myself or adhering to a diet because I have control over my choices free of guilt or denial.
Eating this way is the opposite of a diet: it’s liberating.
My motivation to become plant-based at the start was due to health-reasons. After suffering with acute un-diagnosed thyroid problems for years culminating finally in a big op to remove a large nodule last year, I read everything that could help to improve my health, including the mega-bestselling book, How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reserve Disease which LITERALLY changed my life overnight.
The book features extensive studies on why plants will save your life, and led to me embracing a diet favoured by my own ancestors-the Greek Cypriot diet-which is for the most part, naturally vegan with beans, pulses, nuts, fruit and veg taking centre stage thanks to the religious calendar and months of fasting.
Vegan friends and activists also inspired me to the plunge and my diet is full of fibre, slow releasing carbs (oats, wholemeal bread, brown pasta) and plant protein (brown rice, sweet potato, tofu, beans, chickpeas and lentils), seasonal fruit and more veg you could shake a stick at, and yes, when I eat lots of white carbs (hello Christmas) I put on weight but overall, I’ve lost the pounds, and Christmas apart, have kept them off.
The worry that carbs might indeed make me fat, was unfounded.
Carbs are not the enemy.
Registered Dietitian and monthly columnist at Honest Mum, Laura Clark of LEC Nutrition says, ‘It’s important to consider the types of carb being eaten and not tarnish them all with the same brush. At only 4 calories per gram (compared to fat which is 9 calories per gram) carbs are not ‘fattening’. An excess of calories causes weight gain regardless of where those calories have come from. Carbs containing fibre are better for us as those that are more refined are potentially easier to eat in larger quantities thus influencing our portion control’.
So if you want to embrace healthy carbs into your diet or switch to veganism, don’t let the ‘no carbs’ fear you’ve been ‘fed’ for so long, stop you!