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Carbs that make us healthy – not fat: Getting the carbohydrate story right.

James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP

We all know that too many carbohydrate calories can make us fat and aggravate diabetes and blood sugar problems, but there are some essential, low-calorie Carbohydrate Foods we simply should eat each day. Why, because these Essential Carb foods cut our risk of cancer by 50%, help lower cholesterol and improve bowel function.

(Tease) Unfortunately, most people lump all carbohydrates under the umbrella of fat and diabetes-promoting foods that they try to avoid. (Tease)

Unlike bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and sugary-sweet carbohydrates, Essential Carbohydrate foods actually help prevent weight gain and protect our body against cancer-causing agents and other damaging compounds.

So, what are these Essential Carbohydrates and how do they protect us?
There are a number of Essential Carbohydrate Foods which contain unique protective nutrients that nature provides to defend ourselves against many degenerative diseases:

We should eat at least one serving per day from the each list of the Cruciferous Vegetables, Legumes, Green Vegetables, and the “D” list that follow.

Remember that one serving size equals ½ cup of any of the following or one small fruit. So a serving size is not that large. You can do this.

  1. Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Boy choy

What makes them so special? People who eat these vegetables on a regular basis have lower cancer rates, especially in regards to breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

These vegetables are the only source of a unique protective nutrient known as indole-3-carbinol that boosts the body’s ability to neutralize cancer- chemicals through cellular detoxification.

Indole-3-carbinol also prevents the build-up of dangerous hormones linked to breast and prostate cancer.

These vegetables are low in calories, contain additional dietary fiber that help regulate cholesterol and bowel health, and are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Put them at the top of your Essential Carbohydrate List.

  1. Legumes
  • Chick peas
  • Red Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • (All other beans and peas are a good idea, but most research has been carried out on the above list)

The “claim to fame” of legumes is that they contain both cholesterol-lowering fiber and colon-cleaning fiber and are known to help regulate blood sugar. Studies show that ½ cup per day of chick peas or red kidney beans can lower blood cholesterol by 15-25%. That’s better than some cholesterol-lowering drugs.

And you may have heard that more fiber helps to prevent colon cancer.

Over the years, numerous research papers have highlighted the colon-cancer protective properties of the fiber from beans and peas, especially the ones listed above.

Why is this so important – because after lung cancer, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and Canada. The National Cancer Institute has published research telling us that 70-90% of all colon cancer cases are preventable through better dietary practices. And, eating beans/peas is an essential part of that equation.

  1. Something Green
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Rapini
  • Asparagus
  • Endive
  • Dandelion Leaf
  • Turnip greens

Many dark green vegetables contain beta-carotene, folic acid and many phytonutrients that reduce the risk of cancer and age-related eye diseases. Beta-carotene, found in these foods is an important antioxidant that quenches cancer-causing free radicals. Folic acid (a B-vitamin) is required for normal DNA synthesis in every cell in the body.

Many individuals in North America have a marginal deficiency in folic acid, which makes them more prone to the formation of genetic mutations, which leads to cancer.

In fact, people with lower blood levels of folic acid are known to be more prone to certain types of cancer. Low folic acid intake in women of child bearing age also increases the risk of giving birth to a child with a spinal birth defect, such as spina bifida.

Many dark green vegetables also contain two unique nutrients lutein and zeazanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 55 in the United States and Canada.

After ingestion, these nutrients concentrate in the back of the eye, where they quench free radicals induced by sunlight that can otherwise damage the optic nerve, leading to the development of macular degeneration. Studies show that a higher lifetime intake of lutein and zeazanthin is associated with a lower risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Needless to say, consuming ½ cup (minimum) of a dark green leafy vegetable (not iceberg lettuce) should also be part of your daily Essential Carbohydrate strategy.

The D List – At Least One Other Choice from the Following Options:

  • Tomatoes – they contain lycopene, an antioxidant which is linked to prevention of prostate and cervical cancer and possibly breast and skin cancer as well.
  • Garlic and Onions – they contain a sulfur-rich compound that boosts detoxification of cancer-causing agents – one clove of garlic and/or 2 tablespoons of chopped onion.
  • Granny Smith Apples – these apples lower blood cholesterol due to their high cholesterol-lowering fiber content. They are lower in calories than other apples and contain an anti-cancer and anti-heart disease nutrient known as Quercetin. An apple per day does keep the doctor away, as it turns out.


Okay, you get the idea. In general people who consume at least 5 fruit and vegetable servings per day cut their cancer risk by 50%.

Eating these carbs will not make us fat, but will actually help to curb our appetite in many cases, and increase our chances of living a long, highly functional life.

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