They did NOT count carbohydrates in the Paleolithic era.
Imagine that! People didn't think about calculating anything. They just ate. I could see ancient humans being worried about the lions eating all the wild chickens. I could see them worrying about accidentally eating a poisonous berry, but I don't think they were really concerned about whether or not they had a thigh gap.
What's cool about the Paleo community is that they seem interested in going back to a time when people didn't really worry so much about "getting fat."
Paleo diet people seem to want to return to our bodies' natural instincts when it comes to deciding how to move and how to eat. And frankly, that's pretty exciting because people want to eat simply again and listen to their bodies instead of calculating calories, tracking points, or measuring food. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the human body has amazing capabilities if we're willing to just listen.
The grand irony of the Paleo community is that many of the people who wanted to return to a simpler time are often the very ones counting carbohydrates via percentages, fitness apps, or counting up the grams on nutrition labels.
Carbohydrates really are okay. They're a macronutrient that is actually necessary to survival. Also, both fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates.
So instead of COUNTING carbohydrates, here's how to listen to your body and learn how carbohydrates affect you:
1. Notice your hunger/fullness.
Simple carbohydrates like the ones we find in simple sugars and refined grains (e.g. white rice, white bread) do not contain much fiber or protein. Protein, fiber and fat all take the body longer to digest and keep you fuller for longer. Pay attention to which carbs fill you up for awhile.
2. Pay attention to your digestion.
This one definitely builds on the last one because people who have difficulty with digestion might experience more gas and bloating from high fiber foods. Sometimes refined grains are easier to digest for people with digestive issues.
However, because of the high amount of fiber in whole grain foods, they can be super beneficial for helping move waste out of the body. 💩
3. Watch your mood.
Sometimes the biggest issue with sugar and simple carbohydrates is the sugar roller coaster: sugar highs and sugar lows. This can be pretty gnarly on your overall mood if you're constantly swinging between the two. If you've been feeling a little too high and a little too low, it might be time to reconsider your sugar intake or processed/refined food intake.
(I wrote another blog post back in February about mood regulation, carbs, and serotonin. Check that out here!).
4. Monitor for any other health issues.
Refined carbohydrates can increase triglycerides. For diabetics, monitoring glucose levels is a matter of vital importance. For others, refined grains can increase inflammation in the body making arthritis worse. For those with allergies, eating corn, wheat, soy, and dairy can cause all sorts of crazy problems in the body.
Notice changes in your body, cumulative or sudden, and make sure you're getting regular check-ups and blood work with your healthcare provider to monitor for life-threatening issues like heart disease and diabetes. And, of course, please listen to your doctors and take care of yourself (AKA keep counting carbohydrates if you have a medical condition that requires it).
When looking at carbohydrates and your body, remember to do it from a place of SELF-LOVE. Everybody is different. You just have to listen to yours. Just like our ancestors did.