The Path to Understanding Carbohydrates
: how Brown Rice Changed My Life.

Via Kate Leinweber
on Oct 26, 2011
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Kate Leinweber, B.Sc R.H.N


Photo: Sweetbeetandgreenbean

I was once a proud vegan raw foodist.

For an intense two years, my diet consisted almost exclusively of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and as you can imagine adhering to such a strict dietary regimen was both challenging and demanding.

Food preparation alone nearly consumed my entire life. But during that time I was also working full time for a pharmaceutical company, practicing yoga daily and preparing meals for both my partner and myself. Needless-to-say, my body needed energy, and it needed it all the time—which meant my body needs carbs, a lot of them.

As a raw foodist on the go, the easiest and most accessible carbohydrate source was fruit, or, more specifically, bananas. I would eat up to eight bananas a day. I had bananas in my morning smoothie, bananas in my sprouted porridge, bananas for my afternoon snack and bananas in my (raw) ice cream for dessert. I didn’t buy bananas by the bunch; I bought them by the case. But my banana obsession ultimately didn’t meet my energy needs. Instead, it sent me on an exhausting cycle of blood sugar spikes and crashes, and that, in turn, left me deeply burnt out.

It wasn’t until one of my teachers asked me if I had tried cooked brown organic rice as an alternative energy source that my life started to change. Given my obsessive commitment to a raw foodist diet, I was skeptical of cooking anything—but somewhere inside me I knew that my lifestyle was unsustainable and I respected this woman. I figured I’d give it a shot.

The results were instant and dramatic. Within days I had more energy, I was noticeably stronger in my yoga practice and I felt more grounded, as if my head had finally returned to my body and my feet were planted back on the earth. What was the difference? Bananas are essentially a simple sugar, which rushes into the bloodstream and starts the cycle of spikes and crashes I was experiencing. But brown rice has protein, which helps to regulate blood sugar and stabilize energy use. Looking back, it took me a long time to understand what moderation and sustainable eating habits really meant—but that seemingly simple bowl of brown rice turned out to be my first step toward balance.

The important thing to understand is that Bananas were not the problem. It was my obsession with a perfect healthy diet that led to the overconsumption of sweet fruits. Fruit is a key part of our diet providing a matrix of nutrient.

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates equal quick energy. They’re easily broken down by the body and used for movement, cognition, immune system function, nervous system balance and cell-to-cell communication. In their simplest form, carbohydrates are simple sugars (like glucose or fructose); in their most complex, they are sugars like cellulose or fibre and indigestible by humans. Indigestible but oh so important to those morning visits at the porcelain throne.

Carbohydrate Sources

Carbohydrates are found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit. There are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables and whole grains (eg. whole wheat, brown rice, whole grain pasta, millet, quinoa, amaranth). Simple carbohydrates are the molecular components of complex carbohydrates and with the exception of fruits have usually been refined or processed (eg. Sugar, agave, corn syrups).

Refined carbohydrate sources (sugar, bread and baked goods made from refined grains, white rice and white pasta) have all been stripped of important nutrients. This is where the term “empty calories” comes from.

Shopping & Reading Food Labels

When buying breads or baked goods make sure to read the label and look for the words “Unrefined” or “Whole Wheat,” “Spelt,” “Rye.” Pasta choices are now available in a variety of different whole grains including kamut and brown rice.

Sugars in their different forms can be found on food labels. Read the Ingredients Listing and look for the ending “–ose” (eg. glucose, sucrose, fructose, maltose). Sugar alcohols are also frequent additives—look for the ending “–ol” (eg. maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol).


Alternatives to sugar used in cooking and baking are: maple syrup, raw unfiltered honey and molasses. The vitamins and minerals of these sugars remain intact. Stevia is a great choice when sugar must be restricted.



About Kate Leinweber

I am a Microbiologist and Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I have been in the health industry for close to a decade, starting on the allopathic medical end of the spectrum and now in the holistic realm. I am obsessed with food and its healing abilities! I’ve been a vegetarian, vegan, and even a raw foodist…and I felt crappy and unhappy! I formally studied Holistic Nutrition and discovered individualized balanced nutrition. Currently I help plant-based foodies who have energy crashes and digestive distresses to feel amazing by re-programming their food choices. My practice as Holistic Nutritionist extends around the world and focuses on the ancient knowledge of Chinese Medicine, Medical Intuition and Traditional Food Practices. My holistic model empowers each client with knowledge of how whole foods can sustain a healthy and whole body. Visit me on Facebook.


20 Responses to “The Path to Understanding Carbohydrates
: how Brown Rice Changed My Life.”

  1. “Needless-to-say”? Speaking of needless, why hyphens? Please, PLEASE dump the unnecessary hyphens.

    In addition to protein, your body also need some fat. Our culture’s paranoia about fat is ridiculous and misplaced. Eating fat doesn’t make a person fat. Eating excess carbohydrates makes us fat, as our livers shunt excess blood sugar off to fat stores.

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: How Brown Rice Changed My Life ~ Kate Leinweber […]

  3. There are other wonderful whole grains to try, too: quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, bulgur and more! They all provide the body not only with slow-burning carbs, but also with essential amino acids (proteins.)

  4. David Bullock, D.O. says:

    Grains are better for keeping your blood sugar under control (than bananas), however, leafy green vegetables (kale, arugula, spinach, bok choy, I could go on) are not only better at keeping blood sugars level, they are filled with many phytonutirents that reverse heart disease, greatly decrease the chances of getting cancer, and cure diabetes (yes, cure!). I would suggest you read the New York Times Best Selling book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman entitled: Eat To Live, and check out the Over 1,000 scientific references in the back (which prove that what he’s saying is not just his personal invented theory, like the Atkin’s diet was for Dr. Atkins.) I highly recommend Eat To Live to everyone of my own patients and have found it helps them improve their own health! (PS I don’t get any money or kickback from Dr. Fuhrman, I simply ‘push’ his book because it’s the most scientifically based and authentic book I’ve seen in the health and nutrition areas.)

  5. Jillian Sethi says:

    Thanks David for Eat To Live recommendation – I will certainly seek it out. I am passionate about food and fine tuning to find the “perfect” diet for great health, weight and vibrant energy. Have been dancing around the Atkins approach but it’s not quite right though low carb works well for me.
    Smiled with kindly humour at above practitioners stated wholistic experience of over a decade – that doesn’t seem that much to me looking at my own journey in healing modalities of over 4 decades .. and even so the more I learn the more I discover there is yet to learn!!

  6. SiriMera says:

    While I agree that carbs are very important and that obsession with perfection is a very important thing to balance…8 bananas a day is hardly overeating on sweet fruit. I’ve also been on the raw diet for many years, about 7, though I searched and studied extensively for what worked for me. I tried many different ways of being raw and cooking and creating a balance. I know all too well about how many of the raw food leaders are carb-phobic and especially fruit-phobic and that was my original introduction to raw eating.

    I found myself with a blood-sugar problem anytime I ate grains or any fruit(which was rarely, due to the information and warnings from the raw food leaders, who were of course, selling supplements and superfoods, but villainized fruit). I realize you’re not saying it was the bananas that caused your problem, but I do want to say that there is a very large community in the raw world who get boxes of bananas and live off of 30-50 or more bananas a day. I personally fixed my hypoglycemia and blood pressure issues by eating a lot of bananas and lowering the fats, salt and spices.

    I’ve also found that eating a high fruit diet is easier for me than eating grains, and also that bananas and rice have almost the same calories per pound, so if you eat by the pound, you’re really not eating much if you’re eating 8 bananas(and especially if they weren’t perfectly ripe) compared to how much rice you’re probably eating. I would recommend looking up Dr. Douglas Graham and his books and website

  7. Ivy Stirling says:

    Grains are not essential. We like them. They do not stabilize blood sugars. They are broken down very quickly into sugar units. And they do not provide as much fiber as vegetables and fruits. Protein is essential and so is fat. Carbohydrates are not essential, but vegetables & fruits are the powerhouses of nutrition, and give us health.

    So many vegetarians I talk and consult with are grain-atarians. Switch over. 2/3 of our diet should be vegetables with some fruit. I am a Nutritionist and a Health Coach.

  8. nagpachoying says:

    As a person who was on a raw diet years ago who now studies asian medicine, I really feel this article points to how exerience is more imporant that convictions to conceptual ideas in dieting. We need to look at our language. I highly recommend people study antient logical analysis methods such as those used in tibetan buddhism on valid cognision if one wants to become a good health coach or person who gives health advice. systems of knowlege and knowing talk about cause and effect and different ways to determin the factors relating to health and actions (choices). The reason being is that the western language that we are used and culturally that we use when talking about alternative health and healing is very deceptive compared to the sciences of healing in the yogic (experiential knowledge)world. And we impose ideas of diet based on our culturally habitualized ways of thinking on ourselves even when we call ourselved yogies or alternative thinkers. I am not saying all of our ways of thinking in the west are not useful. I do love our sciences, but we even ca use great healing methods and the more experiential Lagrange of asian medicine developed by yogiv in a conceptually imposing way, when we do not study the experiences and texts with lineage teachers of real knowledge and do not do the experiential homework to really know the three humors or 5 elements and really know whte 4five tastes and the meditation practices to know how the body works. we also should know pulse diagnosis and ways to work with clients directly with awareness and real understandings. when we use language like carbs that is a chemical term, this language is really vague. Now diet is powerful and people who have experiences of health through diet can gets religious about their specific diets at time. Raw foodists will use a lot of language of enzymes and the like and concepts of cleanliness and purity. there are times when raw food is helpful and times when it is not of course base don individual. However when one really studies things like Tibetan Medicine one can experience deeper truths about food and diet, the body process and so on. one can train experimentally. for example in asian medicine it says it takes 7 days for the body to fully process food. It is not exact the same for each person but you can experience this. How the food metabolizes to nourish blood to flesh and muscles and eventually the reproductive energies in a process. SO you can make a chart tracking diet on a calendar and see how your energy level is and for a while focus on food to see what the correlations are for what you ate days ago. Sometimes in the west (Eseciallin west Boulder yoga studios) we are focused on how we feel right after eating. We want to make sure that our gluten free muddins did not give us a runny noes and we have no tummy ace and feel energetic and clean enough to do another round of hot yoga. that is great, but sometimes our energy level is effected by what we ate days ago and our gluten free diet is too dry and light for this windy boulder climate for sustaining energy and we end up with problems in bones due to too much rlung (vata) which westerners call osteoporosis when we are older even though we did so much yoga when we were young. My point is a very very critical one, against a lot of holistic healers and dietitians even naturalpaths. I really feel we need real institutions of lineage master student based asian medicine training. Especially the tibetan system is highly developed and also the ayurvedic and Chinese system. Even though these systems developed and their text contain so much knowledge sometimes they are culturally habitualized since they lived with only so many resources in the high mountains, so Tibetan doctors have to dig deep into their own traditions to work with vegetarians and westerners and not just tell us to eat Tibetan diet however they do have the ancient knowledge in their system. Tibetan Medicine has both Indian and Chinese medicine in it. The best thing about pure raw and simple diets is they do clean out your taste budds and reprogram you habits so you can turn on your bodies awareness. If you eat a lot of processed foods which have a lot of things to fools the body and tastes then it is hard to be in touch with your own intrinsic health. Again I really do not want to turn people off to learning through magaize articles more about health, but I really feel you might find yourself confused at all the contradictions of information you find even in the alternative systems. Health is an indiviual path and as a science and art it takes a lot of study. The best masters and doctors help you as an individual know yourself and not just impose general ideas. I do hope a lot of people benefit from the advice to try cooked brown rice, especially if the are thinking raw food is a religious path. please break your religion. but please study more and ask questions of the masters. there are only a limited number of them and they will die soon. We should get all the knowledge we can preserve for future generations, may this be of benefit.

  9. nagpachoying says:

    sorry 4 typos writing on a small screen in dark

  10. replier says:

    awesome discussion.

  11. replier says:

    My own experience: I am a 6’4″ 225 pound lean male athlete. I’ve been in endurance sports my entire life. I now teach brazilian jiu jitsu, do Crossfit, and have practiced yoga since 2006.

    I switched 3 months ago from a somewhat clean, carb based diet, to eating *zero* grains and *zero* dairy. I eat five or six meals a day of leans meats, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats (nuts/avacados). I eat no processed foods anymore, nothing made with refined sugar or additives. I try to get half my carb intake from vegetables, but often rely on fruit because it is difficult to actually consume enough veggies to get the carbs I need. I also drink no less than a gallon of water a day, and take fish oil.

    The results? Better energy throughout the day. My mood is a lot better. I never feel bloated or tired after eating while at owrk in the afternoon. I never “over” eat. I feel GOOD about eating.

    Only downside is the huge cost and the amount of time it takes to buy and prepare all this food. I go through a LOT of food! But it is so worth it. It is our health were talking about, and what could ever be more important?

  12. chiara_ghiron says:

    VERY well said William! thanks for stressing this important point

  13. chiara_ghiron says:

    how is it possible that nobody here is mentioning pulses as an excellent and cheap! source of protein and complex carbohydrates? I am very surprised

  14. […] this poor reputation of fat has led people to cut fat out of their diet, resulting in higher consumption of carbohydrates. And guess what. Heart disease rates are still […]

  15. […] would be nearly, if not, impossible to swallow. It is the initial method of breaking down our food. Carbohydrates are digested primarily in the mouth. Salivary amylase is produced in the mouth and is the primary […]

  16. phyllis segura says:

    Sounds like old hippie days story. You want to do something you think is healthy and it turns out you are just experimenting on yourself. That’s okay but it just isn’t worth a story except to tell people who already know you and how you behave. We used to eat lots of brown rice back in the 60’s as our version of a macrobiotic diet. Reading this made me laugh – a little at you – but not to the point of derision. It’s funny how each generation goes through the same things.

  17. […] fat to lose fat! If you are carb-loading instead of eating fat, beware! Unnecessary carbohydrates will be converted to fat by your […]

  18. Robin Turner says:

    Well said. I’m not against grains altogether, but on the whole pulses are a safer way to get your carbs, particularly if you have problems with blood sugar and/or a tendency to gain weight.

  19. Juvane Woo says:

    According to classic Chinese medicine, your stomach and enzyme can never work under low temperature which produced by the raw food you take. While protein is not digested, it turns to blockage in your blood circulation. Cancer, low/high blood pressure, apoplexy are more lightly to happen! Have some ginger tea (without sugar) you feel the difference.

  20. Tracy says:

    I think everyone is slightly different. For me grains, including brown rice, makes my blood sugar crash. 30 min after eating whole wheat or brown rice I’m having to pop a glucose tab due to hypoglycemic reaction. I have so much more energy without grains!