Do Carbs Feed Cancer? – 80 Twenty Nutrition

Do Carbs Feed Cancer?


Do carbs promote cancer growth? Even healthy cells need suga
Photo credit: Henry de Valence via Flickr.


Nothing pisses me off more than the flawed logic of diet gurus who teach people that all carbs are created equal.

Guess what? They’re not.

Clearly having whole grains is different than eating candy or drinking sugary beverages. Are you addicted to sugar? Sign up for my 1 week Sugar Detox Plan!

If you are wondering where to draw the line when it comes to “good carbs” and “bad carbs”, here’s how it works.

The truth about carbs and cancer

Cancer cells thrive on sugar, but so do healthy cells. Your body will convert healthy foods rich in carbohydrates like vegetables, fruit, yogurt and even some protein into glucose (sugar). Your brain needs it and your body will find a way to make it, even if you cut out carbs completely.

Do carbs cause cancer? Bread glycemic index slow carbs
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Guess what else causes cancer cells to grow? Stress.

The stress response triggers the release of hormones such as cortisol that raise blood sugar and weaken the immune system. So putting yourself on a strict low carb diet could not only make you socially withdrawn and grumpy, but also stress you out at a time when you don’t need more pressure.

This doesn’t mean you should stock up on sugary cereals, pastries and cake (sorry). Eating excess sugar from these fast carbs means you’re getting plenty of empty calories that can cause weight gain. Being overweight ups your risk of several types of cancer. If you’re a cancer survivor, it could also increase the risk of the cancer coming back… or of you developing another type of cancer (called a secondary cancer). Not to mention type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but I digress!

The role of insulin in cancer

The other issue with eating fast carbs is they not only raise your blood sugar, but they also cause a surge in insulin levels. Insulin is the key that opens up your cells to let the sugar in for fuel. When your body perceives that it has an onslaught of sugar to deal with, your pancreas will release plenty of insulin to deal with all of that sugar. New research suggests that insulin may promote cancer growth, so it’s best to give your poor pancreas a break and choose slow carbs such as vegetables, beans and whole grains along with lean protein and healthy fats.

Choose the right carbs

I recently wrote a piece for Fitness Magazine about carbs and cancer.  I share my thoughts on a new study that suggests swapping out fast carbs for slow carbs could help lower cancer risk. The researchers discovered that regularly drinking sugar-sweetened beverages was linked to a 3 times higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Eating plenty of slow carbs such as vegetables, beans and whole grains seemed to lower breast cancer risk by 67 percent.

Do carbs cause cancer? Slow carbs vegetables beans fruit
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So should you cut all carbs out of your diet?

Definitely not. Slow carbs such as beans, whole grains, fruit and the star of the show, vegetables, are loaded with cancer-fighting nutrients and slow-release energy. And as this study and many others suggest, slow carbs reduce cancer risk.

Check out my tips to help you choose more slow carbs and get rid of the fast carbs to lower your cancer risk and get lean!

1. Say no to sugary drinks

I don’t care if you’re drinking flavoured green tea, vitamin water or some other concoction you think is healthy. If your drink has sugar added to it, put it down and think twice about buying it again. Make your own sugar-free drinks like hot or iced green tea or herbal tea.  Carry a cute bottle around with you and fill it with water and lemon or lime slices. Make your own fruit-infused water like Strawberry Kiwi Basil with my yummy DIY spa water recipes!

2. Holla for whole grains

Amaranth, millet, steel cut oats, bulgur, wild rice, buckwheat… there are tons of delicious whole grains to try that are loaded with fibre and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Make these grainy goodies 1/4 of your plate to get a steady supply of energy. You’ll stay fuller longer when you add protein and healthy fats to your whole grains. Try my Baked Paprika Salmon with Brown Rice Noodles and Broccoli for a super healthy meal that’s ready in less than 15 minutes!

3. Read your labels

Added sugars are in so many packaged foods nowadays. Your beloved hot sauce? Probably full of sugar. Your low fat frozen yogurt. Yep. It’s a sugar rush pretending to be good for you.

It’s also important to check out the ingredient list on breads, cereals, crackers and more to make sure you’re getting the whole grain… not some less nutritious fast carb in disguise! Watch out for claims like “multigrain” or “whole wheat”. These don’t mean you’re getting whole grains.

Check the ingredient list to make that before each and every grain listed, it says “whole ____” or “whole grain _____”. For example, “whole grain oats” or “whole wheat including the germ” are good bets. And don’t forget to always pair your carbs with protein for stable blood sugar levels and fat-burning potential.

4. Bring on the beansBest Ever Lentil Soup with Lemon and Basil Leaves - vegan gluten free vegetarian quick and easy

The United Nations has named 2016 the International Year of Pulses because beans, lentils and peas are some of the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re packed with fibre, protein and slow carbs that keep you satisfied and can help promote weight loss. As an added bonus, beans contain resistant starch, a type of fibre that helps lower colon cancer risk.

Not sure how to enjoy beans? Try my best ever Lemony Lentil Soup!

5. Snack smart

Eating smaller amounts more often can help you stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent overeating at the next meal. Just make sure you’re hungry before you snack. New research suggests that eating when you’re not hungry ups blood sugar big time!

Pack slow carb and protein-rich snacks to keep snack attacks at bay (and prevent you from heading straight for something sugary or made from refined flour). Great options are roasted chickpeas, Greek yogurt with berries, cottage cheese with whole grain crackers, edamame, or a small handful of nuts or seeds with fruit.

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