Monday, December 5, 2016

Guest Post: Carbohydrates and Fats in the Apocalypse

by George Groot
George is a member of our Facebook Group and has written for us before.

We’ve already covered essential amino acids and vitamins. I’m going to lump carbs and fats together in this final post because, biologically speaking, they are both very boring: science lists no “essential” carbohydrates, and only two essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). For a quick review, here is the list of essentials:

Amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine
Fatty acids: linoleic and α-linolenic acids
Vitamins: ascorbic acid, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, and vitamin B-12
Minerals: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron
Trace minerals: zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, molybdenum, and chromium
Electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride
Ultratrace minerals: (essentially everything else)

Carbs are nowhere on the above list, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them; a lack of carbohydrates in your diet can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, which results in being tired, cranky, and unhappy) or even ketosis, a serious medical condition that can lead to death. So you definitely need some carbs, but you have no specific need for any one particular carbohydrate, which is why none are labeled as essential.

But not all carbs are created equal, and you can think of them as “fast” or “slow” carbs. You’ll often hear them called “simple” and “complex”, and if you remember that simple is the “fast” kind that tastes good but isn't good for you, then you are on your way to success. Simple carbohydrates are monosaccharides (a single sugar molecule) or disaccharides (a molecule that is broken apart by an enzyme into two single sugar molecules). Not all of these sugars have the same glycemic index (how much they affect blood sugar and insulin production), and complex starches such as found in potatoes or pasta are still carbohydrates according to your body.

You don’t need much to survive; a single bowl of oatmeal or a medium potato is going to give you all the carbs you need to avoid ketosis or hypoglycemia if you are a healthy person. If you have flour, beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, and fruit as part of your preps, you are not going to have any issues getting enough carbohydrates to maintain health. I worry more about preppers being extremely carb heavy in their preps which, over the long term, can lead to health problems such as weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes.

If you cook with a vegetable oil, or eat fish, you are already getting the two essential fatty acids you need. In fact, the only people who are in danger of needing essential fatty acid are those who go for a long stretch of time on extremely lean meat. But if you have a fat source, then lean meat is no problem.

The normal household cooking oils (corn, canola, olive, and soybean) all have the essential fatty acids you need. There is some argument among foodies about which oil has the best ratio for human consumption and optimal health, but in a survival situation any of them will keep you alive and healthy. Sunflower oil may or may not have the omega 3 fatty acid you need, depending on how it is processed and what type of sunflower seeds were pressed. Cold pressed is best, in my opinion.

The two essential fats that you need aren’t hard to come by, and cooking oil is one of the essentials that you can buy cheap and stack deep as it has a myriad of other survival uses such as filling copper candles, weatherproofing cloth, and if you store it too long and it starts to go rancid, consider turning it into soap. And if you didn’t pack away enough cooking oil to keep yourself healthy and your cast iron pan seasoned, then go fishing and gather nuts to make sure you get the essential fats you need in your diet.

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