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Carbohydrates, good or bad?

Too many “bad” carbs will cause cravings and put weight on you.  Not enough “good” carbs mess with your system.  Low carbs diets will cause you to lose weight short term, but you put it all back on—and then some!  I hear people talk about eating too many carbs when they only mean they ate too much refined sugar or flour…

So, what’s right? Here is CARBS 101 according to Barbara:

  • Carbohydrates are the body’s ideal fuel for most functions. They supply the body with the energy needed for the muscles, brain and central nervous system. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy.
  • Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy products, foods made from grain products, and sweeteners such as sugar, honey, molasses, and corn syrup.  Actually, if it doesn’t have a mother, a face and doesn’t go to the bathroom, it’s a carb–think about that one a while! 🙂
  • The body converts digestible (non-fiber) carbohydrates into glucose, which our cells use as fuel. Some carbs (simple) break down quickly into glucose while others (complex) are slowly broken down and enter the bloodstream more gradually.
  • The hormone insulin helps the glucose enter the body’s cells. Some glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for future use, like fueling a workout. If there is extra glucose, the body will store it as fat.

All carbohydrates are not created equal.

There are basically three types of carbohydrates:

  1. Simple carbohydrates are composed of 1 or 2 sugar units that are broken down and digested quickly.  This kinds of carbohydrates can cause extreme surges in blood sugar levels, which also increases insulin release. This can elevate appetite and the risk of excess fat storage.
  2. Complex carbohydrates are made up of many sugar units and are structurally more complex and take longer to be broken down and digested. They enter the blood stream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which stabilizes appetite and results in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat. Unrefined or ‘whole grain’ carbohydrates found in products like brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bran cereals are digested slowly. They contain vitamins, minerals and fiber.
  3. Indigestible carbohydrates are also called fiber. The body is unable to breakdown fiber into small enough units for absorption. It is therefore not an energy source for the body but does promote health in many other ways.

Simple carbs, complex carbs, and fiber are found in many foods. Some provide important nutrients that promote health while others simply provide calories that promote girth.

  • Sugar, syrup, candy, honey, jams, jelly, molasses, and soft drinks contain simple carbohydrates and little if any nutrients.
  • Fruits contain primarily simple carbohydrate but also valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
  • Vegetables contain varying amounts of simple and complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.
  • Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils and soybeans contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein.
  • Milk products contain simple carbohydrates along with protein, calcium and other nutrients.
  • Grain products contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. The amounts vary depending on the type of grain used and the amount of processing. Selecting whole grain options whenever possible is recommended.

Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy.  Including the appropriate amounts and types of carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet is essential for long-term health and weight loss/maintenance.  When there is a severe deficit of carbohydrates, the body has several immediate reactions:

  • With no glucose available for energy, the body starts using protein from food for energy. The protein is then no longer available for other functions, such as making new cells, tissues, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies and the regulation of fluid balance.
  • When carbohydrates are lacking, the body cannot burn fat in the correct way. Normally carbs combine with fat fragments to be used as energy.
  • Due to the lack of energy and the accumulation of ketones, low-carb diets are often accompanied by nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, bad breath, and dehydration.
  • Because of dehydration and a lack of fiber, constipation can result.
  • Exercise and fitness performance is reduced on a low-carb diet. Do not be surprised if your energy level is so low that you cannot make it through your normal workout routine.

Include good carbs in your diet!  Reduce or stay away from  “bad” carbs (refined and processed white flour products (bread, muffins, bagels, rolls, pasta, noodles, crackers, cereal, shite sugar, high fructose syrup).

That’s it! A simple, effective carbohydrate-controlling plan that allows you to reap the countless benefits of complex carbohydrates and fiber while enhancing your health and maintaining a healthy weight. The long term result will be a healthy you the N.E.W.A.Y!

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