Bryan Marcel: Are Carbohydrates Healthy?
Carbohydrates, protein and fat provide our bodies with calories for sustaining life. The focus of many diets is on carbohdrates. Are carbohydrates healthy?
Carbohydrates, protein and fat provide our bodies with calories for sustaining life. The focus of many diets lately has been carbohydrates. Consume more. Consume less. Consume none. Wait. What is a carbohydrate? A carbohydrate is a group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses and gums. Carbohydrates serve as an energy source in the diet of animals. Did that help? Didn't think so.
Let's approach it this way. There are two groups of carbohydrates, complex and simple. The differences lie in their chemical structures. All carbohydrates have 4 calories (3.4 rounded up) per gram. All carbohydrates influence blood sugar. As they are digested they are broken down into glucose, absorbed by the body, and released into the bloodstream. The increased blood sugar signals the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin opens the door to the cells allowing the glucose to be used as energy.
Complex carbohydrates are a complex chain of simple sugars. In order to be digested, the chain has to be broken apart into single sugar units. The slower digestion process slows the glycogen conversion process and provides a sense of being full. Most vegetables are complex carbohydrates.
Refined carbohydrates are whole grains that have had the fiber, bran or hull and most nutrients removed during processing. White bread, white rice, white pasta, most baked goods and most (breakfast) cereals are considered refined carbohydrates. “Enriched” means that select nutrients, but not all those that were removed are added back into the product. The body processes these refined carbohydrates (with restored nutrients) the same as simple carbohydrates.
A simple carbohydrate is a single basic sugar unit or a simple sugar. Fruit juice, sugar, soda, milk, yogurt, honey, sweetened cereal, non whole grain flour, candy, any syrup (high fructose corn syrup, etc) and anything that ends in “...-ose” (dextrose, fructose, etc) are all simple carbohydrates. Simple is good, right? Not in this case. Because of their chemical structure simple carbohydrates are easily digested resulting in a quick rush of sugar into the bloodstream. Simple carbohydrates only provide short term energy. The pancreas responds by sending insulin to remove the excess sugar. The sudden surge of insulin rapidly then lowers the blood sugar. Now you are out of energy and feeling the “sugar low”. Because you now feel depleted you respond to your body's craving and eat more simple carbohydrates leaving less room for more nutritious food. The cycle has begun. You’re now well on your way to sugar cravings, overeating, downing excess calories, health problems, and getting fat. The body has limited abilities to use simple carbohydrates as fuel so the insulin stores it as fat. Every part of the body is balanced. The balancing agent to insulin is glucagon. Glucagon allows stored body fat to be released and used as fuel, but only when insulin levels are low. Eat a lot of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates and you get fat. Don't eat simple carbohydrates and your body burns its excess fat. It really is simple!
Now for the downside. There aren’t any health benefits to eating simple carbohydrates. They use up valuable Vitamin C, chromium, manganese and biotin during the digestion process. They decrease the amount of available Omega 3 fatty acids and promote VLDL triglycerides—putting you at greater risk for heart disease. They reduce the white blood cells’ ability to destroy bacteria. Some research has determined that simple carbohydrates may cause free radicals as well as being a cause of heart disease and stroke. Not enough? Then throw in that simple carbohydrates are a major cause of headaches, fatigue, drowsiness and depression.
When I started to reduce my intake of simple and refined carbohydrates I had withdrawal symptoms and powerful cravings. It takes willpower and an understanding of what your body is going through, but it can be done. Start by reducing or eliminating any simple carbohydrates, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. When you do eat simple or refined carbohydrates also eat protein. Protein will slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Focus on eating complex carbohydrates, protein and saturated fats. They provide the sense of being full. As you eliminate the simple and refined carbohydrates and processed foods you will have more energy and fat loss as well as decreased sugar cravings. Don't worry about being perfect. Your goal is to bring your body back into balance. Do the best you can and your body will thank you.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a Certified Personal Trainer and an avid health researcher as an average ordinary guy. Up until a few years ago I also looked like an average ordinary guy. I had the belly. So, I set out to lose twenty pounds and like the majority of people I found that the most accepted advice was worthless. I I came to the conclusion that almost everything that we have been taught about health and nutrition is pretty much wrong. I then set out to find the correct facts. I persevered in this search and discovered much. I then applied (to myself) what I had discovered. Since then I have lost thirty pounds, three and a half inches from my waist and no longer need four prescription medications. I have learned so much about health and nutrition and I want to share it with the world.