What do you know about carbs? Carbohydrate intake is one of the most controversial topics in today’s dietary discussions. Some dietary theories recommend eliminating nearly all carbs, while others recommend eating little else. Where do you fit in on this spectrum? Where can we find a bit of clarity in the confusion that has become “carb warfare”? Well I’m here to help for starters.
I’ll say this time and time again because I really want people to take it to heart, one person’s is another person’s poison. What works for your best friend may not work for you, or may give you the opposite result you were expecting. The same applies to carbohydrate intake so I’m going to walk you through how to decide what your carbohydrate intake should look like.
First, think of all carbohydrates as sugar because that’s what they are. No matter what form they come to you in, they are sugars, plain and simple. Even complex carbs are built up of monosaccharaides or single sugars and these building blocks are fructose found in fruit, glucose found in other plant foods, or galactose found in milk. These are going to be the easiest sugars for your body to absorb as they require very little digestion. The nice thing about these sugars is that in nature they are found locked up in other foods that slow the delivery to your system. In fruit and veggies they are bound in fiber and that helps to give you a slow and steady release of energy as your body digests the whole food. In milk your body also has to digest the fats and proteins in order to get to the sugar, once again giving you an extended release formula courtesy of Mother Nature.
When you start to bind these single sugars together you get disaccharides (double sugars) and polysaccharides (more than 2 sugars bound together) and that’s what you see in things like grains and potatoes. In nature a potato is a big ball of starchy energy that takes a lot of work to break down into its single sugars so they can be absorbed. Grains work in the same way, until you grind them up into flour and strip away the husk and the bran. Then you are left with an easy to digest starch mixture without the beneficial fiber and vitamins that you would get from the whole grain.
Now, that we’ve made it through the boring stuff, we can get to the point! I’d say that processed carbs that are made out flour should be avoided in most cases. They contain very little nutritional value and put a heavy glycemic load on your body. The glycemic load is the total amount of carbohydrates a food contains, and processed foods like chips, cookies, cakes, crackers, pretzels, breads, muffins, pastries, and anything else made with flour have a large glycemic load because they are just big starchy, messy, carb attacks on the body. It takes a lot of insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels, to break down these foods and it can wear on your pancreas, where insulin is manufactured. These foods can also have a high glycemic index, meaning that they create blood sugar spikes that your body has to respond to with super doses of insulin, again causing unnecessary strain on the body.
I do recommend whole grains and certain potatoes to my clients, and I’ve never told anyone to avoid fruits and veggies! The important part is that you understand what is best for your body. Some people do well with high carb diets while others can live almost entirely off of fats and proteins. I’m goin to help you decide what kind of carb intake you should be looking for in my next post. I have a few tips and tricks on how to experiment and find what works best for your individual body, so check in next week for more on carbs!
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