Education, Nutrition
Carbs. We've all heard of them, but we aren't exactly sure what they are. Are they good? Are they bad? Do they make us fat? Many of us are just plain confused. What exactly are carbs anyway, and how do they affect our bodies?  The bottom line is: there are some carbs that are good for you and some that aren't.  There are three main macro nutrients that are essential in every balanced diet: carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. While proteins and fats are mostly responsible for bodily functions such as the creation of tissues and insulation, carbohydrates break down into a form of sugar which is either immediately converted to energy or stored in the liver or muscles for when it is needed. In fact, carbs provide more than 60% of the amount of energy required by the body.  So the short answer is that we need carbohydrates to survive, however, we also have to realize that not all carbs are created equally. To understand how carbs affect us, we need to understand their structure. Carbohydrates can be broken down into two categories: Simple Carbs and Complex Carbs. Simple Carbs are simple sugars whose chemical structure consists of only one or two sugar molecules. Most are refined sugars that have very little nutritional value. As you may guess, most of these are the carbs to avoid as they break down very quickly. Why is it bad to eat food that breaks down quickly? While they may give a quick burst of energy, it is short lived with a quick spike in blood sugar and no nutritional value. That means the body doesn't really "get fed" and there is a quicker "crash" in blood sugar--causing one to get hungrier more quickly. The exception concerning the low nutrient base is sugar sweetened yogurt, which offers a nutritional benefit, but still breaks down quickly.  The following are some examples of simple carbohydrates:
  • White bread and other products containing white flour
  • Brown sugar
  • Jams, jellies
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit drinks
  • Honey
  • Soft drinks or soda
  • Maple syrup
  • Candy
  • Sugar sweetened yogurt
  • Packaged cereal
  • Most processed foods
  • Molasses
On the other hand, Complex Carbs consist of a chemical structure that is made up of three or more sugars that are usually linked together to form a chain. While it may seem like this is a bad thing, it is actually better for you. That longer chain takes longer to break down. As a result, these don't spike sugar levels as much, and they end up providing slower and more lasting forms of energy. These foods are filled with more beneficial nutrients, many with fiber, which aids in slowing down their digestion. This leads to more complete digestion and with the body being "fed more of what it needs," leaves a feeling of being more full than with simple carbs.  Examples of some Complex Carbs are:
  • Green vegetables
  • Vegetables such as zucchini, yams, eggplant, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage
  • Whole grains such as oats, millet, barley, brown rice, barley, whole grain breads, oat bran
  • Legumes such as beans and lentils
  • Some high-fiber fruits such as apricots, oranges, plums, pears, grapefruits and prunes
The key here is to avoid simple carbs as much as possible while enjoying the more nutrient-rich complex carbs.  Of course, I still strongly believe in a lower carb lifestyle for optimal weight and energy. While some carbs may be better for you than others, all carbohydrates break down into some form of sugar. Go for more high protein foods, eat unlimited amount of green vegetables, and limit yourself to 25 - 35 grams of other carbs per day.  Rememeber: while carbs will give you bursts of energy, protein is the slowest form of food to digest and will provide you with long-lasting energy throughout the day (without the sugar spikes).Check out Jill Gordon the health coach's, website to read more about nutrition.  All material in this post is provided for information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this publication; instead readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information provided has not been approved the Food & Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease.