Carbohydrates 101, Eating Smart

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Navigating the information regarding Carbohydrates is a challenge.  They are the most misunderstood food group.  They tend to be blacklisted by strict dieters who are afraid that even one carb will cause weight gain.  These all or nothing diets are misleading.  It is true that eating too much of the wrong kind of carbs will result in an increased waist line.  But some carbs are necessary and good for you.  The trick is to figuring out the difference and maintaining portion control.

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  Carbs are the main source of energy for your body.  If you have ever gone on a carb restricted diet, the first thing you may notice is a feeling of lethargy.  The body can metabolize fat for energy, but it does prefer carbs as the source of energy, especially in the brain.  You’ve heard the term “carbo load” typically by athletes who will undergo a particularly taxing physical challenge.  This is because the body will convert the carbs directly into energy.  

Carbs are the foods that contain sugar, starches and fiber.  They are mostly plant-based foods; fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, etc.  Dairy also falls in the carbohydrate group.  Simple carbs are, in basic terms, the sugars; glucose, fructose, lactose.  Complex carbs are your grains, breads, beans, pastas, vegetables, etc.     Simple carbs provide you no nutritional value and tend to spike the sugar in your bloodstream, which is never a good thing.   When the blood sugar spikes your body produces more insulin which means more fat storage and less fat burning, not to mention the organ damage.

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 Technically the sugar found in fruit, a complex carb, is no different; however, the calories consumed by eating fruit are not empty.  They are loaded with fiber, nutrients, and vitamins.  Things your body needs.

  Some complex carbs are more beneficial than others.  Whole grains are digested more slowly, which means you are less likely to experience a spike in your blood sugar.  Complex carbs that are highly processed, white flour and white rice, have undergone a process that has removed most of the nutritional value from the food.  
Allowing the body to digest it quickly.  Resulting in a spike in blood sugar.  Resulting in the body storing fat.  

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Fruits and non-starchy vegetables, though carbs, are needed for their fiber, nutrients, and vitamins they supply the body.  They should be a part of your daily diet.  White potatoes (a starchy vegetable), however, have a similar effect in the body as other foods with a high sugar count.  Sweet potatoes are a better choice.     Avoid the highly processed carbs and foods loaded with sugar.  Read labels.  

Here’s a tip:  check the ratio of total carbs in a serving to dietary fiber, if the ratio is 10:1 or more avoid the food.  Often, low fat foods, contain a high level of sugar (glucose, fructose) to make them taste better.

 When reading labels, those advertised as low sugar are typically better for you than low fat.

  To get you started Good Carbs:  Spinach, Kale, Squash, Oranges, Melons, Low-fat Greek yogurt, sweet potatoes, Peas, Black beans, Quinoa  

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Avoid:  soda, fruit drinks, French fries, bagels, sugar sweetened cereals, pastries, cookies, white bread, white rice, sugar, brown sugar, potato chips

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One thought on “Carbohydrates 101, Eating Smart

  1. the thing about white potatoes is slightly misleading, and I have read it a lot in different places. It depends a lot on the age of the potato (when picked) and the cooking method.

    The speed the body processes the carbohydrate is the main issue, the longer the chain carbohydrate molecules (the more complex) the slower it is absorbed by the body and therefor can be used as fuel before they get broken down into sugars. The processing and preparation of the food plays a big part in this, sweet potato mash for example will be absorbed and broken down much quicker than a boiled new potato.

    Sorry, my husband is Type 1 diabetic (since he was 5!) and has done a lot of research into the effect of carbs on the body!

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