Understanding Carbohydrates

When I first started my new diet, I had to reach deep in my brain for information I learned in ninth grade biology. What was a carbohydrate again? Not only did I have to reach into the abyss of what I learned in high school but I had to learn new information as well. How are carbohydrates absorbed? What do they do? What foods have hidden carbohydrates? My list of questions seemed endless , so I started researching. I learned as much as I could about these molecules, and although I’m still learning I want to share with you what I know.

Carbohydrates, by definition are large biological molecules that are comprised of Hydrogen, Carbon and Oxygen atoms. You might know carbohydrates better as the molecule that provides your body with energy and can be found in grains, and vegetables.

Carbohydrates play various roles in the human body. They provide energy, play key roles in your immune system, blood clotting, development and fertilization.

There are two types of carbohydrates – complex and simple. These are classified based on their chemical structure and how quickly they are digested and absorbed by the body.

Simple Carbohydrates: SImple carbs are just that – simple sugars. These can be the sugar on your table, candy, syrup, soda, etc. These are absorbed quickly by your body and can lead to spikes in blood sugar. You know when you eat candy and get a sugar rush? That’s because it’s absorbed very quickly into your blood stream.

The Good:  Fruit and milk, while these are still considered simple carbohydrates, they provide nutrients and fiber which are both needed by our bodies.

The Bad: Candy, Soda, syrup {maple, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and the like}, table sugar. These have no nutritional value and raise blood sugar very quickly.

Complex Carboyhydrates: Complex carbs are made from more than one sugar and include starches such as rice, pasta, breads and vegetables. These are absorbed slowly into your body and do not create large sugar spikes like simple carbohydrates do.

Just like simple carbs there are good and bad complex carbohydrates as well.

The Good: Whole grain starches such as whole grain pasta, bread and brown rice are great options as they contain all the nutrients that have been stripped away from their white counterparts. These options also contain fiber which is essential for human diets. Sweet Potatoes and beans are also excellent complex carbohydrates.

The Bad: White grains like pasta, bread and rice have all been stripped of their nutrients, thus giving them the white color that we are so used to. Skip these as they will raise blood sugar quite quickly. You can also skip white potatoes in favor of veggies or sweet potato.

Carbohydrates often get a bad reputation. We read “low-carb” as I often label foods, and think that all carbohydrates are created equal. This is not the case. There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates and it is often difficult for people to understand the difference. If we maintain diets that include complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, and especially fiber, we will be better off than diets high in simple carbohydrates. 

In fact, fiber, which is classified as a carbohydrate is necessary for our bodies.  It has been proven that inadequate intake of fiber can lead to significant increase in mortality [wikipedia].

I do eat a low-carbohydrate diet, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t intake any carbs, I eat lots of vegetables, and fruits that have carbohydrates. I eat yogurt which contains lactose {words ending in -ose are sugar: just one of the many things I remembered from ninth grade biology} which is a sugar. I eat high fiber multi-grain bread and sometimes small amounts of brown rice.

You don’t have to limit yourself to just protein and fats. Just be cautious of what you eat and know how it affects your body and sugar levels.

As always, remember to talk to your doctor or dietitian before introducing new foods into your diet, especially if you are diabetic and on certain restrictions.

*I am not a doctor nor a dietitian, this is just information that I have gathered through research and experience.

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