There’s more to diets focused on carbohydrates than the average person (including me) knows and I’d like to touch on that vacancy a little bit. When pondering the best way to lose weight it is inevitable one is stuck with the raging argument that all Carbs (carbohydrates) are bad and more digging we realize the issue, more accurately becomes Good Carb vs. Bad Carb and that No Carbs is bad. It became obvious to me that a lot has been invested, in time, money, effort and as a consequencing improving my understanding was going to take a little work as well. Carbohydrates along with protein and fats are the essential Macronutrients that provide the body with energy and as we know, energy is life. Carbohydrates are found in a wide array of foods-bread, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks, corn, and cherry pie, to mention a very few. They also come in a variety of forms. The most common and abundant forms are sugars, fibers, and starches. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that adults obtain 45 to 65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fat, and 10 to 35 percent from protein.
The chemical compounds in carbohydrates are found in both simple and complex forms, and in order for the body to use carbohydrates for energy, food must undergo digestion, absorption, and glycolysis.
The basic building block of every carbohydrate is a sugar molecule. Carbohydrates used to be grouped into two main categories. Simple carbohydrates including sugars such as fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Complex carbohydrates included everything made of three or more linked sugars. Complex carbohydrates were thought to be the healthiest to eat, while simple carbohydrates were not so great. It turns out, as indicated earlier, that the picture is more complicated than that.
Our digestive system handles all carbohydrates in pretty much the same way-it tries to break them down into those single sugar molecules, since only these are small enough to cross into the bloodstream. It also converts most digestible carbohydrates into glucose (also known as blood sugar), because our cells are structured to use blood sugar as a universal energy source.
Dividing carbohydrates into simple and complex makes sense on a chemical level. But, it does not do much to explain what happens to different kinds of carbohydrates inside the body. For example, the starch in white bread and French-fried potatoes qualifies as a complex carbohydrates. Yet the body converts this starch to blood sugar nearly as fast as it processes pure glucose. Fructose (fruit sugar), on the other hand, is a simple carbohydrate and it has a minimal effect on blood sugar.
Returning to the Good Carb vs. Bad Carb argument mentioned above, where does this idea come from? A relatively new system, called the glycemic index, looks to address this in that it further classifies carbohydrates according to how quickly and how high those carbohydrates boost blood sugar compared to pure glucose. Now this may not be a perfect interpretation so please forgive me, but I think this is where the Good Carb vs. Bad Carb argument has its roots. One of the most important factors that determine a food’s glycemic index is how much it has been processed. Milling and grinding removes the fiber-rich outer bran and the vitamin- and mineral-rich inner germ, leaving mostly the starchy endosperm.
Foods with a high-glycemic index, like white bread, will cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a score of 70 or higher are defined as having a high-glycemic index. Foods with a low-glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, consequentially causing a lower and gentler rise or ramping in blood sugar. Typically Foods with a low-glycemic index have a score of 55 or below. So in a simplistic way if we combine the Good Carb vs. Bad Carb approach with the glycemic index approach it can be said that Bad Carbs equal High Glycemic foods and Good Carbs conversely equal low-glycemic food, I do not think this is too far astray, I think we’re in the same ballpark at least.
Once again good carbs have a minimal impact on your blood sugar levels without causing them to spike or drop too drastically. It is when blood sugar levels fluctuate, that you end up feeling hungry, shaky, or even nauseous, and find yourself jumping on the nearest sugary, empty calorie snack. Good carbs are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, which, as we know, are all necessary for a balanced, healthy diet. Happily Good Carbs, foods with a low-glycemic index, have been shown to help control type 2 Diabetes and tend to improve and support weight loss.
On the other hand bad carbs, foods with a high-glycemic index, are full of sugar and white flour, which boost blood sugar levels rapidly upwards. Diets consist of more high-glycemic-index foods have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and overweight, and there is growing body of research linking high-glycemic diets to age-related macular degeneration, ovulatory infertility, and colorectal cancer. You will agree this is not a great neighborhood.
Just to keep the health and nutritional community and rest of us on our toes, other studies have found that the Glycemic Index has little effect or correlation with weight or health. This duplicity of opinion is not unusual within research and for that matter, is more than likely expected, when employing the Scientific Method. What this means is that the true value of the glycemic Index remains to be determined. Do not despair, numerous long-term controlled studies continue as you read.
So after all this, what can you eat? Fruit and vegetables are always good options. Keep an eye on how much fruit you are eating, since all fruit contains natural sugars. A good rule of thumb is to pick fruit that has a high fiber or water content (watermelon), which will keep you feeling, satisfied longer. Apples and berries especially strawberries are high in fiber. Melons are low in calories and full of water. Two personal favorites, avocado and tomatoes; often overlooked are simply packed with vitamins. Be careful, however, delicious as they are a peach or a citrus fruit, are loaded with natural sugars and fruit juices are notoriously high in sugar content.
Eating whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables-all foods with a low-glycemic index-are indisputably good for many aspects of health. Vegetables are the perfect snack and meal option. Full of everything your body needs, from antitoxins to antioxidants, vegetables are high in fiber and naturally low in calories and sugars. Try to limit starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes.
With enough motivation the search for the best way to lose weight will lead the faithful to a diet that captures their fancy and with a little perseverance weight will be lost. The prevailing wisdom, however, reminds us that sticking with a diet is more important than the diet itself. So thoughtfulness and longevity are the real issue. Think about the long run, prepare going in to a diet regimen, think about what is going on while you’re in it, and finally think of what’s next in terms of relearning how we think about food and what’s best for the rest of our lives. Remember those famous lyrics “Feed Your Head.”