What is your source of carbohydrates? Do you consider this element of your diet as important.
For some years now, carbs have been seen as the villain in the battle to lose and keep off weight. But is it true?
Let me state right away that carbs are good for you. Do you want to know why carbs are good for you? Stick with me and we will explore the wonderful benefits carbs provide to your body.
Many people eat for pleasure, considering the taste and amount they consume as more important than what they are actually placing into their mouths. But there is an increasing trend toward being more careful about what is eaten and an ever growing number of people are carefully choosing what the composition of their diet.
There is also a burgeoning trend toward eating fewer carbs and more protein and fat. Especially in the weight loss world.
Is this the ideal way to go?
Carbohydrates: what is it?
When you eat a balanced meal, it is usually composed of three main nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Vitamins can also be found in each meal in small amounts along with minerals and water.
Though all the food groups provide some energy, carbohydrate filled foods are our chief source of energy. When converted into glucose, it is burnt up for muscle movement and organ function.
Chemically, carbohydrates are a combination of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It consists mainly of starch, sugar and fiber.
It can be divided into three main groups: glucose, monosaccharides or simple sugars – glucose, fructose and galactose; mono meaning one simple sugar; disaccharides – two simple sugars that are connected and referred to as sucrose, maltose and lactose; and your complex carbs which is composed of hundreds of simple sugars linked to each other.
Starch, fiber, glycogen and dextrin are examples of complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs are broken down in the body via the digestive process, when we ingest it as food. This braking down begins in the mouth where starches are acted upon by an enzyme in saliva called amylase.
Further digestion takes place in the stomach and small intestines. The process breaks down the carbohydrates into simple sugars in preparation for absorption into the blood stream.
First it is transported to the liver where it is broken down into glucose. It then reenters the blood for transportation to all the cells of the body.
When the glucose reaches the cells it can be used there to produce whatever energy is needed.
Fiber is the only element of carbohydrate that is not broken down. It goes on to perform a very important service to our digestive tract, as we will see later on.
Carbohydrates that is not used by the cells or converted to glycogen by the liver – glycogen is stored and used by the liver in cases of emergency or stored in the muscles and used when they contract – is stored in the body as fat.
If the body does not receive an adequate supply of carbohydrates, this fat can be converted to carbohydrate and used as energy. This is not the ideal way to meet the body’s energy needs though.
Sources of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be found in two main sources. Natural foods and processed foods. The source of your carbs greatly determines its benefits to your body.
If your carbohydrates come from healthy plants, then it’s effect on your body should also be quite healthy.
So here’s where you should get most if not all of your carbs; these foods are rich in it:
- Fruits – use as much of the fruit as possible, not just it’s juice.
- Vegetables – remember not to over cook your veggies. Steaming or blanching may help you receive the full benefits of the vegetables you consume.
- Grains – should be used with as minimum processing as possible to ensure that it retains all its nutritional benefits. The more that grains are processed, the fewer nutrients are retained by the time it gets on the table.
- Nuts – should be used in measured amounts and as condiments.
- Seeds – those that are edible may also be best used as condiments.
The good news about these sources is that they come packed with other nutrients, and the all important fiber. Fiber helps to ensure the gradual release of glucose when the starch is digested in the body. This helps in regulating the sugar level in the blood and so lowering the need for too much insulin in the blood stream.
Plant fiber, which is indigestible provides added benefits to the body. It aids in:
- Proper intestinal function. Since it is not digested it cannot enter the blood stream. It remains in the intestine and forms feces.
- It also retains water which ensures that faces does not harden in the intestine. Water retention also increases fecal volume.
- Though the action of certain bacteria on fiber may result in the formation of intestinal gases, fiber also helps in the prevention of diseases like:
- Colon Cancer
- High Cholesterol
- When carefully added to the diet it may also help in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
- It may also help prevent hemorrhoids
In spite of the prevalence of carbohydrates in all these natural foods, most people have turned away from this very important part of our diet. That which was provided by the Manufacturer, our Creator, have been abandoned. The creature has devised his own way to feed himself.
In carefully studying that which the Creator has provided, the creature decided not to use the entire package as it was given to us. Instead, he chooses what he wanted from the package and threw away the rest, not realizing that each nutrient and component of the package, complimented each other.
Therefore, we have ended up with another source of carbohydrates. Some have referred to it as processed carbohydrates. It was derived when man decided to separate the elements of the total package, misguidedly thinking that it would be more beneficial to the body.
So here are some sources of processed carbs – some may say sugar, since digested and processed carbs are broken down into various sugars. Others refer to it as simple carbohydrates.
- Bread and pasta made from processed flour
- Soda drinks
- Processed fruit juices
- Cakes and cookies
- White rice
- Brown and bleached sugar
- Sweetened cornflakes
- Frosted flakes
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
These are just some sources of simple carbohydrates but you should get the idea of what to look out for.
Because these foods are consumed in more abundance than fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts, they are the ones that contribute largely to a person becoming overweight.
All carbs are blamed though, and so there are all kinds of diet that emphasize low carbs and more protein and fat as a means of weight loss.
Get this clear, plant based carbohydrates are best for you. Eat it in moderation but let it be to you what it was designed to be, your main source of body fuel.
Why you should get your carbs
Without the required amount of carbohydrates in your diet, your body will be forced to source its energy elsewhere.
Today, there are people who are advocating that that is a good thing. But is that true?
There are two other sources of energy for the body; proteins and fats. These sources are not as readily available as carbohydrates is and if they become the primary source, may, over time, do more harm than good to the body.
For proteins to be used as a source of fuel in the body, one has to push the body into the state known as ketosis. In this condition, the body is almost in a starvation state. Due to the unavailability of energy from carbohydrate sources, the body turns to protein and fat sources which it had stored earlier as fat.
The person on a low carb diet would experience weight loss and if that was the main goal, would think that it was achieved.
This loss is temporary however as what was really lost was a high volume of water and lean body mass. That means that the muscle and tissues of the body were also being broken down.
A high protein/low carb diet also results in leaching of calcium from the bones. Depending on how long this diet is followed, the person can later experience deterioration of the bones and teeth. Harm can also be done to the kidneys since its workload is increased under such a diet.
Carbohydrates on the other hand helps to increase brain serotonin, while it may help to lower the risk of depression. It may also make it easier to stay slim by optimizing thyroid function.
The fuel of choice for the brain is glucose which is primarily made from carbohydrates.
It is the best and most natural source of fuel for the body and are also used in the production of special fats and proteins in the cells of the body. These special fats and proteins have special sugars attached to them. These sugars help cells communicate with each other.
Carbohydrate is the only source of body fuel that maximizes physical endurance.
When carbohydrate is added to the body in its natural state, it can help regulate and with exercise and other lifestyle changes, lower body weight. This is due to the feeling of satiety that comes when complex carbohydrates are used. The presence of fiber contributes to this.
A word about protein as a source of energy for the body.
The main purpose of protein is for normal growth and repair of tissues. Some refer to it as the building block of the body. The body does not naturally use protein as its go-to source of energy.
This happens only when there is excess protein in the body or when there is not enough carbohydrate and fat to meet the body’s demands.
Carbohydrate based foods are the least expensive way to obtain energy while protein based foods is the most expensive way. A protein based diet is also difficult to maintain over time.
Carbohydrate related illness
Carbohydrates have been demonized as a result of the diseases that result when we use too much of it. Let’s take a look at some of the diseases and how we can use carbs without experiencing any of them.
This is one of the most well-known, carbohydrate related disease. It is usually caused by an over-abundance of sugar in the blood and coupled with the body’s inability to produce sufficient insulin.
Eating too many carbohydrates – good or bad – brings on and hastens this disease.
Totally removing bad carbs from your diet and using good carbs in moderation, together with exercise and other lifestyle changes, may ensure that you do not have a problem with diabetes.
An ever growing problem, obesity is not simply a disease that results from a use of too many carbs. Over use of any food can result in obesity. Carbs, however has been pointed to as the main culprit since most obese people consume a lot of it – in its processed form.
This results in the person gaining weight rapidly and since most obese persons do little or no exercise, the kilos continue to add up.
Here to, processed carbs/refined sugar is the main contributor together with poor dental hygiene. More so when it is eaten frequently and in a form that causes it to stick to the teeth.
Eating between meals also contribute to this problem. The solution to cavities is relatively simple.
Proper dental hygiene along with the avoidance of refined sugar can contribute greatly to preservation of your teeth. Brushing, flossing and or rinsing the mouth after each meal is a great way to go.
Eat a carrot stick instead of calling for a sugar filled dessert will also go a long way in promoting better dental hygiene.
Other physical problems may develop as a result of the intemperate use of complex or refined carbohydrates but these are usually combined with other issues.
Some people point to cancer and claims that the cancer cells feed on sugar and therefore removal of sugar from the diet will destroy the cancer cells. This is not necessarily true since cancerous cells will use whatever glucose the body produces when it is forced to convert fat store into glucose to continue providing needed fuel.
Most people who are overweight will go to great lengths to lose the pounds, even following ‘expert’ advice in order to do so. That advice is not always for the best good of the individual. Especially when it comes in the form of the various ‘fad diets’ that are being advertised today.
If we choose wisely, the presence of carbohydrates in our diet will prove beneficial and not be demonized as it is today.
Here are some suggestions to help maximize the use of carbohydrates in our diet:
- Use whole grain bread and cereals instead of the plain stuff. You will receive vitamins, minerals and fiber in addition to your nutrient rich carbs.
- Eat fruits as often as possible, daily if available and use them raw.
- Remove processed foods from your diet. Almost 70% of the sugar we consume comes from this source and harms our body instead of building it up.
- Get rid of the refined sugars and cereals. All you will lose is the taste and damage to your body. Over time the taste will no longer be missed and your body will thank you for strengthening it.
- When purchasing food at the grocery, read the labels. The closer a sweet item is to the beginning of the list of ingredients, the higher its content in the food. Hint – any word ending with “-ose” is a type of sugar.
It is crucial that you know what you are putting into your mouth and how it will benefit or harm your body.
I grew up hearing this proverb: “prevention is better than cure”.
Eat the best food for your body and spend less time and money at the physician.