Throw out a question on carbohydrates to a group of people and you're likely to get several different responses. There are some that think carbs are bad, some who love them, some who think they should be eliminated from our diet entirely and still others who, based on their comments, don't even know what a carbohydrate really is. Kind of surprising really in this day and age of information. But really, the interest in food has to be there before any searching will be done and given the numbers for overweight and obesity continue to rise, we're simply not there yet. So in an effort to save you time and hopefully spark an interest in the food you're eating, I figured a little Q & A would do the trick.
Q: What is a carbohydrate?
A: The online dictionary defines carbohydrates as: any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.
Q: I know bread is a carb, but what else?
A: When asked which foods are carbs most will answer, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice. This is correct, however the list doesn't end there. All grains, as well as things like potato chips, soda pop and cereal. In fact, anything that comes in a package, box, bag, wrapper, can or bottle is almost always a carbohydrate. What most people don't realize is that all fruits and vegetables also belong on the list.
Q: My friend doesn't eat carbs, is this healthy?
A: Our bodies need carbs. Carbohydrates are one of the three components our bodies need to create balance so to eliminate them entirely would only upset out internal apple cart so to speak. Usually when people say they don't eat carbs they are referring to things like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, etc., and if this is what your friend is doing that's actually a very good thing. Removing processed carbs while still consuming fruits and veggies ensures that we have the right kind of carbs needed for balance as well as adding nutrients.
Q: What kind of carbs should I eat?
A: The best carbs, hands down are our fruits and vegetables – organic and non-gmo if you can get them. Fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients needed to fuel and nourish out bodies at a cellular level. They also contain fibre, and are not “pre-chewed”, essentially what happens in the making of processed and packaged foods. Fruits and veg take longer to digest compared to something like a muffin, a bag of chips, fruit juice or pop and as a result, help prevent the dramatic spike in blood sugar and insulin that immediately happens with processed, packaged, white foods. Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal are next on the quality scale and add some bulk to meals to help keep you satisfied longer. Keep in mind, these should be eaten in small quantities and definitely NOT fill the majority of the plate as these too can cause blood sugar and insulin to spike.
Q: Are there any carbs I should avoid?
A: Yes! Ditch anything in a package, box, bag, wrapper, can, bottle or from a fast food restaurant. These items, if eaten at all, should be chosen sparingly. In addition to causing the blood sugar spike we now know about, these “foods” contain little or no nutritional value.
In case you missed it, excessive or the wrong types of carbs causes blood sugar to spike. If you've read my column in the past, you may remember learning that a spike in blood sugar results in fat storage. In addition, as we learned here today, recurring blood sugar spikes or sustained high blood sugar levels is how type two diabetes develops. And as if that weren't motivation enough to eat your veggies, experts are now calling Alzheimers type three diabetes. What many people don't know is that according to neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, raised blood sugar levels are a concern not only for our heart health, but for our cognitive health as well. Alzheimers, dementia, Parkinson's, ALS, can all be linked back or connected to blood sugar levels and the foods that affect it. I invite you to check out Dr. Perlmutter's book “Grain Brain” and learn what the experts have known for almost two decades about what the food we're eating is really doing to our brain.
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