Carbs – Friend or Foe

Part 2 of 3 of our nutrition series by Alana is on carbohydrates. Take it away Alana…

Carbohydrates are necessary to your health, because every cell in your body uses them for energy. In fact, your brain can only use carbohydrates for energy. Unfortunately, over-consumption of sugars and other highly refined carbohydrates has been associated with higher incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. And eating refined carbs can, over time, result in almost uncontrollable sugar cravings. According to the World Health Organization sugars and other simple carbs are a leading factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic.

With the popularity of low-carb diets, many people are afraid to eat any carbohydrates, but is important to distinguish between the health-robbing effects of simple sugars and other carbs and the health-giving properties of complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are high-fiber foods, which improve your digestion. They help stabilize blood sugar, keep your energy at an even level, and help you feel satisfied longer after your meal.

In contrast, sugar and other simple carbs can alter your mood, lead to cravings and compulsive eating, cause wide swings in your blood-sugar levels, and cause weight gain in most people. In addition, a high consumption of sugar can lead to uncomfortable symptoms when you finally decide to improve your health and forget the sweets. Note here that new research shows that low-calorie diets can cause food obsessions and make sugar addiction worse – no wonder most people end up fatter than they started when they try to lose weight by dieting and not eating.

To get the picture lets talk about what happens to carbs in your body. The body breaks them down in to simple sugars, which are absorbed into the bloodstream. As the sugar level rises in your body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin is needed to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where the sugar can be used as a source of energy.

When this process goes fast – as with simple sugars- you’re more likely to feel hungry again soon. When it occurs more slowly, as with whole-grain food, you’ll be satisfied longer. These types of complex carbohydrates give you energy over a longer period of time.

The carbs in some foods (mostly those that contain a lot of simple sugars) cause the blood sugar level to rise more quickly than others. Scientists have been studying whether eating foods that cause big jumps in blood sugar may be related to health problems like diabetes and heart disease. You are already on the right track if you are limiting simple sugars and eating more complex carbohydrates.

Your diet should consist of 45-60 grams of carbohydrates – mostly complex carbs.

1 carbohydrate serving = 15 grams of carbohydrate = 3 tsp. sugar:

A few examples are 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cereal, 1 small fruit, ½ cup of juice, 1 cup plain yogurt, ½ cup of pop, and 3 tsp. sugar.

What are simple carbs:

Table sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice, candy, cake, bread made with white flour, pop, some packaged cereals, many coffee specialty drinks.

What are complex carbs:

Whole barley, grapefruit, lentils, potatoes, soy milk, wild or brown rice, tomatoes, onions, spinach, oatmeal to name a few.

Your fiber intake should be around 30 grams a day – usually double of what average Canadians eat right now.

Fiber is the ingredient that slows down the process of carbs turning to simple sugars. It will help you fill fuller longer.

So instead of fruit juice –eat the fruit, which contains fiber.

Read labels and avoid when possible – sugar, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, white flours. If these ingredients are at the top of the list, the food item will contain mostly simple carbs and not much else.

Even whole wheat is still over-processed so your bread should read

“Whole grains” as the first ingredient.

Look for foods that are not processed – usually high in fat, simple carbs (as processed food contains a lot of fillers), and sodium.

Those snack paks that are so popular right now – containing only 100 calories a bag are great! You should make your own to save the environment and your pocketbook. Take some healthy choice

snack foods and fill little baggies – when you need a snack instead of grabbing a big bag and eating more than you should, you can just grab your already calorie-wise portion paks!

“Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says “Oh Crap, She’s Up!

Stay tuned tommorow for the final post in the nutrition series: Protein Foods.

The Bootcamp Effect is coming to White Rock October 1st. Learn more here about this white rock bootcamp here.