by Jarueba Taylor
Most of us have heard of protein, carbs, and fats. While most people do not fully understand how to balance them in a diet, they do know somewhat what they are. Out of all the micronutrients carbohydrates are the most misunderstood and villainized. Over the years with the idea of low carb or no carb eating, most people view carbs as a bad thing diet wise. The problem with this mindset is there are different types of carbs that tend to all get lumped in one group. What people need to understand is there are many types of carbs, some good and some not so good.
What type of carb are you talking about?
Carbohydrates are macronutrients that are made up of fiber, starches, and sugars. When you talk about carbohydrates, most people classify them as all the same but in actuality there are a few different types of carbohydrates.
There are two main types of carbs:
- Complex Carbs
- Simple Carbs
What’s so simple?
Simple Carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are mostly sugar. Simple carbs are usually added to foods. Some simple carbs are sugars, brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit sugars, fruit juices, and milk sugars. Simple sugars are digested very easily and quickly. While simple sugars are digested quickly and easily they also cause a pretty rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This rise in blood sugar levels causes the body to release insulin. When the body starts to release too much insulin too quickly this can lead to health complications. This is one reason why simple sugars are sugars you want to avoid in abundances. The ingestion of too many simple sugars will have negative health impacts on the body. Some negative impacts of too many simple sugars are possible weight gain, body fat gain, increased risk of diabetes, lower energy, increase in inflammation, and possible higher risk of some cancers.
Let’s get complex with things.
Complex Carbohydrates although carbohydrates, are very different than simple carbohydrates. Complex Carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are either fibrous, starchy, or a combination of the two. Complex carbs can and should be a staple in any type of nutritional plan. Complex carbs offer such health benefits as improving daily fiber intake, helps manage weight gain, helps manage body fat levels, and help maintain steady blood sugar levels. When the body has more sustained blood sugar levels, the body has longer lasting energy provided from carbs.
What’s the fuss about “low carb” or “no carb”?
Now that we have distinguished the difference between carb types, let’s talk about carb intake and nutritional plans. Two of the things we constantly hear about when it comes to carbs is “Low Cab” or “No Carb” diets. Low carb or no carb diets are very very misunderstood. For the most part when someone is doing a low or no carb diet, they think of reducing or eliminating almost all of their carbs. This is a often incorrect and too simplistic look at “Low Carb” or “No Carb” eating.
Is there really such a thing as eating zero carbs?
One of the first things people need to understand is there is virtually no such thing as “No Carb” eating. Unless you are eating pretty much all meat and fat sources that have zero carbs in them, you cannot eat zero carb. Believe it or not some protein and fat sources have carbs in them. Foods like protein powders, protein bars, beef jerky, peanut butters, nuts, and avocados all have small or trace amounts of carbs in them. These are all foods you would typically find on a “zero carb” diet. People also do not realize if they ingest too much protein, the body will convert some of that extra protein into glucose (sugar) for energy through a process called gluconeogenesis. This is the body’s way of creating an quick energy source when one may not be readily available, like in the form of carbohydrates.
Is “Low Carb” truly the way to better nutrition?
One important thing people need to understand is low carb eating is not and should not be for everyone. Carbohydrates provide a good energy source of fuel for the body, granted you are using the right type of carbs. I do not believe any type of highly active person should be on a low carb diet. I also believe in this mindset for most of the general public. It is not a matter of eliminating carbs but rather managing the type of carbs your body is using for fuel. Have you ever heard anyone say “My body can’t manage carbs.”? The actual truth is nine times out of ten, its not the carbs but the sugars from the types of carbs they are eating.
Most people have a diet that is way too high in simple sugars and too low in complex carbohydrates. No one is going to be able to process a diet high in white pastas, white flours, sugary drinks, sweets, and alcohols without negative repercussions over a period of time. Unfortunately this is a typical diet for most people.
People should instead focus more on having complex carbs in their diets. Athletes and active people should have a diet with vegetables and more complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, whole grains, oatmeal, various types of rices, and if they can tolerate it various types of beans. This will provide them with lots of vitamins and minerals and a steady supply of sustainable energy carbohydrates for their activities. People who are less active should focus more on having more vegetables in their diets with some non vegetable complex carbs.
Eat more veggies.
When it comes to carbohydrates, people often forget that vegetables are a form of carbohydrates. Vegetables actually full under the class of complex carbohydrates. Not only are vegetables a very powerful form of carbs but are essential for optimal health. Vegetables are packed with life essential vitamins and minerals, loaded with fiber, and calorically dense (meaning you can eat a lot of them without worrying about packing in too many calories). People should try to eat a good variety of leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, and bright colored veggies daily. Here is another example on not eliminating carbs from your diet but utilizing the right types of carbs in your diet. Show me someone who got fat from eating a lot of plain vegetables and I will show you a flying elephant.
Carbs are not bad.
When it comes to nutrition carbohydrates are often vilified and misunderstood. Truth be told not all carbs are the same and not all carbs are bad. Learn to balance your diet by consuming the right type of carbs.