We need to have a balanced diet and that includes carbohydrates which is one of the main macro nutrients. Half of our daily recommended food intake is supposed to come from carbohydrates, but are they good for us and do they cause Obesity or Type ll diabetes?
These are just some questions and the complexities surrounding foods high in carbohydrates and if we should eat them.
Let me try to unravel this complexed dietary subject and help you to make the right nutrition choice.
What is a Carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are key components in the diet comprising Sugars, Starches and Fibre.
In general, sugars and starches provide half of our daily energy that we require and the main function of dietary fibre is to help our digestive system stay healthy.
1 gram Carbohydrate = 4 kcal
The bodies tissues require a constant supply of glucose which is used as a fuel. The main source of glucose is dietary carbohydrate, but it can also be synthesized from protein. Carbohydrates can also be stored as fat and used for energy later.
Carbohydrates can be split into 4 different groups and their molecular structure are made up of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen components.
Simple carbohydrate includes sugars such as glucose, galactose and fructose. Monosaccharides are used to produce and store energy and are usually colourless, water-soluble crystalline solids.
These sugars are formed when two monosaccharides form together with the removal of one molecule of water.
Sucrose (glucose & fructose)
Lactose (glucose & galactose)
Maltose (2 x molecules of glucose)
They are generally chains of around 3 to 10 carbon molecules. Humans do not have enzymes that digest oligosaccharides so they pass through the digestive tract to be metabolized by the gut bacteria.
Made up many monosaccharide molecules joined together and are mainly glucose.
Starch, Glycogen – The form in which glucose is stored in the body
Cellulose, Beta Glucan and Pectin – Components classed as dietary fibre
What Are Dietary Carbohydrates?
Intrinsic Sugars – Incorporated into the cellular structure of foods e.g Sugars in whole fruits and vegetables.
Extrinsic Sugars – Are not bound into their cellular structure e.g Lactose (milk sugar) in dairy products, Honey, Fruit Juices, Table Sugar and Confectionery
2. Complex Carbohydrates
Starch – Found in potatoes, bread, rice and pasta
Dietary Fibre – Plant derived foods that cannot be completely broken down by digestive enzymes. Dietary fibre consists of non-starch polysaccharides and other plant components such as cellulose, resistant starch, resistant dextrin’s, pectin’s, beta glucan, and oligosaccharides.
However, too many carbohydrates in our diet can cause certain diseases, tooth decay, obesity and much more.
Carbohydrates & Linked Health Issues
Tooth Decay – Caused by acid producing bacteria and a source of carbohydrate (sugars and starches). The most important way to protect against decay is through brushing your teeth twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste. Avoiding sugary food and drink will also help the risk of tooth decay.
Diabetes – Caused by the body not producing insulin or the insulin it produces is ineffective. The glucose level in the blood becomes too high and therefore harmful. Diet recommendations is to eat more complexed carbohydrates that are low in fat.
Heart Disease – Some forms of complexed carbohydrates such as pectin in fruit and beta glucan in oats (also known as soluble fibre) may slightly reduce the risk of cholesterol in the blood. Regular consumption of whole grain foods has been linked to heart health due to the way it is broken down in our body and absorbed in our large bowel.
Cancer – A high intake of fibre rich foods can lower the risk of bowel cancer.
Obesity – Too much energy in the diet can lead to weight gain irrespective of the source of food it comes from. Fibre rich foods are recommended in weight reducing diets. They contain less energy than foods with a high fat content and give a feeling of fullness and satiety.
Is this why certain people like me decide to take starchy carbohydrates and simple sugars out of their diets and get their energy from other food sources or are there such things as good versus bad carbohydrates?
Whole Carbohydrates are unrefined and contain the fibre naturally found in the food.
Foods include Vegetables, Whole Fruit, Legumes, Potatoes, Whole Grains. These foods are generally healthy for us.
Important in our diet and generally have a low calorie, density.
They are generally high in lots of nutrients needed to keep our bodies healthy as well as satisfying our hunger.
High in fibre means that we can regulate our blood sugar better as well as our insulin levels and LDL bad cholesterol. This type of food will fill you up so helps with weight loss.
Low in sodium and saturated fat means low cholesterol and trans fats.
Refined Carbohydrates are a true role reversal in that they are so bad for our health and for anyone looking to lose weight.
Foods include Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Fruit Juices, Pastries, White Bread, White Pasta, White Rice, Confectionery and much more.
High in calorie density and high in refined added sugars. High in refined grains such as white flour.
Nutrient empty and low in fibre.
Most of these foods are high in sodium and saturated fat and most often are high in trans fats and cholesterol.
There has been a lot of scientific research around the type of food we eat and the harm we are doing to our own bodies.
Both the control of weight and the link to certain health conditions such as Cancers, Diabetes, and heart disease to name a few can all be linked to our diet.
Benefits of a Low Carbohydrate Diet
This type of diet limits carbohydrates and allows you to eat an increased amount of protein and fat.
Over 23 studies have shown that eating a low carbohydrate diet is much more effective than a low-fat diet which used to be recommended in the past.
Low carbohydrate diets have been shown to have greater results for weight loss and leads to greater improvements in health due to lower cholesterol, lowered blood sugar levels, and lower blood pressure.
People who have Type ll Diabetes, suffer with obesity or have metabolic syndrome eating a low carbohydrate diets can be lifesaving with great benefits.
I do not believe that there is an optimal carbohydrate intake, and this should be dictated by the individual and factors such as age, gender, health, physical activity, food culture and individual preference.
For instant if you are looking to lose weight, suffer from diabetes or heart issues then reducing carbohydrates will probably be life beneficial for you. I would stick to only eating whole good carbohydrates.
However, if you are naturally lean and physically active then you may function better having more carbohydrates in your diet.
Therefore, it is important for both the way we look both inside and outside to ensure we eat good, clean wholesome food rich in nutrients.
I have chosen to eat a paleolithic diet which is a natural and simplified way of eating that is nutrient rich and free from processed foods and bad carbohydrates. This way of eating for me includes lean proteins, fruits and vegetables and I stay away from anything starchy and processed which might cause disease or inflammation. This is a way of life that suits my personal needs.
Stay away from processed food which is usually nutrient poor but high in calories is my best advice irrelevant of what healthy eating lifestyle you choose.
Why would you not want to give your body what it needs to look good and feel amazing?
Please let me know what you think or how I can help further in the comments below.