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Should You Avoid Carbohydrates?

Someone astonished me recently by proclaiming that they never eat carbohydrates (or carbs). As I probed for understanding, I discovered that their definition of carbs was limited to white bread and pasta. Our conversation inspired this week’s blog where we explore the definition of carbs and how they affect our health.

What are Carbohydrates? 

Carbohydrates get their name from their chemical composition of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The term was introduced by the Commission on the Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry in 1969.

Carbs are one of three types of macronutrients; the others are fat and protein. Our bodies use carbs to make glucose, which is the fuel that energizes our body. We need glucose to survive.

Carbs are composed of fiber, starch, and sugars. In this context, the term sugar this is not just the white stuff you might stir into your coffee. Of the four types of sugars found in carbs, simple sugars (like monosaccharides and disaccharides) are quickly converted to glucose during digestion. Table sugar is a disaccharide. Complex sugars (like oligosaccharides and polysaccharides) and starch take longer to digest avoiding a blood glucose spike. Fiber passes through our system undigested.

a diagram showing the components of carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are composed of fiber, starch, and four types of sugars

Carbs Are Not a Food Group

Although a food may be primarily one of the macronutrients, most foods contain elements of all three as shown in the table below. It may be surprising to note that foods like milk and almonds contain comparable amounts of carbs and protein.

Table showing the amount of carbs, protein, fat, and fiber in various foods
Most foods contain carbs, protein, and fat

All Carbs Are Not Created Equal

From an organic chemistry perspective, broccoli is primarily carbs—but so is a donut made from white flour and drizzled with icing. When we consider the nutritional value, broccoli provides vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene, and fiber while the donut doesn’t. 

Preparation Matters 

Is broccoli a nutritious food? It depends on how it is prepared. We can eat broccoli raw, roasted, or boiled until all the fiber breaks down and drown it in butter. Or we can order vegetable tempura at a Japanese restaurant--broccoli dipped in batter and deep fried. From a nutritional perspective, there’s a big difference between eating broccoli raw or boiled to a mush.

On the shelves in the center of the grocery store we find boxes of highly processed carb-laden foods such as crackers, breakfast cereals, and snack items. These products have much of the fiber removed to extend shelf life. Many also have added sugar to improve palatability, which keeps consumers coming back to buy more.

Carbs Are Not Your Enemy

The popularity of low carb diets has waxed and waned for decades. I remember my mom going on a low-carb eating plan when I was in high school (so…50 years ago). A resurgence of low-carb diets made the cover of Time magazine in November 1999. These regimens persist because they can trigger dramatic weight loss but long-term maintenance may be challenging due to the prevalence of carbs in so many foods.

In evaluating the efficacy of any diet, we need to consider what the person was eating beforehand. Someone who previously ate a lot of sugary processed foods, could see a health improvement by eliminating high-carb foods. Likewise, we need to consider the protein sources they choose. In the 1990’s, many adoptees were binging on bacon and bun-less cheeseburgers - foods high in saturated fat, low in fiber and vitamins.

There’s More to Health Than Food

As an energy healer, I believe that we are all a complex intermingling of body, mind, and spirit. Wellness requires paying attention to all aspects of ourselves. When we focus on diet, we are zeroing in on the physical aspect. Personally, I lost 20 pounds when I learned to manage my stress and make peace with my inner critic.

If this content appeals to you, I invite you to signup for my free weekly newsletter by joining my Intention Circle at IntendWell.US.




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