Carbohydrates

Here is a list of the important functions of carbohydrates

  • Energy and fuel. When carbohydrates are broken down into their basic sugar (glucose) molecules and then the sugar is broken even further more, lots of energy in the form of ATP (adenosinetriphosphate) is released.
  • Along with proteins, carbohydrates are part of the structure of the cell walls.
  • Function of our nervous system including our brain and muscles including our heart.
  • Fiber, which is a form of carbohydrate,  is good for eliminating toxins

    Just like fats, there are good quality carbohydrate and not so good ones. Good carbohydrates is what you want to eat. Limit your intake of the simple carbohydrates. These sugary foods get through your digestive system and into your blood very quickly causing blood sugar spikes and eventually sugar cravings. Eventually, they cause mood swings, irritability and diabetes. They can also make fat  in a short period of time. When sugar level rises in your blood, your body will release insulin. Insulin’s job is to bring the sugar into your cells. Excess, unused sugar will then become fat. When you eat a sugar-laden cake or candy, you get the sugar spike, you feel good and happy, only temporarily though, but then as insulin is released, sugar levels begin to drop and you feel tired and sluggish. Few hours later, you are craving more “something sweet”.  Over years, excess sugar intake can make your body less sensitive to insulin and diabetes.

    Poor quality carbohydrates are found in all of these food items:

    • Refined sugars such as the white table sugar
    • Processed flourCake
    • Candies
    • Soft drinks

      Now, let’s talk about the good quality carbohydrates. They are sometimes referred to as “complex carbohydrates” but that refers to their chemical structure which come in chains.  Not all complex carbohydrate is good quality.
      What is good quality carbohydrate ? It has to do with  how quickly they break down into the simple sugar (glucose). Sugar then stimulates your body to make insulin. Insulin will make you store fat. What you want is the kind of carbohydrate that will break down slowly and therefore release sugars slowly. Remember, slow is good.

      The term “glycemic index” (GI) is used to refer to how high the blood sugar rises with eating a certain carbohydrate.  High-Glycemic Index food makes your blood sugar rise quickly. So plain old sugar (glucose) has a GI of 100;  that is the highest number known.  White rice, for example, has a GI of 72 and sweet corn, 60; on the other hand, low-GI food include beans (40), sweet potatoes (44) and barley (22). In general, a GI of > 70 is considered high GI food;   56 to 69 is medium;  < 55 is low GI  Remember that the GI does not tell you anything about the serving or calorie so you still need to take those factors into account.

      Other factors that determine how fast a carbohydrate will increase your blood sugar include how much fiber, protein and fat are in that food. If you eat your pasta dish with vegetable an some protein let’s say a salad and chicken breast, your stomach will get busy trying to digest the protein and fat from the chicken and deal with the fiber from the veggies. Your blood will get the sugar from that pasta much slower than if you galloped the pasta alone.  Therefore you can lower your GI by introducing protein, fiber and good fats (see section on Fats) with your meals.  The term, glycemic load (GL) is also used which takes into account the fiber so that the more fiber is in your food item the lower the GL which is desirable.
      It is better to talk about good quality versus poor quality carbohydrates. Sometimes carbohydrates are referred to as simple and complex with complex carbohydrates supposedly being better than the simple but that is not necessarily true. Starches and pasta can be complex but they can still spike your blood sugar fairly rapidly. How fast they spike your blood sugar is more important than their chemical structure.

      General idea about Glycemic Index (GI)

      White bread – 75
      Whole wheat bread  – 74
      White rice, boiled – 73
      Brown rice, boiled – 68
      White spaghetti – 50
      White Potato – 78
      Sweet potato – 63
      Banana – 51
      Orange – 43
      Apple – 36
      Milk, full fat – 39
      Skim milk – 37
      Lentils – 32
      Chickpeas – 28
      Kidney beans –  24
      Soy beans – 16
      Popcorn – 65
      Honey – 61

      Fiber is a form of carbohydrates that is not digestible and is known as cellulose. Yet, we still need lots of it because it helps with speed up the cleaning process from your colon so toxins will not hang around in your gut too long. When toxins take resident in your gut, your will have digestive problems and increase your risk for cancer.  Fiber is also important for the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.

      Here is a list of good sources for carbohydrates

      • Include fiber with your meals to lower your glycemic index and improve your glycemic load
      • Eat fresh food that is close to their natural state, high in nutrient.
      • Avoid  food items that has been processed.
      • Beans are a good source of carbohydrates and protein.
      • Vegetables, fruits, grains.