Carbohydrate Controversy

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Carbohydrates are an important part of your diet, but that doesn't mean you can load up on cakes and cookies to get your daily intake. Carbs should never be avoided, but it is important to understand that not all carbs are alike. Carbohydrates can be either simple (bad) or complex (good) based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them.

Most folks assume that carbs are fattening. Sure, carbs increase insulin level but it’s not necessarily true that increased fat levels after a meal will make you fat. Insulin is actually a satiety hormone which makes you feel full, so the idea alone that it leads to fat doesn’t make sense. Carbs can be inflammatory if you’re talking about processed sweeteners like corn syrup but not so if you’re talking about whole grains. When talking about carbs it’s important to know the difference between processed carbs and whole natural carbs.

Whole grains and legumes, contain longer chains of sugar molecules; these usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This, in turn, provides you with an even amount of energy; unlike processed carbs and sugars that can make you spike and crash. Complex carbohydrates are considered "good" because of the longer series of sugars that make them up and take the body more time to break down. They generally have a lower glycemic load, which means that you will get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate — instead of peaks and valleys. Fruits and vegetables are actually simple carbohydrates — still composed of basic sugars, although they are drastically different from other foods in the category, like cookies and cakes. The fiber in fruits and vegetables changes the way that the body processes their sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbohydrates.

The bottom line is, be sensible about the carbs you choose. Skip low-nutrient dessert, consider the levels of sugar and fiber in carbs, and focus on healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to get the energy your body needs.

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