Let’s talk about carbohydrates since I’m such an enthralling storyteller, and you couldn’t wait to come back for more. Don’t deny it; you know you love me, or at least find me mildly amusing…right? right? please… Back to the topic at hand. Anyone who says Carbs are bad is a liar, and I will tell them to their face (and I will use my “Recognize” look).
I feel bad for carbs. They have been completely vilified by the (meat) industry, which has led to a rising trend in high protein, no carb fad diets. Every time I hear of these so called “diets,” I just shake my head, completely bewildered, because I don’t understand when common sense got tossed out the window? When did it become ok to eat bacon, for weight loss purposes, in mass quantities? Stop and think about this sentence because it’s not even close to logical (and we all know how I like order in my world). Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon and was once a card-carrying member of the Bacon of the Month Club, back in my pig eating days (oink, oink). But how can eating bacon be healthy, while eating an apple (carbs) is bad. The only person ever harmed by an apple was Snow White, and it all worked out for her in the end. Heck, she had seven men catering to her every whim and desire, so by my calculations she did just fine.
Here’s the deal, bearing in mind I’m not a nutritionist (although I like to think so): there are a couple of reasons no carb, high protein diets work, and the main one is because you are eliminating an entire category of food. Eliminating equals calorie restriction, which leads to weight loss. If you eat fewer calories than you burn on a given day, you will lose weight. This is simple science, and there is no denying it. But, there are healthy and not so healthy ways to lose weight. I would say eating boxes full of laxatives every day would lead to weight loss, but I don’t think it’s healthy, and I’m guessing the boxes would taste bad too, not to mention their lack of nutrients.
The other reason no carb, high protein diets work is because Carbohydrates are the fuel for our bodies; they’re our energy source. When this source dries up, our bodies need to get energy from someplace else, so it turns to our stored muscle and fat. The resulting condition, which is the same condition that occurs naturally when people starve to death, is called ketosis. Very high levels of ketosis can be toxic for our bodies and lead to appetite loss, fatigue, nausea and drum roll please….weight loss. Success; no carb, high protein diets work, but at what cost. You’re essentially eliminating a great source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients and replacing it with high amounts of protein and saturated fat (the bad kind of fat). Not good, not healthy, and most definitely not sustainable.
The reason carbohydrates are so vitally important and a necessity is they are the primary source of fuel for so many of your organs, including your brain, central nervous system and kidneys. They should make up 45% to 65% of your daily diet. Internally, carbohydrates turn into glucose (i.e. sugar) which is what fuels your body. Hence the reason athletes “carbo load” before a big event. They want energy, and I think having energy is pretty sweet too. If you prefer dull and lifeless, if you’re into that sort of thing, go ahead and skip your carbs, but don’t be surprised if you turn into a zombie.
Here’s why people assume Carbs are bad. The excess glucose (read sugar) in your body is stored in your liver and muscles as energy reserves, but when you have too much (i.e you ate way too much or you didn’t expend enough energy), the excess is converted to fat. Remember, all good things in moderation, so stop overeating.
Now, equally important is recognizing there are two types of Carbs: your complex carbohydrates and your simple carbohydrates, and they are not one and the same. Not even close.
- Simple carbs, in the form of glucose are passed almost immediately into your blood stream, sending your glucose levels skyward. As a result, you’ll feel great for 20 minutes or so because you are on a roller coaster ride known as a sugar high. But, what goes up must come down, so as quickly as you sky-rocket up, your glucose levels crash back down leaving you feeling jittery, tired and cranky. Simple carbs are pretty much empty calories and are composed of white or refined sugar. Think white bread, white potatoes, white pasta, white rice, and the really big villain, white or refined sugar in all forms.
The exception to the rule (there’s always an exception) deals with fruits, because for the most part, fruits are simple carbs. However, the nutritional benefits gained from fruits significantly outweigh the negative impact of simple carbs, and you’d have to consume them in mass quantities to have the excess turn to fat (even more than I can eat on a daily basis). Also, the fiber in fruit (remember fiber is your friend) slows down the digestion which makes them act more like complex carbs in our bodies. So eat your fruit, and a lot of it, because it’s good for you.
- Complex carbs are composed of whole grains and they nourish and fuel your body while keeping your blood sugar level. They release slowly into your bloodstream, which provides a constant and steady stream of energy, instead of a quick jolt and inevitable crash. Complex carbs, being whole grains, are high in fiber too, and we already discussed why fiber rocks. Some examples of complex carbs are whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, green vegetables, beans, quinoa, brown rice, oats,sweet potatoes, and barley.
Morale of the story: chose complex carbs and fruits the majority of the time, eat the simple ones in moderation and less often, eliminate the processed foods with their hidden sugars, get your booty off the couch and move, and you’ll be fine. In fact, you’ll be better than fine. You’ll be feeling fan-tas-tic, and you still get to eat bread, pasta, and potatoes. How do you like me now?!
What are your favorite carbs? Are there any you try to avoid?