Big headlines read things like, “Carbs are bad”, “Carbs make you fat”, “Cut carbs and trim your waistline”. Because of the media age, where anyone with an agenda can come off as an intelligent person who knows what they are talking about, we have been inundated with partial truths and outright lies about carbohydrates. The reality is you cannot survive without them or the foods they are bound up in. Our bodies not only need carbohydrates to survive but also to live vibrantly. There is truth in that cutting carbohydrates can help you lose weight, especially if the carbohydrates you eat come in the form of simple and refined sugars. But there is also truth in that eating carbohydrates, the right ones, can help you lose weight and improve your health.
All carbohydrates, when broken down, become blood sugar. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are one or two sugar molecules linked together. Complex are three or more sugar molecules linked together. Of the complex carbohydrates there are two main types, starchy and fibrous. The starchy carbohydrates have easy to break bonds between the molecules leading to a quick rise in blood sugar after eating. The fibrous carbohydrates have bonds that cannot be broken, making them pass through the digestive tract whole and aiding in elimination.
Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy and the primary fuel for the brain. They also help prevent the breakdown of protein for energy. In doing so it makes the protein available for building muscle and other body tissues and to help regulate blood pressure. Additionally, carbohydrates promote healthy digestion and elimination. Without carbohydrates we would have mental fog, lower energy and constipation. Plus, as an added bonus, carbohydrate foods are seriously nutrient dense foods. The same foods that contain carbohydrates also contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. These are essential for feeling and looking our best. Hence, eating carbohydrates is not only the smart thing to do but also the essential thing to do to have a healthy body and mind while still getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal and eating the right carbohydrates is part of a healthy diet. Follow these five basic rules and you will find your self much healthier for it:
1. Choose whole foods only. That means whole grain products like old-fashioned oats, whole grain bread, brown rice plus fruits and vegetables in their whole form (raw or cooked, not juiced), beans and peas.
2. Remember the general rule, “If it grew on a plant, eat it. If it was created in a plant, avoid it.” What that means is to choose whole, real food not processed, packaged food. The closer you get to nature, the better chance you have at great health and a healthy weight. A good example of this would be a baked potato verses potato chips. Deep frying the potato and covering it in salt takes all the benefits of the potato and destroys them.
3. Reduce or eliminate all sweetened food products. This can include cookies, candies, baked goods, flavored coffee creamer, soda, fruit juice, ice cream, popsicles, flavored water, etc.
4. Practice food combining to avoid the sugars hitting your blood stream too quickly. Combine carbohydrate rich foods with a food that has healthy fats and/or protein. For example, eat an apple with peanut butter, carrots with hummus, oatmeal with soymilk or cows milk, rice and pasta with meat or beans, etc.
5. Choose carbohydrates with the most fiber such as broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas, apples, and berries.
By taking these simple five rules into consideration you will be well on your way to a healthier weight and an overall healthier body. Just remember that we need to eat whole, real food in balance, not favoring or demonizing one macronutrient above another. Keeping this in mind when you read headlines that single out carbohydrates, fats or proteins as the cure all or the devil himself, will help you weed through the garbage and begin to help you realize your healthiest self.