Nutritional Myth Busting – Carbs

Are All Carbohydrates Bad?

I mentioned in one of the past articles, the dangers of fad diets. They promise quick weight loss via either the removal of or the restriction to a specific food item. One of the more popular diets that have been around for quite a few years is a diet the reduces or removes the consumption of carbohydrates. But, are those carbohydrates as bad as people say they are? Or is there more to the story that we are just not seeing? Today, we are going to dive into what makes a carbohydrate good, and what makes a carbohydrate bad.carbohydrates

What is a Carbohydrate?

First, we need to look into what makes up a carbohydrate, and how it functions.  The scientific explanation behind a carbohydrate, according to the dictionary, is “ any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (such as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods”. Wait. Did they mention green plants? And it constitutes a major class of animal foods? What gives?

Carbohydrates are practically in everything we eat, and we need them in order to function. According to Harvard University, “Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity.” So, if that’s the case, why are people so worried about carbohydrates as part of their diet? The answer is simple and complex.

Simple Carbohydrates

First, we are going to talk about simple carbs, the stuff that is bad for you when you eat too much of it. Simple carbs come from mostly highly processed or junk food. Simple carbohydrates are made of simple sugars that your body can break down fast and are mostly found in food mass produced for consumption. Naturally, you can spot these simple carbs a mile away like ice cream, cakes, fast food,

candy, and so on.

But here is the interesting bit. There are still simple carbohydrates found in nature. Specifically milk,

natural sweeteners like honey and molasses, and some fruits.  It is possible to go overboard with things like sweeteners, and you should watch out for it, but the benefits of things like the vitamins and fiber in fruit and the calcium in milk outweigh the disadvantage of the simple carbohydrates in them.

So, if you have a choice between a snack that is highly-processed like potato chips or a piece of fruit/cheese, then you probably want to choose the latter over the former.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are made of a combination of starches and fiber, both soluble and insoluble.

Starches are mostly found in plants and whole grains, that break their sugars down more slowly. They break down into glucose, the natural sugars in the world that fuels our cells and organs.

To quote Livestrong,”Soluble fiber attracts water and helps slow digestion. Insoluble fiber resists water and acts as bulk in your digestive tract, leaving you feeling fuller over longer periods of time. Both forms of dietary fiber play an important role in nutrition by stabilizing your blood sugar and cholesterol level. ”

Complex carbohydrates are the carbs that are found in whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and brown rice.  These carbs are the kind that are good for you and are vital for everyday nutrition.

In Conclusion

There are two different types of carbohydrates, those found in junk food, and those found in the things that grow naturally. We divide those into two different types of categories, Simple carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates. When fad diets tell you to cut all carbs out, they are telling you to nix both good and bad carbohydrates. So, this results in not taking in any bad carbs, but also leaving out the good carbs.  By doing that, they are throwing the baby out with the bath water.

You don’t have to punish yourself for eating corn on the cob or a baked potato with a little bit of salt or butter on it. That being said, you shouldn’t go nuts on the french fries either. Just use your better judgment and all will be well.

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