When it comes to weight loss, carbohydrates are often viewed as the bad guys. Yet, we are the descendants of people that have eaten carbohydrates as food staples. Why are carbohydrates getting such bad press? Can they actually help with weight loss? What should you know?
As you escalate upwards on clothing sizes and notice bulges where you don’t want them, it may be time to consider weight loss. Many diets over the past 10 years have been lashing out on those nasty carbohydrates (carbs) and are professing that minimizing carbs help lead to weight loss quickly. The problem is we love our carbs. We need our carbs.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches that are naturally found in most foods, excluding meat and fish. Basically, if it’s a plant (fruit, vegetable, legume,grain), juice, or dairy product, there are naturally occurring sugars or starches. Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet.
Historically, people had high carbohydrate breakfasts because these natural sugars and starches provide bursts of energy required to start the day. In those days, people worked on farms and ranches. There were no cars and more people walked where ever they needed to travel to or rode on horses (that required upkeep). Carbs were considered great for most times in human history and, currently, in most uncivilized areas.
In civilized countries, sedentary lives suffer from too much carbohydrate intake. People drive cars, work with personal computers, and all sorts of mobile devices. Physical activity is more of an option as many more people choose to go home and watch TV for a few hours. Is this you?
Carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, which is converted to energy used to support bodily functions and physical activity. Your brain requires carbs for thinking as do many cellular networks. Sedentary lifestyles, following traditional eating habits formed for thousands of years, find that their trim bodies grow larger and they can’t figure out why.
A key problem is in society itself. Many “bought” foods use processed grains and add sugars to make them more palatable. These carbs are fine if you plan to go running for fifteen minutes after eating. The reason is these are simplex carbohydrates. These have simple, easily digestible carbs that are quickly absorbed by the body.
Examples of these are:
◾Brown sugar (including raw and organic sugar)
Then there are complex carbohydrates that naturally occur in fruits and vegetables. The key difference between simple and complex carbs isn’t easily seen by your eye. It’s at microscopic levels. A carbohydrate is a molecule. Complex carbs have larger molecules than simple carbohydrates.
To understand this, you must be aware that our planet and everything on the planet and its atmosphere are made of atoms. There are many different types of atoms. When atoms are mixed together, you get molecules. For example, two hydrogen atoms meet one oxygen atom and, when they get together, the result is water. Zillions of these atomic bonds comprise our oceans. Carbohydrates are molecules, a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound. There are many different carbohydrate molecules and those differences lie in what makes one better for you than others.
Foods containing the healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients (nutritive molecules that help distinguish one food from another). Less healthy sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease.
How can carbohydrates promote heart disease? Excess sugar in the bloodstream can contribute to plaque, arterial wall residue and releases a hormone called insulin from your pancreas. Carbohydrates (starches and sugars) raise blood sugar levels and trigger the release of insulin. Insulin helps leads in the reduction of excess sugars and starches in the bloodstream that would be thickening blood, in high amounts. Insulin helps convert those carbs into energy.
When there are problems with insulin production, thicker blood in arteries can result in plaque that could disrupt vascular flow to your heart, brain, or elsewhere. This may contribute to strokes, heart attacks, and issues throughout the body.
One of the problems that can occur over time, in previously healthy individuals, is the development of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When people have insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, leading to type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Type-2 diabetes is usually found among obese people. In insulin resistance, muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond properly to insulin and thus cannot easily absorb glucose from the bloodstream. As a result, the body needs higher levels of insulin to help glucose enter cells. This is hyperglycemia, a condition of insulin resistance, where not enough insulin can be produced to deal with excessive carbohydrate consumption.
On the other side of the coin, there’s a hypoglycemia condition. Hypoglycemia may be a result that, when carbs are present in your bloodstream, excess insulin attacks them. Hypoglycemia is a condition characterized by an abnormally low level of blood sugar (glucose), your body’s main energy source. Normally, there are certain pancreatic beta cells that help bring carbs to the cells but the flow is disrupted. In many cases, hypoglycemia occurs after meals because the body produces more insulin than is needed.
For those with hypoglycemia, excessive simple carbs can result in confusion, sleepiness, and (in extreme cases) unconsciousness. Other possible symptoms may include:
When hunger occurs, a hypoglycemic is not satisfied after eating a full meal and feels the need to eat more. Eating more helps lead to excess weight gain and, perhaps, a higher degree of exhaustion.
How does your body react to carbs? There’s a rather long, tedious blood test that illustrates what happens after high-carb intake. The glucose tolerance test acts as a guide for you and your physician to take proper steps.
Carbohydrate consumption and problems associated with it may often be genetically linked, inherited through familial generations. In some ways, this may account for body appearance, and energy levels throughout a life span. Often, it can go undetected for many years under routine medical care.
Considering weight loss with carbohydrates? It is possible. The United States Department of Agriculture or USDA provides an excellent website with tons of information and recipes for each meal. Carb lovers needn’t worry. Slight modifications to how and when you eat, and how much you physically move, may contribute to an enduring weight loss program.
Carbs may not necessarily be the evil behind weight gain. How you consume carbs, especially mixed with excess saturated fats, may contribute to excess pounds. Consider that when you down a 4 ounce bad of chips and a liter of soda while wat5ching TV.
Knowing and using appropriate carbs and moving more actively may just help you achieve weight loss over time. Carbs are part of our history and are very addictive. Adapting responsible carb intake into a sedentary lifestyle may not be an easy task. Total carb withdrawal can be dangerous. Finding the responsible path may require aid from a certified nutritionist. Over years, you may find that your excess pounds have shed and your energy has improved, if you understand the virtues and dangers of carbs. It’s a lifestyle adaptation for the new lifestyle. It is not a quick-fix!