Carbs get a bad rap. With all of the low-carb diets out there such as keto, Atkins, south beach, Dukan and dozens more it’s easy to see why carbs get the bad name. But what none of the things that those diets will tell you, and that their purveyors don’t even want you to know, is that much of the weight loss with those diets is water and muscle. Sure, fat goes along with it, but the majority is not fat. So why do carbs get such a bad name? I hope to enlighten you a little with this blog and maybe change your outlook on carbs.
We have to have carbs to feed the brain, because the brain’s preferred source of energy is glucose and the number one source of glucose for our bodies and brains is by making it from carbs. In order to fuel our thoughts and to give our brains energy to even control our muscles it has to have glucose. And speaking of muscles, they pretty much have to have it to function as well. Stored glucose is what gives our muscles energy to do the work we expect of them, even simple work like walking up a flight of stairs.
Simple VS Complex
So, if carbs are required to fuel our most basic functions like thinking and moving our limbs just to get from point A to point B, why are they getting such a bad reputation? Because: There are really two kinds of carbs for our body to deal with, and even though they can each be labeled ‘carbs’ they are not the same and our bodies do not respond to them in the same way. Simple carbs are sugars like sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), glucose, or galactose of combinations of two of those together. Our bodies RAPIDLY send raw glucose to the brain and muscles for use or storage or convert the other sugars to glucose and then send it along with the glucose. When we have enough in our systems or saved in our muscles, the excess gets converted to fat for long term storage and use later. That is one reason that when people first switch to keto style diets they notice a big weight loss: “When you first switch to keto, your body will burn all the glycogen reserves first before using fat. Once it runs out of glycogen, the water that was needed to store it gets eliminated. That’s why the number on your scale changes so drastically” according to perfectketo.com.
The other kind of carbohydrate is what’s known as the complex carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrates, contain three or more simple sugars bonded together, along with fiber. Complex carbohydrates are key to long-term health. They make it easier to maintain a healthy weight and can even help guard against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems in the future. The reason is that the fiber in the complex carbs makes it digest more slowly: Our bodies can just take the table sugar and break it down into fructose and glucose and send the glucose to the muscles and brain; but with a fibrous vegetable it has extra steps to take that don’t happen until later in the digestion process, so no spike in blood sugar, which also means no crash later when then high blood sugar falls a couple hours later.
The good and the bad
So we broke the carbs down into simple and complex and called the simple ones ‘bad’ because they can spike your blood sugar, cause a later crash and tend to get stored as fat if we already have enough glucose in our system. In contrast the complex carbs are ‘good’ because they don’t cause the blood sugar roller coaster and because the fiber and water that come along with them is so essential for so many body functions.
So, what’s good and what’s bad? Simple and complex are a couple of definitions that might point us in the right direction, but may not help when it comes to shopping or trying to plan a meal. To really break it down, the more refined something is, the simpler the carbs are going to be and the quicker that your body send those sugars into your bloodstream, and muscles, to eventually end up being stored as fat. So what choices to make? Aim to eat whole foods, not foods made from other food that has been processed – processing generally removes all of the beneficial fiber. For example, according to healthline.com, 1cup of cooked white rice has 53 grams of carbs, while there are only 50 grams in a cup of cooked brown rice and if you switched to wild rice that number would go down to 35.
So what’s the difference?
Rice is rice, isn’t it? Mostly yes, and the same philosophy goes with wheat, which is in so many things we rely on in our everyday diets such as bread and pasta. So, what do you do? Recognize that every step of processing removes that wonderful fiber that your body really needs. You almost can’t get too much fiber. White rice is brown rice without the fiber covering the outside – no other difference. Wild rice is just one less layer of processing. Same goes for your breads and pastas: “whole grain” and “wild” just indicate that there is a little less processing involved in making the flour, but beware: there are not many regulations regarding the use of those words so manufacturer’s throw them around to make you think it is ‘healthy’.
Carbs for the win
Check the nutrition label – grams of fiber per serving is the best way to judge. You HAVE to have carbs for your brain and muscle function. Sure – a Keto diet will temporarily help you lose weight while you move through the brain fog and sluggishness - but science shows that it’s mostly water and muscle, especially in the beginning – AND that when you get off of that ‘diet’ you are going to gain the weight back – probably and then some. We could spend more time discussing that and what it means to YOUR diet. If you’re interested, click on the booking link – we can find a solution that works for you in as little as 15 minutes.