Carbs - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

There seems to be a lot of confusion about carbs lately and it’s not too surprising.  After all, since the early 1970’s we have been told by the “experts” that fat was bad, especially saturated fats found in red meat, eggs and bacon.  It was in the 1970’s that dieticians began telling us to eat less red meat and less fat and to increase the amount of grains and carbs instead.  We were all given the message, “Fat is bad, carbs are good”.  So we began to reduce the fat and increase the carbs and we should have gotten healthier and skinnier, right?  But we didn’t.  Instead, diabetes and heart disease are at all-time highs and the obesity epidemic is well out of control.  Over the years you have heard about the Atkin’s Diet, the Paleo Diet and other low carb diets which promoted low carb/no carb meals with high amounts of fat and protein.    Some people say low carb is better  yet we are still told by the established medical community that we need to restrict fat and eat more grains (carbs).  So what’s the real story?  To solve this mystery, let’s take a look at some basics. 

Carbohydrates are one of the three essential macronutrients.  The other two are protein and fat, which are ALSO essential to good health!  We need all three – carbs, protein and fat! 

There are different types of carbs.  There are the Good Carbs.  These are the complex carbohydrates like those found in vegetables, beans, peas and whole grains.  These are carbs that are made up of large molecules and they are usually combined with fiber or protein.   These carbs have a minimal effect of blood sugar due to the fact that these carbs are combined with fiber.  This minimizes the effect on blood sugar levels. 

There are the Bad Carbs.  These are simple carbohydrates like fructose, glucose, and sucrose found in fruit, sugar, honey and syrups.  Sucrose is white table sugar and is a combination of about 25% fructose and 75% glucose.  There are lots of simple carbs in fruits (and some in vegetables) but they are also combined with fiber so the body is better able to handle them.  The problem with simple carbs comes when we add it to our foods and beverages.  Unfortunately, we are now adding unprecedented amounts of sugar to EVERYTHING we eat and we are paying the price with poor health and chronic disease.   Did you know that sugar is more addictive than cocaine?  No wonder so many have trouble with eating too much sugar.  The struggle would be hard enough if we only had to reduce simple carbs as provided by nature but there is a 3rd class of carbs that are even more troublesome.

The Ugly Carbs!  In her book, “The Craving Cure”, Julia Ross, PhD., gives us a 3rd classification of carbohydrates – Techno Carbz!  These are the chemically altered, highly processed forms of carbohydrates (mostly sugars) that is so prevalent in processed foods.  Techno carbz include High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and the highly processed wheat found in bread, cookies, cakes and junk foods.  These techno carbz have been chemically altered and “enhanced” to make them taste better.   They stimulate the pleasure centers of our brains to a much greater degree than complex carbs or even simple carbs and are proven even more addictive than sugar!

If you are concerned about your health and about eating a healthy diet, then you want to avoid all Techno Carbz completely.  This means NO processed or junk foods including sodas and sweetened, flavored drinks.   Avoid all high fructose corn syrup and processed flour products.   You will also want to minimize the simple carbs by avoiding added sugar and sweeteners whenever possible.  This would include cakes, pies, candy, cookies, sweet tea, and other sweetened drinks.  Finally, you want to keep the total amount of complex carbs to around 30-40% of your total calorie intake.  If you are especially “sugar sensitive” (and you know who you are!), then you want to reduce the amount of carbs even more.  I recommend you count carbs and try to limit the total amount of carbs in your diet to 72 grams/day.  This is 72 grams of complex carbs or Good Carbs. 

Carbs are a big problem for a lot of people today.  The over-consumption of carbs, especially the techno carbz, is causing many of the chronic health problems seen by doctors today.  The good news is, there is hope!  By reducing the simple carbs and eliminating the ugly carbs, you will get healthier and feel better than ever! 

We are here to help you on your journey to better health.  To make an appointment or for more information, call the office.  501-842-1004.