What does your gut say?
by Kris Parfitt
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Most diets discourage eating carbs. However, diets high in fiber help with weight loss. Veggies are high in fiber but are also a carbohydrate. So what then is a carb, and are they good for diets? – Carb Confused
Great question. And while over 68 percent of American’s attempt their primary resolution of weight loss this month, the confusion about carbs common to most.
A carbohydrate, or a carb, is one of three nutritional components that the body needs daily to function – the other two are proteins and fats. While no carb is an essential nutrient (meaning, we can’t live on carbs alone), it is an essential source of fuel and energy for the cells in our bodies, especial those of the brain, heart, muscles and the digestive, immune and nervous systems.
When we eat a carb, our body absorbs it and uses it as blood sugar (known as glucose). If the glucose isn’t used immediately, our bodies store the surplus (which is called glycogen) in the cells of our muscles and liver until it’s needed for energy. When our bodies require extra energy, it will convert the stored inventory of glycogen into fuel.
Without a constant supply of carbs (energy) we feel tired, fatigued or a decrease in our stamina and mental functionality. In other words, like a cell phone low on a battery change, our performance will not endure.
There are three types of carbohydrates found in foods: sugars, starches and fiber. A simple carb a single sugar molecule or two sugar molecules that have joined together. A complex carb is made up of many connected sugar molecules. For example, simple carbs are sugars, and complex carbs are starches.
Fiber, which is also a form of carbohydrate, is found in complex carbs, and is important for the elimination of waste materials and toxins, promoting digestive health, keeping cholesterol levels in check, and satiating our hunger.
Traditionally there are two types of fiber: soluble (responsible for reducing cholesterol and sugar in the blood), and insoluble (responsible for regular bowel movements). But, recently, medical and nutrition experts suggest the terms viscous and fermentable to describe fiber due to the physiological effects. What this means is that insoluble fibers ferment with the aid of “friendly” bacteria in the large intestine, which creates natural pro-biotics that promote a healthy colon and immune system. Soluble fibers increase the viscous, or bulk, of the feces, and decrease the transit time of fecal matter through the intestine, thus suggesting a decreased risk for colon cancers.
Now that we have a good concept of what a carb is and the various actions it takes to support our body’s health, let’s look at what carbs are beneficial to weight loss, as well as which do not promote overall health.
Fortunately, it’s simple. Complex carbs rich in fiber promote weight loss and overall health (this includes the entire range of fresh vegetables and fruit). Simple carbs found in processed foods like pastries, non-whole grain breads and pastas, and junk food (sodas, fast-food, chips, etc.), are empty calories, meaning that they provide a quick energy boost of sugar, but, if our body isn’t using that energy (now or later) it will be stored as extra energy in our liver and muscle cells; if stored too long without use, this excess glycogen turns into fat. Simple carbs are high in energy, but low in healthy fuel for our bodies. They also lack the necessary fibers to aid in healthy digestion and absorption of nutrition.
So, diets that promote low carbs warn us to stay away from simple carbs for weigh loss. Combining a higher percentage of complex carbs would benefit any wellness program because it really just comes down to this conventional wisdom: eat more fruits and veggies.
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