The Real Skinny on Carbs

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Do you have a love-hate relationship with carbs? For most people, approximately 30-60% of total calories consist of carbohydrates but they are often the most controversial nutrient for weight management.

The major source of fuel for cellular energy in our diet is carbohydrate. It is also the preferred fuel source for our brains and provides soluble and insoluble fiber to our diets. Fiber is important for regulation of the digestive tract and for preventing and managing a variety of diseases including diabetes and heart disease.

If we don’t get enough carbohydrate in our diet, we cut off the main source of fuel for our brain and may experience difficulty concentrating and fatigue. We also risk nutritional deficiencies and insufficient fiber which can cause constipation, diarrhea, and nausea.

What is the REAL skinny on carbs?

There are two types of carbohydrates, and each differs in the rate they are broken down into glucose in the blood stream. I like to call these “fast” and “slow” carbs.

  1. Simple carbohydrates (fast carbs): These are found in fruit juices and processed foods and anything with added refined sugar, such as soft drinks and some candy.
  2. Complex carbohydrates (slow carbs): These are found in nearly all plant-based foods and usually take longer for the body to digest: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Both simple and complex carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re known as blood sugar (glucose). From there, the glucose enters your body’s cells with the help of insulin. Some of this glucose is used by your body for energy, some is stored in your muscle and liver cells as glycogen for later use or it is converted to fat.

ALL plant foods contain carbohydrates, but they vary widely in the amount of fiber they contain. The fiber in fresh, whole foods will slow down how quickly the carbohydrates break down into glucose for more stable blood sugar and insulin levels.

Fill your plate with 75% colorful non-starchy vegetables by volume. Filling your diet with slow carbs plus high quality protein and healthy fats will help boost your energy level, lower inflammation, and lower risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Dr. Mark Hyman has helped thousands of people transform their health using these guidelines and shares his perspective in Slow Carbs, Not Low Carbs: The Truth about Low-Carb Diets.

Eating a carbohydrate-rich diet is highly recommended for health as long as you choose the right carb-rich foods everyday. Don’t banish carbs from your diet, simply be smart about the type you choose for better health.