Carbohydrates are not all equal

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Do the foods above look hazardous to your health? These are carbohydrates, and no they are actually the best thing for your body. Carbs have been getting a bad wrap lately. People simply claim, "carbs are bad." This statement is as ridiculous as saying fat is bad, or protein is bad. The point is there are varying types of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; they are not all equal. So let's  clear up some confusion here. 

There are four types of digestible carbohydrates: monosaccharides, disaccharides, polysaccharides, oligosaccharides. As the prefix to all the saccharides suggests, mono=one, di=two, poly=more than two, oligo=more than two, and the suffix saccharide means sugar. These numbers refer to the number of glucose molecules that are attached to each other. Monosaccharides can indeed impact our health in a negative way. Because there is only one sugar molecule present, it is quickly absorbed and metabolized in the body. As you increase the number of sugar molecules and bonds, the slower the sugars are absorbed and metabolized. 

We of course know that fruit contains fructose and glucose. So what about plant foods? Do they contain healthy carbohydrates? Let me first clarify that fructose and glucose are good for you, just not all at once. See fruits and vegetables contain monosaccharides but they also contain polysaccharides like fiber. With the help of fiber, these sugars are slowly metabolized rather than a sudden jolt like high fructose corn syrup or table sugar. Insulin is the hormone responsible for sugar transport. Whenever we eat, insulin is secreted by the pancreas to help sugars enter into all the cells of our body. 

A simple rule of thumb? Look at your food. Is it a whole plant food? If so it has fiber. If you don't recognize what you're eating as a whole food, then it is very possible much of the fiber has been stripped away. Most people think of carbs as pastas and breads, and indeed these are carbohydrates, and indeed these types of carbohydrates can throw off your insulin response. If you do eat these foods, eat them sparingly. Also, choose darker varieties instead of white varieties. For example, instead of white bread, choose wheat bread. Instead of white pasta, choose brown rice pasta, or whole wheat pasta. The more processed the less fiber, the less fiber the worse it is for your body. 

In conclusion, whole, plant-based carbohydrates are not hazardous to your health. Processed sugars like maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, and table sugar are hazardous to your health. Whole plant-based carbohydrates improve insulin response and sensitivity, while processed, refined carbohydrates worsen insulin response and increase insulin resistance. The difference between whole food and processed carbs? Whole food=fiber, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals. Processed carbs=sugar. Check out the research supporting these claims here

Jesse Rich