Carbohydrates, The Basics
The Bad Guys
It doesn't seem to matter which diet one chooses, the issue of carbohydrates always seems to rise to the top. Especially since the advent of the South Beach Diet and the Atkin's Diet, both of which focus strongly upon high protein intake and lower carbohydrate intake. These diets have worked for thousands of people. And, for thousands of others, they have not worked. What's wrong? Well, not all diets are suitable for all people. And, truth be told, cutting out carbohydrates can be very unhealthy.
Carbohydrates have been accused of being the cause of weight gain in people for a long time. And, they can be the cause of weight gain. When eating carbs results in weight gain it is usually because of one of three primary causes: Eating too many of the right carbs, adding too much fat to your carbs, or eating the wrong type of carbs.
Too Much of a Good Thing
When we eat too much of anything - even if it's good for us - we will gain weight. The reason for this is that calories eaten and not used for energy are stored as fat. So, eating whole grain bread or pasta is great - it's a very healthy thing to do - but eating a lot and not burning any calories can and probably will result in weight gain. You can have a baked potato, which amounts to about 80 calories, but if you add a couple of pats of butter and a dollop of sour cream, your potato now constitutes about 300 calories.
So, What is a Carbohydrate?
A carbohydrate is a type of food, usually derived from plants, but also available in dairy products. Carbs are fuel for the human body; the simplest form is glucose or sugar. The brain relies exclusively on glucose to function, so cutting carbohydrates from the diet can create some unhealthy results. The muscles store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen to help you handle physical activity. Carbohydrates are important to the function of brain and body.
There are two types of carbohydrates which differ in many ways, but mostly on how quickly they are processed by the body. Complex carbohydrates are unrefined and have more fiber, so the body processes them more slowly. Such foods as fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, legumes, brown rice and sweet potatoes are good examples of complex carbs.
Simple carbs have either been stripped of their fiber through manufacturing or are low in fiber naturally. Because there is no fiber to deal with, the body processes these simple sugars very quickly. Examples of simple carbohydrates include granulated sugars, maple syrup, honey, molasses, white bread, potatoes, and white flour products.
It is important to have a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates in your diet, with the emphasis on more complex carbohydrates and less simple ones. By eating whole grain breads and pastas, lots of vegetables and salads and fruits, you can be sure you're getting enough of the right kind of carbs to power your body through the day.