How Did Carbs Become "The Bad Guys?"
The Good, The Bad and The GI
Carbohydrates come in three styles; sugars, starches, and fibers, and they are the main energy source for the human body. Every cell in our body depends upon this fuel to work properly and efficiently. It's kind of like fuelling a vehicle. At the pumps you have unleaded, supreme and ultra - the difference is the octane level of each fuel. Our choices in carbohydrates are similar. We have simple and complex and the difference here is glycemic index.
The glycemic index was developed for diabetics to help regulate blood sugar and develop nutritional plans. The glycemic index (GI) rates carbohydrate foods on how quickly blood sugar/glucose levels rise in the 2 to 3 hour span following the eating of carbohydrates, as they are being converted to glucose. As a rule neither fat nor protein increases the glucose levels.
Fiber - The Scrub Brush of the Body
During the digestion process, starches and sugars are broken down into glucose which is used as highly available and potent energy for our bodies. Fiber is not broken down. Fiber acts as scrub brushes within the body, sort of a cleaner. Fiber is what keeps the disposal system of the body working well. The soluble fiber (fiber which absorbs water) in legumes and whole grains may in fact lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Complex and Simple Carbs
Carbohydrates like fibers and starches are what we call "complex" and sugars (generally, anything with an "ose" on the end) are called "simple" carbs. We have been told and taught that complex carbohydrates are the good ones and simple carbs are the bad ones, but the truth is that all carbohydrates in their natural form are good. Nature blends the simple and complex, adding essential micro-nutrients for proper digestion and utilization of all the carbs, proteins, and fats.
Simple carbs are broken down and digested very quickly; however, most simple carbs have a high level of refined sugars and very few essential vitamins and minerals. Such refined foods as table sugar, fruit juice, milk, yogurt, honey, molasses and brown sugar are some examples of simple sugars.
How They Became Bad
Now, let's talk about the "bad carbs" we've been hearing so much about. Truth is there are no bad carbs, just highly processed carbs. A little history lesson here. Until just a couple of generations ago, people in the Western world depended largely upon farming as their source of food. Many countries today still thrive on mainly plant-based diets and as a result have very few incidents to heart disease and liver and kidney illnesses. However, the Industrial Revolution changed that as grains were stripped of the bran and germ during the milling process to enable the product to be shipped without spoilage. When was the last time you saw a loaf of white bread go bad? Today, the refining process is chemically intensive and results in carbs that are fast burning sugars, mostly nutritionally deficient and just fillers or a hit of quick energy.
At the end of the day, eating fresh sources of carbohydrates fuels the body longer and in a healthier way.