Carbohydrates are one of the six main nutrients, but carbs come in many varieties all with different impacts on our health. So what are the basics?
Carbs Come in Three Main Varieties:
- 1. Sugars: These are exactly what they sound like. There are the simple sugars, glucose, fructose and glactose as well as the more complex disaccharide (two part) sugars. Since the body uses glucose as its main form of cellular energy and all these sugars can easily be turned into glucose, all the sugars are very easy for the body to use as energy or turn into fat. Eating sugars by themselves will very quickly cause a spike in blood sugar, since sugar can actually be digested in the mouth and can be very easily broken down in your body.
- 2. Starches: These are what you think of when you think of the white part of a baked potato. Starch is a plants main method of food storage in its cells and is simply lots of glucose molecules bound together. It is also easily to digest and yields pure carbohydrate energy. The healthiest way to get starches is to make sure they are interspersed with other healthy nutrients, like in corn, apples and brown rice. Avoid having starch all by itself with no fat, protein or fiber, this can (and usually does) cause a spike n your blood sugar.
- 3. Fiber: Fiber is your best weight loss and detox ally! Fiber is not technically a nutrient because our digestive system cannot break it down, but I’ve included it because it is so important. Fiber has many roles, including detoxifying the GI tract, making you feel more fulland absorbing some of the fat to keep it from being digested in the small intestine, but most importantly fiber slows digestion and therefore the absorption of sugar. This is important because slowing the absorption helps you avoid any sudden peaks and valleys in blood sugar, which helps you avoid premature hunger, food cravings and fatigue.
How many servings of carbohydrates are recommended per day?
This depends on you activity level, gender, body weight and metabolic rate but the general guidelines are 350-400 grams per day or about 60% of your total calories. If you are very sensitive to your blood sugar or are not very active, you will want to eat less than this amount.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The glycemic index is a system of rating how quickly a food with carbs in it gets absorbed into the blood and how big of an impact it has on blood sugar. White bread has one of the highest glycemic indexes (meaning it is absorbed the fastest) and walnuts has one of the lowest (meaning the carbs from walnuts reach the blood much slower).
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