The description in the name tells us a lot. Carbs “hydrate” our bodies. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water, 2:1, and can typically be broken down to release energy in the body.
FACT: All carbohydrates are seen as sugar in your body, but that doesn't mean that all carbs are bad. Any food you eat that isn't a protein or a fat is a carbohydrate. There are only three different kinds of foods: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Think About It. Our bodies need a variety of food to keep us operating at a high level--a variety of REAL food. Yes, each of us may require a different ratio of carbs, protein and healthy fats, but we still need a balance. Taking the time to understand what your body needs is critical to maintaining any level of quality health.
In this extremely busy, always moving and changing world, no one seems to want to spend time thinking about health or nutrition, and the majority isn't interested in planning and prepping meals. We don’t want to think about health until we are already sick. This isn’t shaming, just stating the obvious facts that is affecting the vast majority, and creating a very “at risk” population.
We have demonized the carbohydrate with popular restrictive diets, which honestly don’t work for long term, optimal health and maintained weight loss. The problem is, most don’t understand "what they need", so they follow the lead of whomever or whatever sounds most appealing. Who doesn’t want to eat lots of meat and cheese and believe they are doing their body good?
We all need Good Carbs: these are recognized by their easily digestible, bio-available nutrients that make it possible to metabolize at a cellular level, and are available from nature as whole foods.
Our cells can't make use of a doughnut or a strawberry without macronutrients, (proteins, fats and carbs) and micronutrients, (vitamins and minerals) to first power them. Without both, your energy would plummet. Cellular energy is our gasoline. This is why a diet full of bad carbs make us tired. When we eat whole, nutrient-dense food like sweet potatoes or other vegetables and fruit, along with lean, clean protein, and healthy fat, we give our bodies everything it needs to effectively turn calories into energy.
All vegetables and fruit are considered good carbs. But, just because they are healthy and good doesn’t mean you should eat unlimited amounts. If carbs hydrate the body—give it energy, then understand if you aren’t using them--burning them, you will store them, and this creates a cascade of health issues. We simply will overload the pancreas’ natural ability of making and distributing insulin.
Complex Carbohydrates like whole grains and beans/legumes, have a combination of carbohydrates with fiber, and protein, so they don’t spike blood sugar, or digest as quickly. These are good for you too, but not everyone tolerates beans, legumes or grains in large amounts because of their natural high amounts of “lectin protein”. These proteins can hinder healthy digestion in a lot of people, and they walk around accepting this as "normal". People, especially vegetarians, tend to eat large amount of beans and grains but don’t necessarily consider their carbohydrate load and health and composition affects.
When Carbs Become a Bad Thing Bad/Refined Carbs: these are void of nutrients for proper metabolism; may cause digestive distress and are refined and man/factory made. Void of Nutrients: means empty calories.
Processed Carbohydrates: This includes grain flours, cereals, processed and boxed foods, fruit juices, food in packages with long ingredient lists of artificial ingredients, frankenfoods (not created by nature, but in a lab), junk food, breads, pastas and more.
Why ditch processed carbohydrates? Processed carbs digest rapidly, just like simple sugar, and can cause a variety of health issues. They take up space on our plates and in our bellies, where nutrient dense food should be, creating good energy, metabolism and health. When we eat lots of processed carbs, our bodies lack important instruction from quality nutrients. It is like trying to interpret smoke signals on a windy day; it’s just not effective communication.
Nutrient poor foods ask your body for a withdrawal without making a healthy deposit.
Refined Sugar is a carbohydrate: This includes cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, soda, and more.
There are over 200 names for sugar and it’s likely that every boxed and processed food in your cupboard has at least one source of sugar in it. It’s a marketing ploy that big-box companies use. Since sugar is highly addictive, sneaking sources of sugar into processed foods can create addiction and cravings. In addition to sugar being addictive and pervasive, it can cause blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance, weight gain, diabesity, and many other problems and health issues.
The average person is consuming 152lbs of sugar each year. This is a very big health problem for all ages.
Excess refined carbohydrates are converted to a type of fat called triglycerides. These molecules are comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and can be broken down only by unlocking these atoms through a process called oxidation. Researchers have long known that in order for 10 kg of human fat to be oxidized, 29 kg of oxygen must be inhaled. So by substituting one hour of sedentary lounging with one hour of moderate exercise--to increase your respiratory rate--your metabolic rate is increased seven fold.
Your food choices makes a huge difference. Most people that have trouble losing weight are insulin and leptin (hormone in the small intestine that helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger) resistant, which was most likely caused by eating too much sugar/fructose and grains. So as long as you continue down this path, you are programming your body to create and store fat. By restricting processed/refined carbohydrates and even simple sugars and fructose to only what you know your body needs and will use, you can reverse negative health, and re-boot your resistance to weight loss.
So going back to the reason we need carbohydrates; we need energy, our cells need hydration, but there is a limit to what each of us need, and when is the best time to consume. A person who leads a very sedentary life, doesn’t need a lot of carbohydrates. Yes, everyone needs to eat some fruit, and some whole grain, but without exercise or much movement, that number is very limited. Obesity is a chronic issue caused by excessive insulin, created by eating too much sugar, refined carbohydrates, eating constantly, and little physical activity. Excessive insulin creates hormonal imbalance, meaning it isn't a calorie problem.
Insulin signals our bodies to store food energy in the form of body fat. Learn how to reduce your insulin, and balance your hormones, buy eating the proper ratio of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats for you.
Refined Carbs May Trigger Insomnia
An estimated 30% of adults experience insomnia, and a new study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests that diet may be partly to blame.
The study found that postmenopausal women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates—particularly added sugars—were more likely to develop insomnia.
Women whose diet included higher amounts of vegetables, fiber, and whole fruit (not juice) were less likely to develop problems with insomnia.
“Whole fruits contain sugar, but the fiber in them slows the rate of absorption to help prevent spikes in blood sugar,” says Dr. Gangwisch. PhD (CUIMC), and suggests that the dietary culprit triggering the women’s insomnia was the highly processed foods that contain larger amounts of refined sugars that aren’t found naturally in food.
Since most people, not just postmenopausal women, experience a rapid rise in blood sugar after eating refined carbohydrates, the authors suspect that these findings may also hold true in a broader population.
The rapid spikes and troughs in blood sugar after eating refined carbs may trigger insomnia.
All Carbs Aren’t Created Equally
Different kinds and amounts of carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels to varying degrees. Highly refined carbohydrates, such as added sugars, white bread, white rice, and soda, have a higher glycemic index and cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar.
“When blood sugar is raised quickly, your body reacts by releasing insulin, and the resulting drop in blood sugar can lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can interfere with sleep,” Gangwisch says. The researchers hypothesized that the rapid spikes and troughs in blood sugar after eating refined carbs may trigger insomnia.
Blood sugar and insulin dysregulation—is an extremely common root cause for the epidemic of chronic preventable diseases. That’s because of food. It’s because of stress. It’s also because of genetic predispositions and cultural and environmental factors. But the most important thing to note is that it’s something we can take control and change the course of metabolic diseases caused by eating refined carbs and other types of junk that are common in the Standard American Diet. He also explains why, even if you look skinny on the outside, a range of problems like high triglycerides and runaway blood sugar could be causing damage within.
We need carbohydrates, but I’m talking about healthy carbohydrates, I’m not talking about high-glycemic carbohydrates like sugar—and other foods that convert to sugar quickly in our bodies including potatoes, bread, and cereal—that are the biggest drivers of disease.
The carbohydrates I'm talking about are real, whole, nourishing plant foods that the human species has thrived on since the dawn of evolution. These foods, contain slowly-released sources of sugar that prevents surges of blood sugar and insulin, which are toxic to the brain. These slowly-released carbohydrates, found in whole and processed plant foods, also help keep our feel-good serotonin levels even.
“Carbohydrates are really important—they're essential to life, but I want you to eat smart carbs—carbs that are loaded with nutrients and fiber, low-glycemic carbs, which are carbs that don't raise your blood sugar,” said Dr. Mark Hyman. “Think colorful. Carbs, berries, red bell peppers, orange bell peppers, and carrots, and kill the sugar before the sugar kills you".
References: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2019
Columbia University Irving Medical Cener – Women’s Heart Initiatives – Blood Sugar and Insomnia - Dr. Gangwisch. PhD (CUIMC)
Dr. Mark Hyman, MD, Author of “What The Heck Should I Eat”?