When we think about carbs, what comes to mind is a pasta dish, a piece of bread or a spoonful of sugar, right? However, the world of carbohydrates is much broader than most people think.
They are called carbohydrates, glucids or sugars. Glucids derives from the word “glucose” that comes from the Greek word glykys, meaning “sweet”, however, of all carbohydrates, only some monosaccharides and disaccharides (sugars) possess this property.
Carbohydrates together with fats and proteins are nutrients that give us energy to do our daily activities. Fats, we know more about what they are and where to find them. Proteins are found in both, animals and plants. The principal sources: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and some seeds and nuts. Carbohydrates are basically all other foods: cereals, fruits, vegetables, tubers, grains. They are the largest group of food we eat. Without carbs we would starve! They are the main nutrient requirement for human body to work. The average person should consume more than 50-60% of total calories from these nutrients. They give us around 4 kcal / gram of food.
Eating carbohydrates is important; the key is in eating the type of carbohydrates that will help you be healthy and stay on a healthy weight for the rest of your life.
What happens when you eat carbs?
When we eat a carbohydrate, sugar or glucid of any kind, pancreas produces a metabolism hormone called insulin which helps the sugar enter the cells. Once absorbed, part becomes immediate energy by the mitochondria (which burn energy in cells). Another part leaves the liver and muscles becoming glycogen (energy reserves). And the excess goes to the fat cells, where they accumulate for later use. These cells have unlimited capacity! So they never saturate. This means that everything we overeat is accumulated as fat!
I do not want to scare you. As I said before, we just need to know which are the carbohydrates that we should eat (the healthier ones) and which ones we should avoid or reduce (less healthy ones).
Classification of carbohydrates:
Generally they are classified as simple carbohydrates (high glycemic load) and complex carbohydrates (low glycemic load):
Simple carbohydrates are those that contain high glycemic index. This means they are absorbed quickly and raise levels of glucose and insulin in blood quickly. When you eat simple carbohydrates, they rapidly enter the blood as glucose giving you the energy you need at that moment, but works like a roller coaster, it goes up and down really fast, and when it goes down you are hungry again. Besides, the calories that we don’t use at that moment are accumulated as fat. Studies have shown that diets high in simple carbohydrates can increase blood sugar levels and insulin levels, causing weight gain, high cholesterol and triglycerides, which leads to have a fatty liver and weight gain.
Complex carbohydrates or Low GI Carbohydrates: These behave contrary to the foregoing. They have a low glycemic index so they burn more slowly; the sugar on this kind of carbs is absorbed more slowly, giving the body more opportunities to use these calories. This means you will burn more and stored less, helping you lose weight. In addition, the fiber content of complex carbohydrates helps eliminate part of the remaining calories, so not all of them are stored. Thus insulin levels are stable for longer and hunger attack you later.
You must be wondering: What are the Low GI Carbohydrates that I have to choose to get off the roller coaster?
In the following link you can find a table that are summarizes the High Carbohydrates foods, by glycemic index. It’s a simple way for you to have them handy:
As you can see in the table above, most carbohydrates with low glycemic index, which you must consume, are generally whole and real foods, not processed. Which means that we consume them almost as nature gives them to us: whole cereals, vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, etc. On the list above there is a good variety of these foods, for you to choose from.
This type of carbohydrate has another point in its favor and it is that they are foods high in fiber and phytonutrients. Dietary fiber is considered a complex carbohydrate, which (as we have seen) is very beneficial for our health. Phytonutrients are healing chemical compounds found in plants and that are present in foods that come from them: vegetables and fruits. I will explain more about these components in another article.
I encourage you to include more complex carbohydrates in your diet. This will help you lose weight, feel healthier and reach the wellness we all deserve!