Monday, April 6, 2009

Carbohydrates as Part of Healthy Diets

Carbohydrates are used in our body to provide energy. They are broken down into glucose which goes throughout the body as energy is needed. Our brain and nervous system need this energy. If we did not eat carbohydrates the body would use some of the protein as an energy source.

Two Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates form part of most peoples diet. However, in order to have a healthy diet, we need to pick and choose which carbohydrates we eat. Many of the carbohydrate sources available to modern people have been very highly refined. This removes vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fiber that were originally in the food. In fact, in order to digest refined carbohydrates the body's store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes are used in order for them to be digested properly. Foods like this are often called empty calories.

Blood Sugar Levels

Eating refined sugar and starches, particularly when eaten without fats or protein, enter the blood stream quickly and cause a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. This in turn floods the body with insulin. Repeating this day after day causes a big drain on the body and can result in the diseases of diabetes and hypoglycemia.

Examples of simple or refined carbohydrates:

  • sugar
  • white flour and then the products made of it eg bread, cakes, other baked goods
  • white rice
  • syrup, high fructose corn syrup
  • candy bars
  • processed cereals

A healthy diet would include carbohydrates. However choosing unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates will build health rather than destroy it.

Examples of complex or unrefined carbohydrates:

  • whole grains, wheat, brown rice, oats, barley, maize, buckwheat, corn
  • potatoes
  • other root vegetables
  • peas
  • beans
  • lentils
  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • fruit
These lists are not intended to be complete but just to give the idea of the difference between refined/simple carbohydrates and unrefined/complex carbohydrates.

All of the foods in the unrefined/complex list also provide vitamins, minerals and other things necessary to provide a healthy diet.

There is much more that could be said about carbohydrates and how our body uses them. However, the most important thing is to know which kind is the most beneficial to eat.

Be in good health


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