Throughout most of my adult life, I was under the impression that fat was bad and anything low-fat was good. Sometime during the last 2 years, I had an epiphany, and actually did some research to back up my new understanding about my nutrition. Let’s get some things straight right from the start: Fat is not all bad. There are some fats that are unhealthy, but I will go into that at another time. Carbohydrates are both good and bad. This is what I will go into today. Let’s talk about Carbohydrates or carbs for short.
Carbohydrates are not all bad. What makes them bad is the excessive consumption of them and that many of them are refined or processed before we eat them. What is carbohydrate? In short, carbs are sugar. Plain and simple. The body uses sugar for energy. But when there is more sugar than the body needs for energy, the extra is stored as fat. A simple carbohydrate has 1 or 2 sugar units, while complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugar units bonded together. Starches are among the complex carbohydrates and are not necessarily needed especially in excess. Many carbohydrates have fiber which helps keep the digestive track clean and healthy.
Good and Bad Carbs
What makes carbohydrate bad? Excess carbohydrate is bad (too much sugar), not carbohydrate itself. It is becoming increasingly evident that excess carbohydrate in one’s diet contribute to chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Too much carbohydrate (sugar) elevates blood sugar and insulin levels. Foods can be categorized good or bad by their glycemic index (the measure of a food’s likelihood to raise blood sugar). A food that has a high glycemic index would be categorized as a bad food. These foods should be avoided or only eaten on occasion. A food that has a low glycemic index would be categorized as a good food. These foods would be eaten on a daily basis as part of a healthy diet.
Edible Food Substances vs. Whole Foods
Edible food substances or processed food have some food elements but they are changed with the processing, usually causing the food to have less nutritional value. An example of this is bread. Whole foods are just that, whole, unchanged. An example of this is an apple. Both foods are carbohydrates. Most whole foods have a short shelf life and are stored in the perimeter isles of the grocery store. The shelf life of processed food is much longer and are stored in the interior isles of the grocery store. Imagine what the manufacturer had to do to that food to get it to last that long. The ingredient list on processed food is also often very long, and I usually cannot pronounce or recognize the ingredients. When you look at whole foods, what you see is what you get. Broccoli is broccoli. Whole foods should be added to your healthy diet for good nutrition.
Your body recognizes carbohydrate as sugar when it is digested. One sugar is not necessarily better than another. We just want to maintain balance in our choices of carbohydrates. All carbs are sugar, and you must make a choice of how much sugar you will allow in your diet.
I try to choose whole foods more often than not. I limit processed foods. I look for short ingredient lists that I can recognize the ingredients. I do believe that there is some sacrifice to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I believe that my health is worth those sacrifices. I would like you to begin thinking in terms of sugar. Simple is best. Anything complex is just that, complex and complicated for you and your body. Try to read the labels of the foods you normally eat. Work to limit processed foods. Try to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Add some whole foods to your meals. A healthy lifestyle is a process of change. This kind of change is good. Your body and your health will thank you.