You have probably heard
of "carbohydrates" and "complex carbohydrates."
Carbohydrates provide your body with its basic fuel. Your
body thinks about carbohydrates like a car engine thinks about gasoline.
The simplest carbohydrate is glucose. Glucose, also called "blood sugar" and "dextrose," flows in the bloodstream so that it's available to every cell in your body.
Your cells absorb glucose
and convert it into energy to drive the cell. Specifically, a set of chemical reactions on glucose creates ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and a phosphate bond in ATP powers most of the machinery in any human cell.
If you drink a solution of
water and glucose, the glucose passes directly from your digestive system into the bloodstream.
The word "carbohydrate" comes from the fact that glucose is made up of carbon and water. The chemical formula for glucose
You can see that glucose is made of 6 carbon atoms (carbo...)
and the elements of 6 water molecules (...hydrate).
Glucose is a simple sugar, meaning that to our tongues
it tastes sweet. There are other simple sugars that you have probably heard of. Fructose is the main sugar in fruits. Fructose
has the same chemical formula as glucose (C6H12O6), but the atoms are arranged
The liver converts fructose to glucose. Sucrose, also known
as "white sugar" or "table sugar," is made of one glucose and one fructose molecule bonded together.
Lactose (the sugar found in milk) is made of one glucose
and one galactose molecule bonded together. Galactose, like fructose, has the same chemical components as glucose but the
atoms are arranged differently.
The liver also converts galactose to glucose. Maltose, the sugar
found in malt, is made from 2 glucose atoms bonded together.
Glucose, fructose and galactose are monosaccharides and
are the only carbohydrates that can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining. Lactose, sucrose and maltose
are disaccharides (they contain 2 monosaccharides) and are easily converted to their monosaccharide bases by enzymes
in the digestive tract.
Monosaccharides and disaccharides are called simple carbohydrates.
They are also sugars, they all taste sweet. They all digest quickly and enter the bloodstream quickly. When you look at a
"Nutrition Facts" label on a food package and see "Sugars" under the "Carbohydrates" section of the label, these simple sugars
are what the label is talking about.
There are also complex carbohydrates, commonly known as "starches."
A complex carbohydrate is made up of chains of glucose molecules. Starches are the way plants store energy, plants produce
glucose and chain the glucose molecules together to form starch.
Most grains (wheat, corn, oats, rice) and things like potatoes
and plantains are high in starch. Your digestive system breaks a complex carbohydrate (starch) back down into its component
glucose molecules so that the glucose can enter your bloodstream.
It takes a lot longer to break down a starch, however. If you
drink a can of soda full of sugar, glucose will enter the bloodstream at a rate of something like 30 calories per minute. A complex carbohydrate is digested more slowly, so
glucose enters the bloodstream at a rate of only 2 calories per minute (reference).
You may have heard that eating complex carbohydrates is a good
thing and that eating sugar is a bad thing. You may even have felt this in your own body. The following quote from The Yale Guide to Children's Nutrition explains why:
If complex carbohydrates are broken down to monosaccharides
in the intestines before they are absorbed into the bloodstream, why are they better than refined sugar or other di- or mono-saccharides?
To a great extent it has to do w/the processes of
digestion and absorption. Simple sugars require little digestion and when a child eats a sweet food, such as a candy bar or
a can of soda, the glucose level of the blood rises rapidly.
In response, the pancreas secretes a large amount
of insulin to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high. This large insulin response in turn tends to make the blood
sugar fall to levels that are too low 3 to 5 hours after the candy bar or can of soda has been consumed.
This tendency of blood glucose levels to fall may
then lead to an adrenaline surge, which in turn can cause nervousness and irritability...
The same roller-coaster ride of glucose and hormone
levels is not experienced after eating complex carbohydrates or after eating a balanced meal because the digestion and absorption
processes are much slower.
If you think about it, this is incredibly interesting
because it shows that the foods you eat and the way you eat them can affect your mood and your temperament. Foods do that
by affecting the levels of different hormones in your bloodstream over time.
Another interesting thing about this quote is its mention of
insulin. It turns out that insulin is incredibly important to the way the body uses the glucose that foods provide. The functions of insulin
- To enable glucose to be transported across cell membranes
- To convert glucose into glycogen for storage in the liver
- To help excess glucose be converted into fat
- To prevent protein breakdown for energy
Insulin is a simple protein in which
2 polypeptide chains of amino acids are joined by disulfide linkages.
Insulin helps transfer glucose into cells so that they can oxidize the glucose to
produce energy for the body. In adipose (fat) tissue,
the storage of glucose & its conversion to fatty acids. Insulin
also slows the breakdown of fatty acids.
In muscle it promotes the uptake of amino acids for making proteins.
In the liver it helps convert glucose into glycogen (the storage carbohydrate of animals) & it decreases
gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose from noncarbohydrate sources). The action of insulin is opposed by
glucagon, another pancreatic hormone & by epinephrine.
What you can begin to see
from this description is that there are actually lots of different things happening in your body around glucose. Because glucose
is the essential energy source for your body, your body has many different mechanisms to ensure that the right level of glucose
is flowing in the bloodstream.
e.g., your body stores
glucose in your liver (as glycogen) & can also convert protein to glucose if necessary.
Carbohydrates provide the energy that cells need to survive.
The Untold Truth About Carbohydrates - By Allan Boshell
Do you want the truth? Just how bad are carbohydrates?
After all every food advertisement you see today makes it sound
like you should hunt down and destroy the pesky things. I mean every food is now given a net carb
Even beer commercials are going
low carb. Geez, beer never had more than 4 or 5 grams to begin with and the calories in beer haven’t changed. Nah, it’s just that now you read the label more closely and realize there are actually
carbs in beer. Before Atkins and South Beach all we cared about was how much alcohol was in beer!
carbohydrates really the bad guys they’re being made out to be?
I mean people are losing weight like crazy on the South
Beach diet so there must be some truth to the fact that carbs are bad?
Well - drum roll please - there is a whole lot of truth to all this fuss about carbs. In fact, most of the carbohydrates
in the typical American diet should be eliminated.
But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Some are bad and others aren’t so bad but
the life and death truth is this…
…You must have carbohydrates to sustain a healthy body and a sharp mind.
There is simply
no way around this physiological fact. You see carbs
are the fuel that keeps your motor running. They're like gasoline to an engine.
The real key is to understand which ones are best for the engine.
Let me introduce you to Complimentary Carbs.
What are Complimentary Carbs?
Complimentary carbs will
do two very important things for you:
They'll assist you
in weight loss and,
They'll support an active, fitness
Look at it this way: You and
a friend are traveling to the same destination and you're traveling in identical cars. You both have only five gallons of
gas. However, your friend is taking the highway and you're taking the city streets to the destination.
Your trip is stop and go, heavy acceleration then slow
down for a red light. Get up to 55 mph then down again to a crawl. Stop-go, stop-go. Accelerate fast-slow down.
Your friend gets on the highway, sets the
car on cruise control and leisurely steers the car until time to exit and pull into the parking lot. Your friends’ car
has 2 gallons of gas left over when she arrives.
You're on empty
and barely get to your destination. What was the difference?
The difference is this:
You gave your car more fuel
than it could use with all the heavy acceleration, slow down, speed up, stop-go driving. That unused fuel went through your
catalytic converter and into the street and atmosphere.
Your body is similar. Give it more fuel all at one time than it can use and your catalytic converter (insulin)
will send it away as fat.
Carbohydrates that give you a big rush of sugar (white bread, rice cakes, watermelon) are for your body like the city streets are for your car.
Complimentary carbs are more like the cruise control – easy, smooth and gradual. Giving
you all the fuel you need without wasting a bit (storing it as fat).
You see, because complimentary carbs
release their energy slower, (this means they have a lower glycemic index) your body can maintain a more stable blood sugar
level. This is good because you will have sustained energy over a longer period and your body will have access to smaller,
even “doses” of energy.
These smaller doses
give you the time to actually utilize the sugar (glucose = fuel) thereby
preventing an “overdose” and the need to store any excess as fat.
Diabetics typically eat these foods to help them regulate spikes in their blood sugar and to help them
to be less dependent on insulin. In other words, diabetics can often manage their disease simply by regulating the kind of
carbohydrates they eat.
Better yet, there’s an added
…when you eat these “complimentary”
foods many of them have considerable fiber content and they require more calories to digest. As a result, these complimentary
carbs not only give you more sustained energy over a longer period they also help you to develop a better daily ‘burn”
rate (as in calories) and ultimately aid in weight loss.
I call them complimentary foods. They compliment your efforts at maintaining energy balance and ideal weight. Eating them
is what I call complimentary eating.
allow for a long list of these foods. However, there is a terrific web site at www.mendosa.com/gi.htm that provides a great
deal of information on the glycemic index of foods and provides an extensive list of foods
and their glycemic index. When looking at this list of foods, note that the complimentary carbs are those with the lower glycemic
So what do you do with this information in real life?
1. Increase your consumption of foods that are low on the glycemic index and avoid those that are high on the
2. Cut back on refined flower and processed foods by avoiding the aisles of
the super market.
3. Avoid eating too many “diet” foods. What does that
4. Just eat fresher more colorful foods
and more old-fashioned foods (slow cook oatmeal, lentils, barley, nuts) and lots and lots of green stuff.
5. Take care not to fall prey to food manufacturer “spin”. All the labels for net carb, useable carb, low carb and no carb are mostly lies and marketing hype. There are still more calories in a gram of alcohol than
in a gram of carbohydrate so low carb beer just doesn’t matter. Low alcohol beer is better but who wants to drink that?
6. Eat more often from your own kitchen. I know, I know I don’t
have time either. But face it, life is the stuff that always gets in the way of your plans but you plan anyway don’t you? So maybe you can cook a bunch of complimentary foods and have leftovers if time
is a premium.
7. If eating at home isn't possible
try to get as educated as possible on good carbs and protein and eat prepared meals containing smart choices.
need not be an exercise in deprivation nor biochemistry. Eating carbs need not be the end of good eating. Once you make a few
small adjustments and see results it gets easier to make a few more and to be a good judge of choices.
Before long these small steps have
made a considerable distance and your results will show. You’ll maintain or lose weight at will and still enjoy the
goodness of carbs.
from the quaker oatmeal website....
Oats are highly nutritious, filled w/cholesterol-fighting soluble fiber & have a pleasant,
nutty flavor. We're familiar w/rolled oats used as a hot breakfast cereal & cookie ingredient, but many health food
stores also stock oat groats & oat bran.
The proof is in the oatmeal. Challenge participants confirmed in a real-life setting what 40 scientific studies
have proven-that eating
oatmeal as part of a healthy diet can reduce cholesterol.
The FDA awarded the first-ever
food specific health claim to oatmeal because of its heart-healthy benefits-that 3 grams of soluble fiber from oatmeal
daily, in a diet low in saturated fat & cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Think of rolled oats as tiny sponges that soak up cholesterol & carry it out of the bloodstream.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver & other cells in the body. Cholesterol
has a number of important jobs, including the production of certain hormones as well as the breakdown & digestion of fat.
Sometimes our bodies have too much cholesterol & this
becomes a problem. Where does the extra cholesterol come from?
As we mentioned, cholesterol is made in the body, primarily
by the liver. It's also found in foods that come from animals, such as:
- dairy products
When the body has more than it needs or can convert to useful
purposes, cholesterol levels in the blood can rise. The extra cholesterol
can eventually damage & clog arteries.
Are there foods that actually
reduce cholesterol? Yes, one that actively removes cholesterol
from your body is
Fiber is the
broad name given to the things we eat that our bodies can't digest.
The 3 fibers
we eat on a regular basis are:
found in the hulls of different grains like wheat. Bran is hemicellulose. Cellulose is the
structural component of plants. It gives a vegetable its familiar shape. Pectin is found most often in fruits & is soluble
in water but non-digestible.
Pectin is normally called "water-soluble fiber" & forms
a gel. When we eat fiber, it simply passes straight thru, untouched by the digestive system.
Cellulose is a complex carbohydrate.
It's a chain of glucose molecules. Some animals & insects can
digest cellulose. Both cows & termites have no problem with it because they have bacteria in their digestive systems secreting
enzymes that break down cellulose into glucose.
Human beings have
neither the enzymes nor these beneficial bacteria, so cellulose is fiber for us.
Carbs, Bad Carbs
foods that contain simple sugars (short chains of sugar molecules) or starches
(long chains of sugar molecules), have been blamed for our epidemic of obesity and diabetes. This is only partially true, because there are both good
and bad carbohydrates.
good carbs contain the important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are essential to our health and that help
prevent heart disease and cancer.
The bad carbs, which have been consumed by Americans in unprecedented quantities (largely in an attempt to avoid fats), are the ones that have resulted in the fattening of America. Bad carbs are refined carbs, the ones where digestion has begun in factories instead of in our stomachs.
good carbs are the ones humans were designed to consume - the unrefined ones that have contributed
to our health since we began eating. Unrefined carbohydrates are found in whole, natural
foods, such as whole grains, legumes, rice and starchy vegetables.
also called complex carbohydrates, so named
for their molecular structure. Besides being packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, good carbs
take longer to digest, a good thing, as you'll soon see.
carbohydrates, on the other hand, are found in packaged processed foods, such as store-bought
baked goods, crackers, pasta and white bread. Refined carbohydrates are made with white
flour and contain little or no fiber.
fact, many products made with white flour are advertised as fortified with vitamins and minerals, because the
process of turning grain into white flour strips away its fiber and nutrients.
One of our South Beach Diet rules is to avoid foods labeled as "fortified." Current evidence
reveals that fortification with vitamins doesn't recreate the benefits of the natural vitamins that have been removed.
Despite the fact that good carbs are a critical part of a healthy
diet, the typical American diet is filled with the bad kinds. And when we're overweight as a result of a diet laden with bad carbs, our bodies' ability to process all carbohydrates
Eat These Cancer-Fighting Grains
Here’s a list of foreign-sounding words that may
help reduce your risk of cancer: kasha, quinoa, millet, and spelt.
Yep, a recent study revealed that whole grains
-- and those are all fine examples -- may have yet another health benefit. They may help reduce your risk of cancer of the
worried about getting cancer down there? Although it’s less common to get cancer there, your small intestine actually
isn’t very small -- or insignificant. It makes up about 75 percent of your digestive tract! And in a large-scale study
of adults, those who reported eating the most whole grains at the start of the study were 41 percent less likely to have developed
cancer of the small intestine 7 years later. Researchers believe that certain nutrients found in abundance in whole grains
-- like B vitamins, fiber, minerals, and phenols -- may be responsible for the protective effect. Find out why whole-grain foods can also make your skin glow this summer.
Ready to venture beyond your wheat bread and Cheerios? Give a
few new grains a try with these delicious and easy recipes from EatingWell:
RealAge Benefit: Choosing
whole grains rather than processed grains can make your RealAge 1.2 years younger if you are a man and 2.3 years younger if
you are a woman.