Making Friends with Carbs
Somewhere along the line carbohydrates have been mixed up with bad words such as weight gain, fat and unhealthy. But is this the truth? In a short response… NO. Carbohydrates are one of the three major macro-nutrients which your body needs to fuel itself. Your brain, nervous system and red blood cells all rely on carbohydrates as there major fuel source.
This is where the confusion started. Carbohydrates are broken down into two main categories depending on their chemical structure and digestibility. Complex and simple carbs. Simple carbs are the sugars, commonly found in some fruit and vegetables, along with processed sugars found in honey and brown sugar. These carbs are easily digestible therefore supplying your body with a minimal amount of energy.
Complex carbs are broken down into starches and fibers. Starches are found in many grains, vegetables and some fruits and can be broken down and metabolized by our bodies, where as fibers cannot be broken down as we lack the required enzymes. Although unable to break down fibers, they are still a major component to our digestive system, aiding with our gastrointestinal tract, especially in eliminating waste.
Now that you have a basic understanding of carbs, lets talk about their purpose. Simple carbohydrates such as bakery products and sweets are extremely high in calories and very low in vitamins and minerals, meaning that you can eat a lot of food and not feel full due to the refined nature of the carbohydrates meaning that they have no fiber or starch in them which tells your body when it is full. Contributing to weight gain due to the surplus of empty calories you are eating and that sluggish feeling we all hate.
Another downside of simple carbs is there affect on your health and sleeping pattern. An example of this is around Christmas time. Have you ever noticed that you just eat, eat and eat until you feel sick and often have disrupted sleep? This is due to the high amount of simple carbohydrate (high fat, high calorie, high sugar) foods that we are eating which are wreaking havoc on our hormones. In particular the hormone leptin, which typically controls metabolism and appetite. Your leptin levels will change as you eat more carbohydrates therefore disrupting your sleeping pattern, which in turn changes your leptin levels even more. This typically causes you to want more and more of these sugary foods, which unfortunately leads to weight gain.
In contrast the best types of carbohydrates you can supply your body with are complex carbohydrates found in grains, fruit and vegetables. The difference between these carbs and simple carbs is that they are high in vitamin and minerals and lower in calories, meaning that you can eat more of these particular foods and feel satisfied and full of energy. Complex carbohydrates are our bodies main source of fuel, we need them for our central nervous system, kidneys and brain to work efficiently. They also play a major role in eliminating waste through our digestive system due to the fibers present. These types of carbohydrates are found in many foods, which are then stored by our bodies as energy for later use.
Complex carbohydrates in contrast too simple carbohydrates will actually assist with better sleeping patterns. Foods such as Oatmeal, pumpkin, sweet potato, banana and brown rice all contain large amounts of trytophan, which relaxes the body and actually helps you sleep. Oatmeal also helps your body produce melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates sleep.
Now that you have a better understanding of where the idea ‘Carbs are bad’ has come from, I hope this clears up the misconception. Carbohydrates are an essential part of our bodies and we need them in order to function properly, carbohydrates are not the enemy, you should learn to love them.