Why We Need Carbs
The experts aren’t telling us to abandon carbs entirely. A balanced diet and healthy body needs them.
“Carbohydrates are good for you, as long as you eat the right kinds in the right amounts,” says Dr. Al Sears. “Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. You couldn’t live or work without them.”
The trick is to understand how carbs work and which types of carbs work for you.
If you plow through five to eight servings of white bread, pasta, and rice each day, you’re going to be in trouble. That’s because carbs are not created equal.
There are good sources of carbs and bad. Often, processed carbs like white bread and sugary cereals represent bad carbs. But that’s not to say that all processed carbs are bad, and that all natural carbs are good. Starchy white potatoes are also bad, despite coming from a natural source.
Processed carbs are stripped of their nutrients and fiber. Worse… they are loaded with simple sugars and refined starches. The sugar and starch make carbs – processed or natural – really bad. That sugar or starch creates a devastating hormonal reaction in our bodies. That blood-sugar reaction is measured with the Glycemic Index (GI).
The Glycemic Index
“The GI measures how the carbohydrates in foods increase your blood sugar,” says Dr. Sears.
Carbs with a high GI are bad for you. Carbs with a low GI are good for you. Complex carbs with a low GI take time to break down. That’s because the glucose (sugar content) of the carb is released slowly into your system.
However, carbs with a high GI deliver an instant sugar shock to your system. This will cause your blood sugars to spike wildly.
Rising blood sugars trigger insulin release. Insulin manages blood sugar and builds body fat. Increased insulin signals your body to store calories as body fat. So, as Dr. Sears puts it, “excess insulin makes you fat.”
The more high-glycemic foods you eat, the more insulin enters into your bloodstream.
In time, your body becomes less responsive to insulin, or insulin resistant. This has a compounding effect. Your body then needs ever more insulin to balance blood sugars. Over time, this will make you fat. It can eventually lead to diabetes.
Balancing Bad Carbs
When balancing your blood sugar, it’s not just sweets you have to balance. You also have to control starches.
The key is to avoid carbs with high GI scores.
Here’s a list of five bad carbs:
• Breakfast cereals (Kellogg’s Cornflakes has a GI score of 80; Kellogg’s Raisin Bran has a GI score of 61)
• Bagels (GI score of 69)
• Breads (Pepperidge Farm white bread with wheat flour has a GI score of 71)
• White rice (GI score between 73 and 89)
• White Potatoes (Baked potato with skin has a GI score of 69; mashed potato has a GI score of 83)
Replacing your grains with whole grains effects only a small improvement. Some whole grains maintain some of the nutrients and vitamins lost in bleaching. But whole grain bread actually spikes blood sugar much the same as white bread.
Compare a porridge made of whole-grain rolled oats to the breakfast cereals above. The porridge scores 55 on the Glycemic Index. Brown rice – another whole grain recommended by the USDA Food Pyramid – is certainly better than white rice. But it scores between 66 and 87 on the Glycemic Index.
(to be continued)