Why do we need them?
Carbohydrates, or saccharides, are sugars and starches, which provide energy for humans and animals, and cellulose which make up many plant structures. “Carbs,” as they are now commonly referred to, have become both a blessing and a curse, as the process of modern food production has changed the way they are consumed.
- serve as the primary energy source for working muscles
- ensure the brain and nervous system function properly
- help the body use fat more efficiently
- are great for digestion when they are high in fiber
Dietary sources include foods made from grains (cereal, crackers, bread, pasta, tortillas, cereal), beans, fruits, vegetables, milk , cheese and foods containing any form of sugar.
Carbs fall into all types of categories and it’s important to have a clear understanding of each so that you know which carbs to moderate and which ones to eliminate when losing weight.
Complex Carbs need to be broken down into a more simple form before they can be absorbed so they release glucose into the bloodstream slowly. Breads, cereals, potatoes, and legumes are examples of complex carbs.
Simple Carbs are already in their simplest form and are absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly giving you an initial burst of energy. Fruit, milk, juices, cookies, and yogurt are examples of simple carbs.
High Glycemic Carbs the glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a carb raises blood sugar. A high glycemic carb raises blood sugar very quickly. This spike in blood sugar elicits the insulin response which means that your body produces high amounts of insulin to return your blood sugar to normal. It does this by converting all the glucose into fat which gets stored in your body. It also causes low blood sugar that leads to more cravings for processed sugary carbs. Examples of high g.i. carbs include potatoes, corn, carrots, gatorade, bagels, white bread, corn flakes, ice cream, bananas, raisins, table sugar.
Low Glycemic Carbs cause a small rise in blood sugar. These include; skim milk, all bran cereal, apples, peaches, black beans, plums, fructose, broccoli, spinach, and, peas. There is a common misconception that the only way to lose weight is to stick to low glycemic carbs. This is not true. You can still eat high g.i. carbs as long as you combine with protein and healthy fats. Check out the meal examples below to see how.
Refined (Processed) Carbs are products that have been altered to increase shelf life. Anything that’s frozen, canned, or boxed, is refined. If you check the list of ingredients you will often see words like rolled, bleached, dehydrated, partially hydrogenated, etc. Foods like white bread, pasta, fruit juice, crackers, cookies, etc. have been stripped of nutrients like fiber and fall into this category.
Unrefined Carbs are obviously foods that are in their natural state. Oranges are unrefined while orange juice is refined. The less processed a food the more nutrients it provides.
How Many Carbs Per Day?
Contrary to popular belief low carb is not the only way to lose weight and it’s also not for everyone. For most people the best type of diet for weightloss is one that still allows you a lot of the foods you like so you don’t feel deprived and start cheating. It’s close to balanced but lower carb i.e. 50% carbs, 25% protein, and 25% fat (this is just one example there are other breakdowns that can work too). No matter what your situation you should never take in less than 1200 calories a day and for those who workout this amount of calories could send your body into starvation mode so be sure to figure your ideal calorie intake with a health professional before cutting back.
Carbs to Avoid
So which carbs are goods ones and which ones are bad? While you’re trying to lose weight avoid most processed foods including: pasta, white rice, fruit juice, sugar loaded fat free yogurt, most crackers, cookies, pastries, white bread, chips, pretzels, bagels, sports drinks, soft drinks, and candy. This will help you reach your goal weight at a much faster pace. Once you lose the weight you will be able to eat these foods again in moderation.
Carbs to Moderate
Many of the most popular diet plans tell you to avoid starchy carbs and high glycemic carbs but they do serve a purpose. If you’re working out your body needs them for energy and they also help your body burn fat. There are 3 simple rules when it comes to starchy and high glycemic carbs:
- Limit yourself to two servings a day of each
- Eat them in the first half of your day
- Always combine with protein
Doing this allows you to eat some of the foods you like and still lose weight. For example: In the first half of your day you can have eggs and potatoes for breakfast, fruit salad and protein shake for a snack, and tuna with veggies, balsamic vinegar & olive oil in half a whole wheat pita for lunch. In the afternoon you could eat whey protein shake & 1 apple for a snack, plus a chicken breast and spinach & tomato salad for dinner.
Carbs You Can Indulge
Not many people are into eating greens and high fiber grains but these are the carbs that help you feel full, have the most nutrients, and really boost metabolism so indulge all you want.
Cycle Your Carbs
Another great strategy is to learn how to rotate carbs in and out of your diet each week. Depleting carbs just a few days a week teaches your body to tap into fat stores. You can even coordinate this with your activity level. On the days you’re more active you can allow yourself a little more carbs than on the days you’re less active.
REMINDER: No two individuals are alike, so we strongly suggest that you meet with a health professional before changing your eating habits.
Your friends at “Socially Fit”