Another myth busting blog this time looking at carbohydrates
We also know carbohydrates as sugars and starches.
Sugars are sometimes referred to as simple carbohydrates and starches are referred to as complex. However there is nothing simple about how they are utilized by the amazing machine called your Human body!
In science the term saccharide is used. to describe different sugars and starches
Mono saccharide - A single sugar - This is what glucose is.
Di saccharide - 2 sugars- 2 monosaccharides joined together examples here are
fructose- fruit sugars,
lactose- milk sugars,
Maltose - from grains
Polysaccharide describes complex carbohydrates - these are many single sugars joined together to make up what we know as starches.
Pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, root vegetables, bagels, pastry, flour, wheat based cereals, corn are all forms of starch.
What is the function of Carbohydrates in the body?
Their primary function is to provide energy. In the form of glucose - Only glucose can be used by the body - The brain needs about 500 calories worth of glucose daily in order to function. Therefore when you reduce carbohydrates in your diet dramatically you can experience lethargy, lack of concentration, brain fog confusion and light headedness.
Both starches and sugars are broken down in the body into GLUCOSE during digestion. The body cannot use ANY other form of sugar. From here the Glucose can be used for different bodily energy functions.
All get broken down in the body by the digestive process to Glucose.
Glucose can be used as the immediate source of energy. All body processes need glucose. From cells regenerating, through to breathing and your heart beating.
When magic happens.
If blood sugar levels are as they should be the hormone INSULIN converts Glucose into a storage substance where it is stored in the liver and the muscles for use when blood sugar levels become low or when emergencies occur and we need energy to move quickly.
Think of these storage sites as shopping bags. When your shopping bag becomes full if you overload it items will spill out.
When blood sugar levels are stable, and the stores in the liver and muscles are full, the extra glucose that your body has from eating carbohydrate foods has no where to go, so it spills into the other storage sites and gets converted to fat.
This is in very basic terms how weight gain occurs, not always by over eating fat but by regularly over eating carbohydrates - There are many other physiological and psychological reasons why weight gain occurs but this is one physiological principle.
It is also the reason why often high consumption of carbohydrates over the long term can cause insulin resistance and lead to diabetes.
There is additional information to be found about insulin and blood sugar here
So how much carbohydrate do we need?
This is like saying how long is a piece of string? Generally speaking as a nation we eat too many of the wrong types of carbohydrates and by being more aware of carbohydrates and looking at the portion sizes of them that we eat can be beneficial. So Its not about excluding carbohydrates, its about ensuring that you are eating the right amount for your body and activities. Portions of carbohydrates like everything have generally got much bigger over the past 20 to 30 years. As a guide a portion of rice or pasta should be the size of a tennis ball and a baked potato the size of a computer mouse. Whenever I go shopping the potatoes for baking are always 2x the size of a computer mouse- solution - have half !
Its fascinating when you look at marketing of these types of foods the portions are always so much bigger.!! No one needs a plate of pasta as big as the image here. Unless you are running a marathon.
It is also a good idea to look at the amount of free sugar and fibre in your diet as these too can have an impact on dental health, gut health, cardiovascular health as well as blood sugar.
Free sugar is the sugar that is not natural in a food but is added to food and is found in biscuits, cakes, fruit juices, syrups, chocolate, sweets sugary cereals, coffee syrups- Basically your convenience foods. Current guidelines suggest limiting the amount of free sugars to 30g a day. This equates to 7 teaspoons of sugar.
These foods contain little in the form of other nutrients and some research suggests the hormonal influences of eating excessive sugar can have an addictive effect having an action on the reward system of the brains. as well as it being habitual or behavioural.
Cravings for many people are really problematic. They have nothing to do with not having will power and all to do with hormones.
If you take on board excessive carbohydrates then your blood sugar may drop (due to insulin) and then your brain will tell your body you need more carbohydrates - and so the cycle continues. On the opposite side of this I work with many clients who decide to cut out carbs and may even fast the whole day. Then the brain and stress response start to work their magic as the body needs carbohydrates to function and once the flood gates open it is a challenge to stop. These clients often eat excessive amounts of easily absorbed sugary foods.
What can you do to support your amazing body?
Eat more regular meals
eat more protein
Increase natural foods
Speak to someone who can help and guide you
Ask yourself the following questions
Do I have carbohydrates at every meal?
Do I have sweet sugary foods and drinks every day or sometimes several times a day?
Are my portions of rice, pasta bread, potatoes and other "white carbohydrates" larger than generally recommended?
Do I often feel lethargic after eating sugary or starchy foods?
Do I try to completely eliminate carbohydrates from my diet and then have cravings?
If your answer is yes to 1 or more of the questions and you are wanting to improve your health and wellbeing then book a discovery call
Finally a little about Fibre
This is not really a carbohydrate but often is found alongside natural carbohydrate foods such as fruit and vegetables and wholegrains. Fibre is essential for supporting optimal health. Diets high in fibre support healthy digestion and elimination- reducing constipation and therefore reducing the harbouring of toxic waste in your body. Fibre provides food for the beneficial bacterial of the gut.
Diets rich in soluble fibre are often those that are brightly coloured and so have lots of other nutrients. They have been shown to support a healthy cholesterol profile as well as helping to maintain a more stable blood glucose.
So there yo have it, a whistle stop tour of carbohydrates. Get in touch if you need more support.