CARBOHYDRATES. Sugars, Starches & Fiber, aka “Carbs.” You love them but think you are supposed to fear them! The fact is, the majority of your daily calories should come from “good carbs.”
What are they anyway? Carbohydrates are a macronutrient providing energy, found in virtually all plant foods and one animal food (milk). Carbs are the body’s first form of energy. The body converts ALL dietary carbohydrates into energy, called “blood sugar,” also called blood glucose.
There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are sugars and are either mono or di-saccharides. Glucose and Fructose are monosaccharides; Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide. Fructose is the sweetest of the sugars. Complex carbs are “polysaccharides.”
Simple Sugars (common ones)
table sugar (white sugar) = sucrose
brown sugar, sugar in the raw
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Legumes – beans & peas
- chick peas
- black-eyed peas
- sweet potatoes
Fiber: a general term for the polysaccharides found typically in plant cell walls, including cellulose, hemicellulose, pectins, gums and mucilages and one nonpolysaccharides, lignins.
Dietary fiber is the residue of plant food resistant to hydrolysis (digestion) by human digestive enzymes. That is, the fiber that remains from food after passage through the small intestine and prior to bacterial digestion in the colon. We rely on this digestion to get essential fatty acids out of certain fibers. This also produces gas. Whatever remains undigested is excreted.
Dietary fibers are classified according to their characteristics, including solubility in water, digestibility (and therefore energy-giving), and physiological effects on the body.
Some positive health effects of complex carbs and fibers:
- weight control – foods offer less energy per bite and displace other foods, such as simple sugars and fats.
- blood glucose and insulin level modulation
- diabetes control
- hemorrhoid prevention
- colon cancer prevention
- control of blood lipids and CVD prevention
- constipaton and diarrhea relief
Some negative health claims of “sugar” (I mean simple sugars):
- it causes malnutrition
- it causes obesity
- it causes diabetes (type II)
- it increases triglycerides (blood lipid levels) and cardiovascular disease
- it causes dental caries
- it causes hyperactivitiy
Whether these claims are overstated or not, simple sugars do not supply nutritional value other than providing energy!
Simple sugars NATURALLY occurring in foods are NOT bad for you!! – such as those found in fruits, vegetables and milk. Those coming from “whole foods” are found in combination with other complex carbs as well as other essential nutrients.
The bottom line: Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes!