Simple and Complex Carbohydrates
There is an abundance of enthusiasm these days for ketogenic (high fat and protein) and paleolithic (primitive diet high in meat and vegetables). While these diets can be temporarily useful in quick weight loss, long term adherence to these imbalanced diets has never been studied. Recent findings published in Lancet show that very low carb diets shorten lifespan. There seems to be a U shaped curve for survival. Very high and very low carb diets are harmful. The “sweet spot” is about 50% of calories from whole carb foods.
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Within each of those categories there are two categories, either refined or whole food. Many people are not sure if they are eating the right type of carbs. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars that are sweet to the taste buds. Complex carbohydrates are the starches. Within these two categories there are both refined and naturally occurring versions.
Until the 1960s, many nutritionists were teaching that refined carbohydrates were equal to the nutritive value of natural carbohydrates. That idea has since been proven wrong. When whole wheat is refined to enriched white flour, about twenty-four nutrients are lost with only four being added back. This staple of Western civilization thus is robbed of many valuable nutrients including magnesium, vitamin E, and chromium. A lifetime of consuming these nutritionally depleted refined carbohydrates may be responsible for considerable disease in Western society. Find out if you are deficient in magnesium.
Lower Intake of Refined Carbohydrates
Under the auspices of the Senate Select Subcommittee on Nutrition and Human Needs, a gathering of prestigious scientists recommended that we lower our intake of refined carbohydrates and increase our intake of complex and naturally occurring carbohydrates.
The health benefits of these foods are amazing. A person consuming a diet high in these naturally occurring carbohydrate foods will be much less likely to suffer from heart disease, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal problems (like hemorrhoids, constipation, and cancer), hypoglycemia, dental caries, and radical swings in emotional and physical energy levels.
| ||Types of Carbohydrates|
|Naturally Occurring||Fruits, honey, milk sugar, |
some vegetables, molasses
|Whole grains, legumes, nuts, |
|Refined||White sugar, brown sugar, sugar, confectioner’s sugar||White bread, white flour, crackers, white pasta, potato chip|
|Sources of Naturally |
In addition to these extensive health benefits, naturally occurring carbohydrate foods are less expensive than high-fat, high-protein foods like meat and cheese; have a longer shelf life, especially dried legumes and whole grains; and offer considerable fiber and fluid, essential nutrients we will discuss in their own sections.
Glucose, Fructose & Galactose
The basic unit of all carbohydrate food is one six-carbon molecule. This unit is usually glucose, fructose, or galactose, which are called monosaccharides (meaning one sweet unit). When combined, these units form one of the following disaccharides (two sweet units):
glucose + glucosemaltose (in cereals and beer)
glucose + fructosesucrose (table sugar, fruits, some vegetables)
glucose + galactose – lactose (milk sugar)
Fiber is a polysaccharide whose glucose units are joined in such a way that human digestive enzymes will not break it down. Fiber is now referred to as resistant starches, meaning resistant to digestion.
Functions of Carbohydrates in the Diet
Carbohydrates are an essential part of the diet for the following reasons:
- To provide energy, thus sparing the body the need to create its own carbohydrates by scavenging protein from lean A high-carbohydrate diet will increase one’s exercise capacity.
- To maintain water and sodium. The kidneys rely almost entirely on carbohydrates for energy. Once the diet becomes low in carbohydrates, the inefficient kidneys begin losing water and sodium. Water is the essence of the quick weight loss in a low carbohydrate diet.’ This is both a risky and fleeting method of losing weight, since the water weight returns within a few days.
- To become part of the body’s functional components like the anticlotting compound heparin and structural parts like the connective tissue hyaluronic acid are derived primarily from carbohydrates in the diet.
- To stimulate the growth of helpful intestinal bacteria, or prebiotics. Some bacteria produce vitamins like K and biotin, while others help stave off other disease-causing bacteria. Lactose in foods such as milk is particularly efficient at encouraging beneficial bacteria in the intestines (although lactose causes intestinal problems in people who are unable to digest it).
- To aid in the absorption of Glucose provides energy for the active transport mechanisms in the intestinal wall, aiding in the uptake of various nutrients.
- High carb foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes contain a banquet of phytonutrients that keep us healthy. Bioflavonoids, carotenoids, and other pharmacologically active substances to act as antioxidants, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and growth regulators. Well-intentioned health care professionals are warning people to avoid many of these very healthy plant foods. Meanwhile, ALL scientific studies show benefits when including these foods in a mixed diet.
If your goals are to start getting healthier or simply maintain your good health, ask yourself if you are eating the right type of carbs to enable and maintain good health.