Understanding Proper Carbohydrate Consumption
By Bruce Bowen, M.D.There is a lot of misunderstanding about carbohydrates, and to a significant degree, the obesity epidemic is directly related to this misunderstanding.
The biggest misunderstanding about carbohydrates is the notion that all carbohydrates are the same. Not true. There are simple carbohydrates (AKA refined carbohydrates), and complex carbohydrates (AKA unrefined carbohydrates.) The simple carbohydrates are not healthy for you and should be avoided. The complex carbohydrates are extremely beneficial and essential for health, and should be consumed on a daily basis. They are a must for a healthy life-style. Most of the nutrients we obtain in our diet are from fruits and vegetables. Processed foods, processed meats, sweets, and processed commercial beverages contain very little nutrients. Even supplemental pills and vitamins, while helpful, lack the vast amount of phytonutrients, phytochemicals, flavonoids, and macronutrients that are found only in complex carbohydrates.
People who mentally lump together these two types of carbohydrates (simple and complex) unfortunately conclude that they should not eat a lot of carbohydrates. Thus, they eliminate fruits and vegetables from their diet. Thus, they will not consume the vast amount of nutrients that are found only in complex carbohydrates. As a result of not getting proper nutrition, they will find themselves both overweight and hungry most of the time.
There is much evidence that excessive intake of simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar, is unhealthy and should be avoided. There is also much evidence that more intake of complex carbohydrates in the form of vegetables is healthy and desirable. Neither of these statements are controversial. Some controversy remains about certain vegetables, but as long as you consume a good variety of vegetables, this is not a concern.There is also confusion about fruits. Because fruits contain fructose, and fructose is a simple sugar, some people mistakenly categorize fruit as a simple carbohydrate. This is not correct. Fruits are not simple carbohydrates. They contain phytonutrients, flavonoids, macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Eating large quantities of whole fruit will not cause you to gain weight. This is because even though fruit contains fructose, when fruit is consumed as a whole fruit, the fiber will slow down the digestive process. Fiber binds the sugar in the fruit and releases it slowly, so your body burns the energy rather than storing it as fat. Note, that if all the fiber is removed from fruit by way of extracting the juice from the fruit, then this does become a fattening food. Thus fruit drinks, especially those with added sugar, are not recommended for weight loss. However if you blend your own fruit smoothies without filtering the fiber, this is a tasty and healthy drink.
In summary, limit the amount of simple carbohydrates, and enjoy as much complex carbohydrates as you want. The USDA recommends at least five servings or more of fruits and vegetables a day for a healthy diet. If you are not getting this much, then you need to increase your consumption of complex carbohydrates.