Managing carbohydrates in our diet has become a hot topic over the last few years. Some diet plans tout the benefits of carbs, while others demonize them. But what exactly is a carbohydrate? Are they all bad for us? Doesn’t our body need carbohydrates? With so many diets and lifestyles to pick from it can be overwhelming to choose the one that’s best for your health.
Carbs are Your Friend
Despite what some may believe, carbohydrates contribute in many ways to the health of our body by communicating, detoxing, building muscle, and burning fat. Carbohydrates serve as one of our body’s major fuel sources. These sources come from plant food such as fruits, vegetables, grains, tubers, and legumes, which provide the nutrients we need for our internal organs, nervous system, and muscular system to function properly. They are a fantastic choice for endurance athletes providing both an immediate and a time-released fuel source as they are digested easily and help maintain balanced blood sugars.
Thinking of carbs as a communicator has been a fascinating discovery. Many carbs function this way instead of as fuel. Sugars on the surface of our red blood cells help determine our blood type and may provide important information when we are donating blood. Another interesting fact is that carbohydrates improve the communication between immune cells, thus improving immunotherapy infusions for cancer patients.
Another carbohydrate that might be less familiar to some people is called alginate. This is a type of brown algae that can bind with unwanted toxic metals and minerals (including cadmium, mercury, lead, and arsenic) in the intestines, removing them through an open detox pathway. Foods high in alginate include brown algae, kelp, and rockweed. Common preparations include sushi, seaweed wraps, Asian soups, and stir fry dishes. You can also take alginates as a supplement (sold as “sodium alginate”). Just be sure the source is purely harvested from seaweed or kelp.
The Glycemic Game
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the years for their impact on blood sugar levels because all carbs, simple or complex, are changed by enzymes into sugar. Some forms are stored as fuel for later, some are used right away, and others are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.
But not all carbs are good carbs. The average American diet includes 40-50% carbohydrates, but unfortunately half of this comes from refined, processed flours and sugars that can include bread, candy, cookies, and cake. These types of food deplete the body of B vitamins causing premature aging, cell mutations, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancers—just to name a few.
On the other hand, complex carbs have a lesser effect on blood sugar levels and do not over trigger insulin production, allowing the cells to receive the glucose. As I explained above, our bodies need these carbohydrates in order to function properly. When choosing carbohydrates, look for green vegetables, beans, apples, oranges, and peaches.
To better familiarize yourself with this information it can be helpful to check out a glycemic index chart online to break down each food choice, especially if you are pre-diabetic/diabetic. You can also seek the advice of a professional in order to begin eating the kind of diet that best fits your individual goals and needs. Planning a diet around building muscle and burning fat can be tricky, as certain carb choices are better and the timing of your meals can also be important.
Let your approach to the types of carbs you eat express your individual goals and listen to the cues your body is sending you by filling your plate with lots of colorful vegetables every day.