“Many health advisers and experts” today advise people to avoid carbohydrates which has led to a widespread belief that carbs are evil and the real culprits behind present day obesity. High protein diets have become fashionable and ‘carbohydrates’ has become a bad word. This is absurd as on many occasions carbohydrate restriction can badly affect your health.
Carbohydrates are the most important sources of energy for our body. Our normal body functions like heartbeat, breathing, digestion, brain functioning and other physical activities including exercise needs energy and carbs provide that. The most important sources of carbs include grains, fruits, vegetables potato, legumes, sugar, honey, milk and meat. Since the agricultural age grains have been the central element of human diet and source of carbohydrate. Wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, millet, oats, buckwheat and kash were staple foods for people around the world. Most of the people eating a grain based carbohydrate diet were lean with strong bodies.
Then came the industrial revolution. Along with all the revolutionary changes it brought to the society it also affected people’s food habits by detaching them from agriculture. Food industry was established and people started eating too much of processed grains, chemicalized artificial junk food, sugar, caffeine and alcohol skipping natural whole grains. It also gave rise to the cravings for sugar in chocolates, candy bars, ice creams, cakes and cookies. Here started the problem. The average person does not know the difference between healthy and unhealthy carbohydrate. People are not eating the right type of carbohydrate that nature intended. To understand this we need to know the distinction between simple and complex carbs.
All types of carbs contain sugar. When sugar is digested it becomes glucose. Glucose is the fuel for all body cells. Depending on the chemical structure of sugar, carbs can be simple or complex.
Simple carbs- Carbs with one or two molecules of sugar that are quickly converted to glucose after ingestion and causes a rapid rise in blood sugar level- a sugar rush. Body sees this rush as an emergency and quickly burns it up to meet the energy required. This leads to a crash in blood sugar and again leads to cravings. A sugar craving is simply the body asking for energy.
Sugar, Processed grains, white flour based products (like White bread), fruits, vegetables, honey, sugar cane and milk are the major sources of simple carbs.
Now the question arises ‘ If fruits and vegetables contain simple carbs aren’t they bad for health? Well, not exactly. Even though they contain simple sugars, the high fibre in them slows down digestion and helps in the sustained release of sugar. Simple carbohydrate in denatured, deformed and processed foods is the real reason behind obesity, producing excess amount of sugar at one time for which the body has no other way but to store as fat. ( Imagine using Kerosene oil instead of coconut oil in an oil lamp) .Joshua Rosenthal, Founder of Institute of Integrative Nutrition, says “ the anti-carb movement should really be an anti-simple-carb movement “
Complex carbs- Short Chain (3-10 molecules) and long chain sugar molecules containing carbs bound with fibre. Breaking down of complex carbs is slow and takes hours to release the sugar into the bloodstream and hence provides long lasting energy without the rush-crash cycle.
Best sources- Whole Grains, potato,legumes etc
This is why you experience a total change of energy, mood and hunger when you have a whole grain breakfast with some vegetables instead of white bread or processed food.
A whole grain kernel has three parts- bran, germ, and endosperm. They are rich sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre, protein , B- vitamins, Minerals like magnesium and pottassium , essential fats, anti-oxidants, phytochemical, flavonoids, phytosterols, and lignin. The bran and germ parts are removed during processing, converting it into a refined white flour.
Health Benefits of Whole Grains
- Weight management- Low calorie density, high satiation
- Heart Health- Lowers total cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides and blood pressure. Reduces heart diseases and stroke by 25-30%
- Diabetes prevention and management- Lowers blood sugar, insulin and increases insulin sensitivity.
- Cancer prevention- Promotes healthy gut bacteria, fiber blends and removes potential carcinogens.
The recommended daily intake of whole grains is three servings. So next time you go to a grocery store, be sure to ask for unprocessed, whole grains.
However whole grains does come with a cautionary note. The presence of Phytic acid in the outer layer of the bran can cause indigestion and can combine with minerals to cause mineral deficiency. This can be easily overcome by pre-soaking the grains overnight in warm water. Another area of concern is the presence of protein found in wheat , barley and oats called gluten, which acts like a glue and is difficult to get digested and can be allergic. Many don't correlate the reason for bloating, constipation , gas , allergies , chronic indigestion brain fogging and even celiac diseases and candidiasis for the presence of this amino acid. Change to gluten free whole grains ( Brown rice is the best option)
To get the best out of grains
- Use organic, unrefined whole grains
- Store in air tight containers
- Practice pre-soaking in warm water for 3-8 hours
- Use a pinch of sea salt before cooking. This adds flavour and nutritional value.
- Adding a splash of olive oil or coconut oil to prevent sticking of grains
- The leftover cooked water can be a nutrient rich drink
You can selectively include more sources of complex in your diet. Sugar cravings can be alleviated by providing the body with natural sweet foods like carrot, squash, sweet potato, fruits etc. Get accustomed to eating more of whole grains, vegetables and other nutrient dense foods.
Dr Dean Ornish, author of best selling book, ‘Eat More, Weigh Less’ recommends a high carbohydrate (70%) , low fat (10%) diet with 20 % protein, largely composed of grains and vegetables to reverse heart diseases and to keep the arteries clean and clear. So Carbs are good but choose the right carb