Food for Thought: Carbohydrates

These days “carbs” have gotten a bad rep. It seems like everyone has been on some form of a “low carb” diet. So what are carbs, and is avoiding carbs the best thing for our health?

Carbohydrate is a category of macronutrients that our body uses for energy (in addition to protein and fat).  Our bodies break down carbohydrates to glucose molecules that enter the bloodstream. Glucose molecules are then taken up by different cells in our body to use as energy.  We get carbohydrates through starches, fruit, dairy, and sweets.

If you are familiar with diabetes, “blood sugar” is blood glucose levels.  Carbohydrate foods more readily raise the blood sugar levels in our body since they break down into glucose when they enter circulation. This does not make carbohydrate foods bad. It is important to consider the overall benefit of a food, and what else you are eating in that meal.  It is helpful to pair carbohydrate with protein and/or healthy fat if your goal is to keep your blood sugar levels more steady. Examples would be pairing a serving of fruit with nuts or string cheese instead of having the fruit on its own.

An 8 oz. regular soda has the same amount of carbohydrate as ¾ cup of blueberries, but they are vastly different in their benefits for our health and their effects on our blood glucose levels.  The blueberries are full of nutrients; the soda only has empty calories. The fiber from the berries will slow down the breakdown and release of glucose, while the soda is basically sugar water so will quickly enter our bloodstream and causes a spike in blood sugar.  

Carbohydrates are a necessary fuel for our body.  Whole foods rich in fiber and nutrients are excellent choices of carbohydrates. That’s why we recommend ancient grains and berries as the main sources of carbohydrates on VLCD! 

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