Friday, August 12, 2011
Carb: A four letter word?
Since when did carb become a four letter word? I read a blog post yesterday about how grains are slowly killing us. This particular blogger cited all sorts of statistics about diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation, but failed to recognize that all of her statistics were based on studies of refined, processed grains. She also used the word carb interchangeably with grain. It's this mentality and easily accessible misinformation that have caused what I have affectionately named "carbaphobia."
Carbs are a macronutrient. One that is essential for your health. Other macronutrients you may recognize are proteins and fats. Macronutrient by definition is a food required in large amounts by the human diet. Key word being: required. This means that macronutrients are required for your body to function at optimal levels. Yes, you do need each macronutrient in different quantities. Each person is different so each person needs a different ratio of macronutrients. I may do a blog post at another time about what ratio works for what etc etc. But the point I am trying to make now, is that carbs (by definition) are an essential part of the human diet. Period.
What I'm noticing as I observe people at eating time (a habit I've taken up lately), is that people are fearful of carbs. I think this is because people think carb equals cake, cookie, white bread, potato chip, etc. In reality carbs are more importantly whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, vegetables, fruits and so on. Each full of nutrients your body needs and usually on lists of health foods to eat more of. So really carbs=necessary. Obviously you should limit the refined, processed variety because those are not optimal for good health. You should be choosy about where you get your carbs, but you need to get them.
Carbs are what give your body energy (along with fat, which is another blog post for another day); energy it needs to get up in the morning, walk across the room, give your kids a bath, do laundry etc. If you eliminate carbs from your diet it causes your liver to have to find stores in your muscles and other areas of your body to convert to energy. Can you imagine the effects on your liver after your body is forced to do this time and time again, let alone your muscles and other tissues? On the other hand refined grains and sugars which are a staple of the American diet, and what people believe to be a "carb" are just as bad. These cause a spike in your blood sugar causing your pancreas to work in overdrive to produce insulin. Over time your pancreas gives up and causes Type 2 diabetes. This spike does not happen with whole grains.
I broached this subject today because I cringe when I hear someone state that "carbs are bad" or "this is good for me because it's low carb." It's such a twisting of what is actually true. Your body needs carbs. Your body does not need refined grains or sugars. But it does need carbs. It needs whole grains, it needs vegetables, and fruits and many of the other healthy options out there. The word Carb (which is short for carbohydrate) may be a four letter word, but let's make it one of the best kind. The kind you say with positive connotation. The kind you eat the good variety of to make you healthy and energized. Please let me know if you want any guidance on what carbs you should choose or tips for choosing what's right for you.