In the recent year, carbs is getting a reputation of being “unhealthy”. Is it truly bad for you?
Let’s first understand what are carbs. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in a wide variety of foods like grains, vegetables, fruits, and milk products. They are called carbohydrates because, at the biochemical level, they break down into the atoms carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy in your body. Carbs are often alienated and insulted in today’s modern world filled with fast changing dietary trends, but they remain important to a healthy life. Here are why.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients. The other two are proteins and fats. These macronutrients are the key to optimal body functioning. All of these macronutrients originate from your diet. Your body can’t produce them on its own.
To make carbs a healthy component of our diet, we need to do one simple thing: color coding the types of carbohydrates. We’ll use colors: white, brown, and green to make it work.
1. White carbohydrates: The Sugars
White carbohydrates are also called the fast-acting carbohydrates. They primarily provide a quick boost of energy. They also go by many names such as sucrose, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar etc.
These sugars are commonly found in processed foods. They are commonly devoid of their natural nutrients. If you eat a lot of these, they can lead to weight gain and also increase your risk for chronic diseases.
They can be naturally occurring or occur as added sugars (sugars added during food processing). Naturally occurring sugars are found in milk and fruit. Added sugars are found in many processed foods including in canned fruit in syrup, cookies, sweets, and ice cream.
In general, white carbohydrates have been regarded as bad carbohydrates. Except the naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruit, the majority of them are refined sugars. Presently, consumption of too much white carbohydrates leads to obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus type 2, and coronary heart disease.
2. Brown Carbohydrates: The Starches
In the past, brown carbohydrates were seen as partly unhealthy because of their composition. They’re made up of sugars that are linked together. As a result, they can bring about the same negative health effects as white carbohydrates if eaten in excess.
Recently, it was discovered that a type of starch, resistant starch yields short chain fatty acids in your colon after fermentation. These short chain fatty acids serve as food to beneficial bacteria that live within your digestive tract. That is why it’s best to consume more resistant starch compared to digestible starch.
Foods abundant in starch are the following:
- Grains like rice, barley, oats and wheat. Grains may be further subdivided into refined grains or whole grains.
- Vegetables like corn, potatoes and kumara.
- Beans and legumes like peas, chickpeas, lima beans, soybeans, kidney beans, lentils etc.
3. Green Carbohydrates: The Fibers
You can’t find a reasonable amount of fiber in any animal products such as eggs, meat, fish, and poultry. Fiber is that part of the plant food which your digestive system can’t process. It passes through your digestive system undigested.
Fiber promotes smooth bowel movements and decreases your risk of developing colorectal cancer. The green carbohydrates group is the healthiest for us. You need approximately 25 to 30 grams per day of fiber to appreciate these benefits. Aim for at least 2.5 grams (preferably 5 grams) of fiber per food serving.
You can find fiber in good amounts in the following foods:
- Fruits and vegetables, especially those which have skins that you can eat too.
- Some brown carbohydrates also contain reasonable levels of fiber like legumes and beans (garbanzos, pintos, mung beans, black beans, soybeans, and kidney beans).
- Nuts and seeds, almonds, chestnuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, and peanuts are good examples.
- Foods which contain the word “Whole” in their names: whole wheat pasta, whole grains, whole grain cereals, and whole grain bread also supply some fiber.
How many carbohydrates should we eat every day?
1. According to the Dietary Guideline for Americans, carbohydrates should make up anywhere between 45-65% of the energy intake. For example, an adult man who plans to consume 2,000 calories per day, would have anywhere between 900 to 1,300 calories coming from carbohydrates (45-65% of 2,000 calories). One gram of carbohydrate provides four calories. That computation results in 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day. The greatest amount should come from green carbohydrates. Keeping it simple, you should eat plenty of green carbohydrates, with some of the brown carbohydrates, and limit the white carbohydrates.
2. If you have diabetes mellitus type 2 and other chronic diseases, it will be more challenging to keep your carbohydrate intake in check. You may need the help of a nutritionist or dietician to tailor your food intake. You will need to learn carbohydrate counting. You also need frequent blood glucose monitoring to assess the effects of your carbohydrate intake.
In general, you need to lower your carbohydrate intake to around 250 grams per day. That’s roughly 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal and between 15 to 30 grams for your snacks. Keep your blood glucose levels steady and avoid spikes. You can do this by avoiding white carbohydrates and concentrating more on green carbohydrates for sustained blood glucose levels. As well as adequate fat and protein to stabilize your blood glucose levels.
3. If you’re healthy and active, and those who does competitive spots and physical trainings, you could
benefit from some extra carbohydrates 24 to 48 hours before the activity. This increases the glycogen stores in your liver. Top it off with adequate hydration. Even for athletes, your complex carbohydrates should come from your brown and green carbohydrate foods. Feel free to send me a note if you need more guidance.
4. If you want to lose weight, a low-carbohydrate diet has been scientifically proven to decrease your appetite and increase your metabolism. Aim between 50 to 150 grams of carbohydrates per day. Avoid carbohydrates which belong to both the white and brown groups.
Notes: the carbs found in Karuna drinks are Green carbohydrates. Many consumers use Karuna drinks as tasty healthy light meal replacement, snack, or recovery drink.
Tips for How to Increase the Green Carbohydrates in Your Diet
Remember, not all carbohydrates are bad for you. Some are healthier than others. Keep it simple, eat more green carbohydrates, some brown carbohydrates, and try to avoid the white carbohydrates.