Are you a good carb or a bad carb?

“Christmas is coming and I am getting fat…”  Wait.  That’s not how the song goes and that is NOT how I want the song to end up.  Diabetes is a raging epidemic.  Most of my patients have diabetes or pre-diabetes or are at risk for diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes is genetic in my family.  So with the Atkins diet, the South Beach diet, and all these other diets which do you pick?

Personally, I’ve never had much time for diets.  I can’t stick to them.  I get bored, I don’t have that kind of focus, and I LOVE food!  The problem with a lot of diets is that they are crash diet.  They cut out parts of your food pyramid and that can lead to a lot of deficiencies, which isn’t healthy for your mind or body.  So, in honor of the holiday season the next few blogs are going to be about the essentials of healthy eating.  Today lets talk about carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the most readily available form of energy.  Your brain actually runs off carbs.  That’s why when you try cutting out carbohydrates you can get headaches, hypoglycemia, and your head feels fuzzy.  So what are we supposed to do?  The answer, as with anything, is everything in moderation.

Now, despite the title above, there aren’t any good or bad carbs, but some carbs are better for you in larger quantities than others.  Some of you may have heard of “complex carbohydrates” and “simple carbohydrates,” but what does it all mean?  So here is the breakdown and here is the science behind it.

Complex carbohydrates are anything containing fiber.  You can always look at the back of the nutrition label on the box.  If you see dietary fiber with a number next to it you’re a step in the right direction.  Fiber is great for digestive health, makes you full, and keeps you going longer.  It’s like lighting a fire and using wood as a fuel.  It burns for quite a long time.  A bowl of oatmeal in the morning, a piece of fruit for a snack, a salad with dinner (that’s right folks, veggies have carbs: these things will keep you going and will fill you up so that you are less likely to down that left over box of candy corn sitting on your desk.

Simple carbohydrates do not contain fiber.  You will burn these of quick, they will not fill you up, but they are great for energy you need quickly… and some of them taste pretty good.   Hot cocoa for example… yum!  If you don’t see any fiber on that food label, it’s a simple carb and you should really use these things in moderation.

The difference between these carbs is the molecular structure.  Check it out:

The simple carbohydrate is one sugar molecule, the complex carbohydrate is the chain of sugar (and they do get bigger) and it takes more time and energy for your body to digest it!  This is why you stay full longer and why your blood sugar stays more steady.  Fiber is slow release carbohydrate!

It’s all about portion size.  You can do it!  I would never tell you something that I don’t do myself.  A few months ago I told you I was starting on my own health journey and I’m still going.  I’ve got my waist AND for the first time ever I was able to buy boots with a leather upper.  My fat little calves are shrinking!

In a few weeks, after I go over all the food nutrients, we’ll throw all this together into a big picture.  Stay tuned!

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