carbohydrates-2I want to have my cake and eat it, too. Imagine eating a diet rich in carbohydrates and losing weight. That’s my kind of diet. Carbohydrates are the most misunderstood macronutrient, and yet there is no avoiding them, because they’re the connective tissue in plants and whole grains, and should not be eliminated from a healthy diet. Though lately, they’ve gotten a bad rap due to misguided diet theories. If that’s not confusing enough, then there are good carbs vs. bad carbs.

What’s the difference?

Good carbs are found in whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Bad carbs are those processed hybrids passing themselves off as white rice, bread and pasta made with white flour and added sugar. When you strip whole grains of their fibrous hull and endosperm, you strip their nutrients. All that’s left is sugar. The body isn’t concerned with what form sugar is packaged in. There isn’t such a notion of good vs. bad sugar. Lesser evils may exist, but sugar is sugar. The liver breaks down sugar into glucose, which is the body’s primary fuel source. But therein lies the rub. There’s only so much room in the fuel tank (300 grams). What the body doesn’t use, it converts to fat, and there’s plenty of room in the fat closet; it’s a warehouse the size of Home Depot.

The secret is understanding how the body breaks down carbs and utilizes them. There’s more than one type: complex, simple, and fibrous, and they aren’t created equal. 

Complex, starchy carbs are found in potatoes, legumes, whole grains, and some fruit, like bananas… Simple carbs are found in most fruit and dairy products. Fibrous, are leafy greens, squashes, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes… Each type plays an integral role in fueling our body, regulating our metabolism, and eliminating toxins. Consuming smaller meals 4-5 times a day guarantees the tank remains half-full to maintain a steady flow of fuel like an IV drip. Ahhhh.   

Does the body use fibrous carbs as fuel? 

No. The human body lacks the cellulase enzyme needed to break down fibrous carbs and convert them into glucose, but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a vital function. Aside from acting as a buffer to slow insulin spikes, fibrous carbs are a rich source of vitamins and minerals.  Once the body has absorbed the essential nutrients, the fiber is sent directly to the colon for elimination, which is why fiber is considered the colon’s best friend.

In short, eat fibrous carbs like a king, and complex like a pauper.