Lately carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap due to misguided diet theories that I attribute to a lack of understanding. When we think of carbs, we envision baskets of bread, plates piled high with pasta, bulging baked potatoes, and mountains of beans and rice. Carbohydrates are quite possibly the most misunderstood of the macronutrients, and yet there is no avoiding them. They are everywhere because they are a part of the connective tissue in everything we eat, and more importantly, they are an essential element of our daily macronutrients and shouldn’t be eliminated from a healthy diet. The culprit isn’t carbohydrates; it’s sugar. The body isn’t concerned with what form sugar is packaged in. Its reaction to it is the same. There isn’t such a notion of good vs. bad sugar. Lesser evils may exist, but sugar is sugar. Since all carbs contain sugar, understanding how the body breaks them down and utilizes them provides the insight into regulating our intake. Three categories make-up the carb pyramid: Complex, simple, and fibrous, and yet they aren’t created equal. Each plays an integral role in fueling the body, regulating our metabolism, and eliminating toxins. What should be avoided is overloading our system with complex starchy carbs and simple carbs. The fact that they’re high on the glycemic index is why they need monitoring. Both complex and simple carbs convert to glucose in the liver to fuel the brain, heart, and other vital organs. The key is knowing at what rate glucose is releasing into the bloodstream. Complex starchy carbs release sugar at a slower rate, while simple carbs found in fruit and dairy release it faster. If the body is overwhelmed with these carbs, it would be like pumping the gas pedal and flooding the engine. The buffer that slows the process is fibrous carbs found in leafy greens, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and so forth. Conversely, since fibrous carbs are lower on the glycemic index, they can be eaten in abundance, and there isn’t a risk of flooding the engine.
Does the body use fibrous carbs as fuel?
No. The human body lacks the cellulose enzymes 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, the benefit of fibrous carbs is their nutrient 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. Keeping an eye on your bottom line? Eat complex/simple carbs as a pauper and fibrous carbs as a king.