At Rx Health and Wellness Weight Loss Clinic located in Owasso, Oklahoma, we strive to provide practical information to aid you on your weight loss journey. We gladly share our knowledge in a series of posts titled “From the Bedside”. In this article, Jayme Taylor, APRN, one of our providers at Rx Health and Wellness Weight Loss clinic, discusses Carbohydrates and how they can affect your weight loss goals.
By Jayme Taylor, APRN, CSOWM
Carbohydrates would probably be considered both the most loved and the most disliked of all of the macro-nutrients. Carbohydrates are felt to be part of a balanced diet with the daily recommended allowance being 6-11 servings. However, if you talked to most dieters, they would probably tell you that they are currently avoiding carbs altogether as most diets do discourage excess carbohydrates. This is partly because carbohydrates (especially the processed kind) do often contain a large amount of sugar and large amounts of sugar can lead to weight gain. However, carbohydrates are also a very necessary part of our diet. In this blog post we will be discussing what they are, the types and their importance in our diet.
Carbohydrates are a type of macro-nutrient found in many foods and beverages. Most carbohydrates occur naturally in plant-based foods, such as grains. However, food manufacturers also add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of starch or added sugar. These are the bad (processed) carbs and the ones that most people will agree to avoid as these can lead to weight gain. Yet, there are also good (natural) carbs that are beneficial to health and important to many body processes. Common sources of naturally occurring carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, and grains all of which in moderation can be an extremely healthy addition into most diets.
Within the group of carbohydrates there are also 3 main types of carbs. The most notorious being sugar. When we eat Carbohydrates our body then breaks these carbohydrates into sugar for our body to then use. So an easier way to say this is that sugars are carbs in its simplest form. This form of carbohydrate is the most notorious when we discuss carbohydrates and its effects on diet, because it is in its simplest form more readily used as energy and most easily stored as fat. Although, again sometimes sugar occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. These types of sugar include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose) and milk sugar (lactose).
Then there are our starches. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas. It is much harder to break starch down and that is why it is a complex carbohydrate and often felt to be healthier than sugar. Finally,we have fiber. Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate. Fiber is felt to have a lot of benefit to health as discussed in our blog “The Skinny on Fiber”.
Despite their bad rap, carbohydrates are important to your health. Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. During digestion, sugars and starches are broken down into simple sugars. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream where the body then absorbs these into your cells to use as energy. This process we will discuss more in our hormone blog series, particularly when we discuss insulin. However, all you need to know at this time is that the body uses this sugar as fuel. The problem lies in the amount of sugar that we ingest, as our bodies only need a small amount of sugar to function. Any extra sugar is stored in your liver, muscles or converted to fat. The latter being the process which becomes a problem in weight, but the true problem lies in the persons intake and not in the macro-nutrient itself; for if there is no excess sugar there is no excess storage.
Carbohydrates are felt to be important to disease prevention. Like we discussed last week some evidence suggests that whole grains and dietary fiber from whole foods help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fiber may also protect against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is also essential for optimal digestive health. Additionally, there is evidence that shows that eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you control your weight.
Despite what low-carb diets claim, very few studies show that a diet rich in HEALTHY carbohydrates leads to weight gain or obesity.Carbohydrates are an essential part of any healthy diet and provide many important nutrients. Still, not all carbs are created equal in terms of their nutritional benefit, so you need to make good carb choices. Choose carbs that are fiber rich and carbs like whole grains, low fat dairy, eat more legumes such as beans, peas and lentils, with avoidance of added sugars and processed carbohydrates. Stick to these things to complete any balanced diet.
Of course like any diet there are disease processes in which a lower carb diet would be more beneficial. This would be the case in those with Diabetes and other disease processes that increase insulin resistance such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. If you have concerns regarding what diet is best for you and if you need to more closely watch your carbohydrate intake please feel free to come in and visit with one of our clinic providers.