Carb confusion

Think you're shunning this nutrient? You aren't, and shouldn't be


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‘I haven’t eaten a single carb in months,” said an acquaintance who was on what she considered to be a health kick in advance of an upcoming Caribbean vacation.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/09/2015 (2741 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

‘I haven’t eaten a single carb in months,” said an acquaintance who was on what she considered to be a health kick in advance of an upcoming Caribbean vacation.

She uttered the words as she ate a green salad filled with chopped vegetables.

“You’re actually eating carbs right now,” I told her. She looked confused.

Many people are misinformed about carbohydrates, or carbs as they are called. This set of nutrient compounds has been given a bad rap over the past decade with the resurgence of low-carb regimens such as the Atkins diet.

But not all carbs are bad for your health. And even if you think you’ve shunned them from your diet, in reality, you probably haven’t.

As someone with Type 1 diabetes, the word carbohydrate has been part of my vernacular since childhood. That’s because all carbs (except for fibre) are the foods that raise blood sugar levels. Carbs require insulin to move them out of the blood and into the body’s cells.

Most people think of carbs as grains and sugars. But foods such as tomatoes, carrots and avocados are also important sources of carbs.

Here’s what you need to know about this misunderstood nutrient:

— Carbs are sugars, starches and fibre. The primary function of carbs (except fibre) is to provide energy for your body.

— Although fibre is technically a carbohydrate, it isn’t metabolized by your body or converted into sugar in your body.

— When you ingest carbs, they are converted into glucose. Insulin, a hormone produced by your pancreas, then helps your blood glucose enter your cells, where it’s used for energy.

— Carbs are essential to brain and body function.

— Carbs are classified into simple and complex forms.

— Simple carbs are made up of sugars. These are digested very easily and therefore can cause blood sugar spikes. These spikes can lead to long-term heath problems, including vascular damage.

— Complex carbs are in starchy foods such as bread and beans. Even though white bread is a complex carb, it floods the bloodstream with sugar faster than whole-grain bread.

— Beans/legumes are a slowly digested source of carbs that also contain generous amounts of protein and fibre.

— Whole grain products are often considered “good” carbs because they take longer to digest and tend to cause fewer blood sugar spikes. But even whole-grain products can raise blood sugar levels quite quickly. (Brown rice tends to raise mine quickly. It contains very little fibre, which tends to slow absorption of sugar into the blood).

— The glycemic index, a scale used to measure the so-called “glycemic load” of foods, is not a great way to determine whether a food will cause blood sugar spikes, especially for anyone with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. A better method is calculating grams of carbs in your serving size.

— Health Canada recommends carbs make up 45 per cent of your daily caloric intake. Many experts believe this amount is too much, particularly people with high blood sugar issues.

— Athletes such as marathon runners could benefit from ingesting simple sugars before they complete intense sports. Such exercises need a flood of sugar in their bodies since their bodies will use the sugar up quickly during exercise.

— A lower carb food item will contain five grams or less in a serving. (To calculate the carb count in your food, be sure to subtract the fibre grams, since they are not metabolized).

— The pulp in boxed, pure orange juice (a simple carb) does not significantly increase its fibre content.


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