Carbohydrates are probably one of the most controversial topics in the health, nutrition, and fitness world. I think that's because there is such an enormous span in the quality of carbohydrates. They can be a marvelous source of rich nutrients that support your wellbeing, or be the reason you develop a chronic, debilitating disease. In this post, I explain carbs in a way that I hope will guide you to make the healthiest choices...
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (along with protein and fats.) They are one source of fuel for your body’s cells. They can be used as quick-burning fuel, or when eaten in excess, they are stored as fat for future use. All carbohydrates are composed of sugar molecules. They may be simple or complex molecules. Simple contain 1 or 2 sugar molecules; complex contain 3 or more.
What is a starch? Plants convert individual glucose sugar molecules into starchy carbohydrates, which are polysaccharides ("many sugars"). Starches are then broken back down into simple sugars in the body when digested.
Starches are found in:
Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate (also a polysaccharide) that cannot be digested. All plant foods have fiber in different amounts. There are 3 types of fiber: soluble, insoluble, and lignans.
Fiber can be very beneficial to health:
Fructose is a sugar of special note/notoriety. It is found primarily in fruits and fruit juices, honey, agave nectar, and corn syrup. It is metabolized in the liver (vs. the gut) and gets directly converted to fat. When fructose is found in whole foods, like an apple, it's balanced by other nutrients and fiber. On the other hand, fructose in isolated form is very problematic and harmful to health. You may be surprised to learn that processed fruit juices and agave nectar are mostly fructose (and not so healthy after all)! Dr. Robert Lustig is a foremost expert on fructose and has given an extremely popular talk called, "Sugar: The Bitter Truth". It is definitely worth the time to watch.
Jenny Yelle, MHNE Holistic Wellness Educator
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