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CARBOHYDRATES.  SIMPLE CARBS AND COMPLEX CARBS, ARE THEY GOOD FOR US OR ARE THEY BAD FOR US?

By Dr. Keith E. Lewis
May 21, 2008

Carbohydrates certainly are and have been the most controversial type of food in the American diet today. Are carbs good? Are they bad? What is a good carb? What is a bad carb? It is very confusing for most people. Carbohydrates are, however, one of the most varied of the three nutrient types. Carbohydrates include starches such as bread and potatoes as well as sugars. They also contain things we think are good for us, like fruits and vegetables and of course everybody's favorite chocolate.

Americans typically consume excessive numbers of carbohydrate through the course of the day. If the carbohydrates are not converted to sugar to be used for energy, they typically get stored as fat, so carbohydrates can make you fat. Most carbohydrates do come from plants.

Carbohydrates come in two basic groupings. They are the simple carbohydrates and the complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are often called simple sugars. These include fructose which is fruit sugar; sucrose, table sugar; and lactose, which is milk sugar. Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugars but their molecular structure contains longer and more complex chains of sugars.  These carbohydrates include fibrous foods and starches. Foods high in complex carbohydrates include most green vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Your body needs carbohydrate for many reasons. They are the main source of blood glucose, the major fuel for our cells, and the only source of energy for both the brain and the red blood cell. So yes, you do need carbohydrates. If you do not need carbohydrate, you will die.

Simple and complex carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the small intestine. The glucose proceeds into the liver, your body's phenomenal processing system. The liver then converts the glucose into glycogen, stores up glycogen and subsequently converts it back to glucose as needed by our cells.  The liver also makes sure your blood stream is getting only the glucose the body needs. So, what happens with the extra glucose or the excess carbohydrate intake? You guessed it. Your liver converts the excess glucose into fatty acid and stores in its body fat. Your brain with its many complex chemical reactions gets a mild tranquilizing effect when you eat carbs. Carbs lift serotonin levels which is why many people when depressed or anxiety levels are very high, turn to carbohydrates because the serotonin levels do have a calming effect and give that person a feeling of emotional well being.

To briefly summarize, carbohydrates includes starches, sugars, fruits, and vegetables. Glycemic indexing rates carbohydrates by how they raise blood sugar level which can cause the body to store fat. For weight loss and for health reasons, it is important to eat more low glycemic carbohydrates and fewer starches. Eat starches as a condiment, meaning have a taste or two not a whole portion because starches are usually high glycemic and cause the body to store fat. You cannot go wrong eating green vegetables because they are packed with good nutrition. They have plenty of fiber and are low glycemic, meaning they do not cause your body to store fat and they do not cause abrupt fluctuation in blood sugar level. If you are vegetarian, make sure you have not also become a starchitarian.

If you are experiencing any signs of deficiency or any symptoms, I would recommend contacting your physician.

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