You’ve seen them on nutrition labels. You probably learned about them in school at one point or another. Health nuts talk about them. They’re like celebrities of the diet world. Only, they’d be the stars you find in the tabloids every week. That’s because they’ve got a bad reptuation. But what’s bad about carbohydrates and sugar?
Sugar is one hot mama when it comes to your taste buds. Just mentioning it may have gotten you dreaming of something you know isn’t far from reach in your kitchen (maybe cherries?). Resist your urges! I’ll tell you why.
Sugar, like all food, is a form of energy. It’s actually a carbohydrate. But it’s a special one called a monosaccharide, the simplest form of a carbohydrate. As a monosaccharide it will pass through your intestine and enter your bloodstream quickly. In the bloodstream your body will convert it into energy. The problem here is how fast sugar is transformed. If your body isn’t using the energy from sugar (as in exercise) your body will hold onto whatever is leftover. Where does it wind up? Typically, as fat. This isn’t always an issue, but it can become one when your body has too much fat.
So if sugars are carbohydrates, what are we talking about when we usually think of carbs? Carbs are found in almost all foods. Foods made with grains like wheat, rice and barley have the most carbs. These foods contain carbohydrates known as polysaccharides or starches. Polysaccharides take longer to break down than monosaccharides. This allows your body to create energy from them over a longer period of time. By spreading the energy out this way your body has more time to use it up. This means it’s less likely to be turned into fat.
But not all carbs are made equal. Although they are better for your body than sugar, they can still make a significant contribution to gaining weight. The worst are refined carbohydrates. These are found in white grains, white flour and white rice. These foods are made by removing the outer husk or hull from the plants they are made from.
When that outer portion is kept in your food you get whole grains, whole-wheat flour and brown rice. They all have a significant advantage over refined carbs. The husk or hull contains a large amount of fiber. Fiber can’t be broken down into energy in your body. Because it can’t, the rest of the food eaten with it takes longer to convert into energy. This gives your body plenty of time to use up the energy your food provides.
If carbohydrates and sugar were famous people then sugar would be all over the front page of trashy magazines. It’s always getting into trouble and if you hang around with it you will too. Now and then you might see a cover story on the love affair between white bread and white rice. But one carbohydrate that will always be cool to be seen with is a whole grain. Always classy and never one to ruin your day, a whole grain has your best interests at heart.
For a more in depth look at how carbohydrates and sugar interact with your body check out How to Eat Out, Lose Weight and Stay Healthy. Keep reading the Vegan Eating Out blog for more healthy nutritional tips.