Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will carbs make me fat?

So I'm going to get a little science-y on you today. But it's because knowledge is power. And when we know how our body works a little better, we can help ourselves feel better, heal better and make better choices.

The Basic Biology of Carbs, Sugar Addiction, and Fat Storage:

1. So we eat something. Sweets, bread and baked goods are super high in sugars and simple carbohydrates.

2. Our digestive system breaks carbs down into basic sugars (if they aren't already), which go into our blood stream to be moved around and used by our body. The more sugar we take in at once, the higher our blood sugar spikes. This generally gives us a kind of high. Ever been at a party after all the kids have their cake and brownies? Fun times.

3. Our Pancreas releases insulin to escort blood sugars and other nutrients into muscle cells. When our blood sugar is really high, our body actually sees this as an opportunity. Remember, it's trying to work for you. It takes care of all that sugar as fast as it can... which leads to a crash. What do you crave when you're feeling tired, sluggish, foggy and irritable? More sugar and more sugar now!

Sugar addiction IS this very roller-coaster ride. Your body, with good intention, does too good a job cleaning up the excessive sugar in your blood but then has nothing left. So then it screams for more sugar to meet its energy needs. We are not designed to take in a lot of sugar at once. Think about it, those kinds of food (refined flours and sugars) don't exist in nature.

4. Blood sugars and other nutrients are taken into our cells and used for energy, repair and revitalization. What isn't needed for energy right away is stored as fat. When insulin is released in large amounts, it triggers our body to begin storing the excess blood sugars as fat for later energy needs.

So will carbs make you fat?

It depends on what kind of carbs you eat (and what those carbs do to your blood sugar).

Processed, baked and packaged foods = massive amount of simple carbs (white flour, white sugar), which our body quickly breaks down and releases all at once into our blood stream, triggering huge amounts of insulin and fat storage.

Complex carbs - like those found in whole grains and root veggies - break down more slowly and release sugar into our blood stream gradually, producing no spike in blood sugar, a slow and steady release of insulin, and sustained energy for you to use as you go (not to store as fat for later).

So what do I eat: Love up your oatmeal! Eat whole fruits instead of baked goods in the morning. Focus on eating foods that have a low glycemic index or glycemic load. (What's that? - More on this next week.) Eat appropriate portion sizes of breads and pastas. Roast a big tray of carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, onions, turnips, fennel and eat them all week.

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