Yes, We Need Our CarbohydratesMar 07, 2023
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients, along with fat and protein. They are a source of energy found in foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, corn, bread, flour, pasta and beans. Dietary carbohydrates are divided into two categories: simple and complex.
Simple Carbohydrates consist of one or two sugar molecules (i.e. saccharides). These usually have names that end it -ose, as in sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, etc. Because they're small, simple carbohydrates are broken down very quickly in the digestive tract, sending a surge of sugar into the bloodstream. The pancreas then sends out insulin to take care of all the sugar, causing blood sugar levels to drop dramatically.
If this pattern happens repeatedly, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) develops. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include sugar cravings, fatigue after eating, and feeling "hangry" (hungry + angry) between meals. Left untreated, hypoglycemia can turn into insulin resistance, which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar). Simple carbohydrates are often found in processed foods like soda, candy and baked goods.
Complex Carbohydrates consist of several sugar molecules attached together (i.e. polysaccharides). They can be found in any food that contains fiber: whole grains, beans, fruit and vegetables. Because complex carbohydrates are large, they are much slower to digest than simple carbohydrates. This means that the sugar is released into the bloodstream more slowly. The pancreas follows suit by releasing insulin more slowly, so there's no sudden drop in blood sugar or symptoms associated with hypoglycemia.
Dietary carbohydrates are necessary, but if you're dealing with conditions like diabetes, excess weight, chronic inflammation, yeast overgrowth, etc. you'll want to stick to complex carbohydrates, and limit the amount you consume. Even in small quantities, complex carbohydrates can cause issues for some people.
Sometimes taking a step away from most sources of dietary carbohydrates and eating a diet rich in whole foods can help reset and rebalance your blood sugar, which will help you control cravings.
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