Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Carbs: They're taking over the world.

There was a time in my life when I was scolded for eating a corn tortilla chip... For the carbs within it. The carbs. Not the grease, nor the excess salt. Nope just the carbs. Cause everyone knows "corn and carbs make you fat".

This is when my skepticism for carb haters began. Maybe because corn is basically my favorite veggie. There's just so many applications for it! (More on that in a future post!) For my skepticism to be credible, I had to learn all about carbs.

Here's the breakdown:

A carbohydrate is a macromolecule (macro due to larger size) made of carbon and water (hydrogen and oxygen). While most associate a carb with starch or sugar, carbohydrates play integral roles in everything from our DNA and RNA to energy storage. The D in DNA and the R in RNA are deoxyribose and ribose. Both are monosaccharides. Carbohydrates are called saccharides or sugars, for the smaller carb molecules. Sugars supply living bodies with immediate energy while starches (another form of carbohydrate) take longer for the digestive system to breakdown, thus, providing less immediate energy. See, carbs are everywhere! They are a product of photosynthesis. You know, that thing every plant does to live? So, in actuality, practically everything humans eat has some form of carb in it. 

Granted, too much of anything is a bad thing. For example, did you know you can even have too much water?? Yep! Water poisoning is real and very damaging. Here's an AWESOME article on that: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill

The list of good versus bad carbohydrates is common. The good is complex carbs, the bad is simple carbs. Complex carbs include whole grains, fruits, veggies (aka plants). Simple ones include sugars, refined bread (aka processed yuck). So yes, while corn tortilla chips are not the epitome of a good carb, it's not as "poisonous" as a carb hater would have you believe. 

There's more variation to consider amongst carbs, as well. Most notably, these variations are tracked by the Glycemic Index. The GI of a carbohydrate can help determine whether the food will give you immediate energy or energy later on. High GI foods, such as rice cakes (GI=123) and a baked potato (GI=121), restore the glycogen in muscle much quicker after a workout than low GI foods do. On the other hand, low GI foods, such as dried apricots (GI=44) and split yellow peas (GI=45), can increase endurance during strenuous workouts. Sugar, or sucrose, has a GI of 87 and enters your bloodstream at around 30 calories per minute. Complex carbohydrates enter at more like 2 calories per minute. So snacking on dried apricots before a work out gives you longer sustained energy due to the lower rate of absorption. A rice cake or two after your workout will get the glycogen to your weary muscles more than 15 times faster than if you munched on those apricots again. 

So instead of stressing, or obsessing, about what you can and cannot eat when it comes to carb intake, just eat plants. No plant contains bad carbs. No simpler, more effective solution exists!

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