How Do Carbohydrates Work?
Carbohydrates are food substances that convert into glucose and provide the body with needed fuel and energy. Carbohydrate foods include; whole grains, fruits, vegetables, popcorn, potatoes and full calorie sodas.
There are a few different forms of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are the ones closest to table sugar and burn quickly inside the body. They usually only give the body a temporary energy burst and not much nutrition. Complex carbohydrates are foods that are higher in fiber and take longer for the body to burn. These types give the body more nutrition and keep blood sugar from spiking.
When you eat a carbohydrate, the body begins to convert it into glucose. This raises blood sugar levels and gives the body’s cells energy to perform needed functions. You only need a certain amount of carbohydrates each day for the body to do its job. Any more than what you need and the body will store them as fat cells for later use. This is why eating too many carbohydrates will cause us to gain weight.
Are Carbohydrates Good For You?
Many fad diets today stress getting rid of carbohydrates altogether. Truth is: our body needs some carbohydrates every day to function properly. The trick is to eat the right portions of the right carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates are good for the body. Foods that are high in fiber, take longer for the body to turn into sugars and burn. The denser the fiber in the carbohydrate, the longer the body is able to use it for fuel. One good example is oatmeal. This is a very dense complex carbohydrate and takes more time to convert to glucose and more energy to burn. A simple bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every morning is a very good carbohydrate to eat.
Simple carbohydrates are literally “empty calories.” Things like; candy, full sugar soda, table sugar and even fruit juices burn up very quickly in the body, provide little nutrition and are even stored as fat if eaten too often or in large amounts. These types of carbohydrates are not good for you and best if eaten in moderation and small amounts.
Contrary to what many may say, carbohydrates of the right type are good for you. Diets too high in protein can also be high in fat and cholesterol. On the other hand, strict vegetarian diets may also be high in fats and unhealthy carbohydrates. The trick is in knowing how much and what type to eat.
How Many Carbohydrates Should You Eat Each Day?
Aside from weight loss, your body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates each day for energy. A person with a normal or average BMI (Body Mass Index) needs approximately 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates every day. On a 2000 calorie diet, at least 900 of those calories need to come from carbohydrates. Any less than that and you will feel drained and tired.
When checking for calories related to carbohydrates, just take a quick look at the nutrition labeling on the foods that you eat. Next to carbohydrates, the amount is listed in grams. Off to the far right, there is the percentage of calories those carbohydrates provide.
Another way to look at carbohydrates is with the glycemic index. This compares the carbohydrate foods that you eat to pure table sugar. With table sugar equaling the number 100, each carbohydrate food is placed on the scale according to how high it raises the blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates tend to be lower on the scale, while simple carbohydrates are higher on the scale since they are closer to table sugar. (See Figure 1)
Many dieticians are now teaching people how to use the glycemic index no matter what their weight status is. It is a healthier way to look at and eat carbohydrates and many people state that they no longer crave “bad” carbohydrates.
Based on how high the number is on the glycemic index, you can eat just about anything. If the number is higher on the scale and closer to sugar, then your portion is less. The lower the number of the food, the more of it you can enjoy. Even diabetics can eat on this diet and gain better control over blood sugars without having to pass on foods that they love. It is all in the portion control.
The exciting part is many carbohydrate foods that people may have been passing on just might have been the ones they should have been eating all along. For example; just a few slices of canned peaches are over 60 on the glycemic index. That’s compared to two whole handfuls of cherries. One handful of cherries is only 30, so you could technically eat twice the amount and feel satisfied!
Figure 1: Glycemic Index
Photo Courtesy of: foodtalkwithamanda.wordpress.com
How to Cut Carbohydrates To Lose Weight?
In order for weight loss to be healthy, your body needs a required amount of carbohydrates for energy. You can cut carbohydrates slightly to help increase weight loss, but the answer is in how many carbohydrates you burn off. This is done by increasing exercise and eating the right amounts of the right carbohydrates listed above.
You will need to burn more carbohydrates than you take in, instead of the other way around. It is unhealthy to take in less than 100 grams of carbohydrates daily, so cutting carbohydrates a little bit may be okay. Just make sure you are eating enough to give your body energy. When you go into a nutritional deficit i.e. cutting too many carbohydrates, your body will store anything you take in as new fat cells. Just use an exercise chart to help balance your intake of carbohydrates with the amount you burn. (See Figure 2)
Figure 2: Calorie Burning Chart
Photo Courtesy of: healthinessbox.com
The proof is, if you do not eat enough carbohydrates your body will burn less calories according to the following chart. (See Figure 3)
Figure 3: Calories burned High Protein vs. Some Carbohydrates
Photo Courtesy of: weightology.net
If you want to lose weight, you need a moderate daily intake of carbohydrates in order to remain healthy and lose weight. You will need to increase your exercise in order to burn more carbohydrates than you take in each day.
Eating a diet such as; the glycemic index style diet will give you a healthy and lower intake of good carbohydrates to provide your body with needed energy and fuel to function properly.
Anyone starting a new type of diet should get a thorough physical evaluation prior to starting a new eating and/or exercise routine.