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Understanding carbs
Are they good or bad?

07/03/14
By Joel Bergeron



 Years ago, carbohydrates were turned into the culprit for weight gain by popular media. Almost everywhere we looked, products claiming fewer carbohydrates were made available to try and capture more of our business. There were even commercials on TV advertising beer as a great exercise recovery drink since it had low carb content.  But despite some sensational claims, are carbs really that bad for us?

Carbohydrates are commonly labeled as sugar. However, it’s important to understand there are two different categories: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest and are found in foods such as whole grains, breads, pastas and cereals. Simple carbohydrates stem from things such as candy, soda, deserts, and even fruits and vegetables.
The Food and Drug Association recommends that 50 to 55 percent of the calories you consume come from carbohydrates. Of that recommendation, the majority should be complex, with 5 to 10 percent of that percentage being simple sugars. Complex carbs have more nutritional value, including things such as fiber, which slows the digestive process, gives a sense of fullness, curtails are desire to overeat and also significantly reduces the risk for diseases such a diverticulitis (intestinal inflammation). 
Simple carbs just don’t have many redeeming characteristics. They contribute to weight gain, along with a myriad of health problems such as diabetes, increased hunger, mental fatigue and high blood pressure. Eating low-quality foods such as cookies, soft drinks (including your morning iced coffee), and desserts should be kept to a bare minimum or avoided completely. These all contain refined sugars and offer little nutritional value.  
Simple sugars cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry again in as little as half an hour. If you keep eating these, you put on extra weight because of extra calories. Weight gain contributes to declining health, even if you’re exercising regularly. 
If you are craving sugar, eat a piece of fruit.  Naturally occurring sugars found in fruit contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals along with plenty of fiber, which is our friend. It’s OK to have some simple sugars in your diet — as long as they are of the healthy variety.
Eating carbohydrates is part of a normal, balanced diet.  Understanding the difference between bad and good carbs is as simple as knowing what are in the foods you eat. Aim to avoid simple sugars and focus on having healthy complex sugars in your meals. Including protein from things such as lean meats or lentils helps slow down the digestive process, leaving you full for a longer period of time, and helping you avoid future health problems. But don’t be afraid of eating carbs. And remember this: your heart and brain function exclusively on carbohydrates — so eliminating them from your diet is a bad idea.
Do you have a question about health and fitness that you’d like answered in the Healthy Hippo? Email Joel Bergeron at info@nlpstrength.com. Joel is a former NCAA D1 and professional sports coach and holds a master’s degree in sport science. Be sure to check with your doctor before changing your eating habits or embarking on a new exercise program. 
 
As seen in the July 3, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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