Sunday, September 16, 2012

The New Macro Balanced Diet - Part 3, Carbohydrates

 Controlling the insulin level in your blood is very important in your effort to control your weight.  Most food cravings and hunger pains originate from quick rises in your blood sugar level and consequently, spikes in your insulin level.  What causes this rise and fall in your blood sugar level ?  The answer is, your body digesting the carbohydrates in your diet.

When you understand what carbohydrates are and how your body digest them then you can begin to balance them in your diet and therefore control the insulin level in your blood.  Once you know how to do this controlling your weight becomes a lot easier.

Carbohydrates are essential nutrients that are excellent sources of energy (measured as calories) for your body; they are the preferred fuel for your brain and nervous system.  Most carbohydrates come from plant sources and are in the form of sugars, starches, and fibers. Sugars, also called simple carbohydrates, include fruit sugar (fructose), corn or grape sugar (dextrose or glucose), and table sugar (sucrose). Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, include everything made of three or more linked sugars. Starches include foods such as breads, cereals, grains, pasta, rice, and flour. Fibers are technically classified as a starch because they are complex carbohydrates that your body cannot breakdown into sugar molecules. Fibers are more abundant in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables.

 The basic building block of every carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, a simple union of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Starches and fibers forms of carbohydrates are essentially chains of sugar molecules, some containing hundreds.  Your body breaks down all carbohydrates, except for fibers, into single sugar molecules regardless of their source. These simple sugars are further converted into glucose, also known as blood sugar. Your body is designed to use blood sugar as a universal source of fuel for energy.

 Here’s what happens when you eat a food containing carbohydrates. Your digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which then enters your blood. As your blood sugar level rises, specials cells in your pancreas churn out insulin, a hormone that signals your cells to absorb the blood sugar for energy or for storage. As your cells soak-up the blood sugar, its level in your bloodstream begins to fall. Now, your pancreas starts making another hormone called glucagon, which signals your liver to start releasing stored blood sugar. This interplay of insulin and glucagon ensures that cells throughout your body have a steady supply of blood sugar.

As I mentioned earlier, carbohydrates are an important part of your diet.  The problem is that most people get the majority of their carbohydrates form easily digested sources such as white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods.  These kind of foods are quickly converted into blood sugar, thus causing a rapid rise in your insulin level.  Insulin takes the blood sugar and stores it in your muscles for fuel and the remainder of it is stored as fat in your body.  This rapid rise and fall of insulin in your blood stream also causes energy highs and lows and food cravings. Thus, you can see that having a constant and  consistent blood sugar level is very important.

In my next post in this series I will explain how to balance protein and carbohydrates in your diet to reset your metabolism to optimize body fat as it's major fuel source.

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