You’re Avoiding What?!

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Intro

Let’s talk!  I’d like to get a few things straight when it comes to carbohydrates…

Many people when they learn I’m a dietitian tell me about how they are avoiding carbohydrates.  Now I understand what they are trying to say “they are avoiding nutritionally-void carbohydrates”.  But as a dietitian, I cringe a little.  Here’s why…

Preferred Fuel Source

Carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source – our energy level runs on carbohydrates.  The body doesn’t really care where it comes from but it does like a more constant supply.  In the body that supply is converted to blood sugar (glucose).  It’s very important we realize what this means.  The body does not efficiently utilize protein or fat as fuel.  It basically has to find a way to convert something that is not glucose into glucose.  The body is amazing and adaptable and will find a way but this is a “back-up” system.  It is not meant to do this on a routine basis.

Sources

So when you say you are avoiding carbohydrates.  Do you realize you just told me you are avoiding fruit, vegetables, milk, yogurt, beans, whole grains etc.  This is why as a dietitian, I cringe inside.  The last thing our body needs is to avoid these nutrient dense sources of glucose.  These sources have big bang for our glucose “buck”!  They are filling not just the need for carbohydrate (a very important need), but also providing micronutrients (vitamins, minerals), fiber and antioxidants.

The carbs I’m hoping you are limiting in your diet are the pure sugars and refined products such as enriched breads, cereals, white rice and any other product that is low in fiber and low in nutrients – chips, candy, cakes, muffins, etc. etc…

Let’s Talk About A Constant Supply

One key with carbohydrates that I wish everyone understood is that it is extremely important to have a constant supply in our system.  That is why we have levels we expect the blood sugars to be at when we are tested.  That circulating blood sugar provides a constant supply of energy to our nervous system.  You know, the brain and nerves throughout the body, which are working all the time.   When you eat an “empty carbohydrate” it will spike our blood sugars and then our response ends up causing a drop in sugars which then signals us to eat more.  So it makes complete sense we want to avoid those ups and downs.

The best way to avoid the ups and downs is to eat nutrient dense carbohydrates – especially those with fiber as fiber slows down the blood sugar response to that carbohydrate.  BUT, it is also very important to eat protein and a little fat with your carbs.  That really is what will help with a constant supply of blood sugar in the body.  When your body has to digest proteins and fats (a very slow process), it takes longer for those carbs you are eating to enter the blood stream as well.

SO, for example, if you have just a piece of fruit at a snack you may find yourself hungry pretty quickly.  Sure the fruit has fiber, but primarily the body only had to digest the carbs.  IF you have a handful of nuts with your piece of fruit, or a piece of cheese, then you are also eating protein and fat.  This causes your blood sugars to remain steadier and therefore you feel full longer!

Conclusion

I hope this helps you to understand the meaning behind “Carbs”.  Carbs are important for our energy levels they are important as a constant fuel source and they are important for the other nutrients they contain.  If you want to tell me about how you are doing nutritionally by avoiding empty calories, let’s talk!![/fusion_text]