Why Eating Certain Complex Carbs May
In the past, it was thought that eating complex carbohydrates was better than eating simple carbs because they would be absorbed into the body slower than simple carbs. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whilst it may be true for some complex carbohydrates, it is not a general rule that can be applied to all complex carbs.
Furthermore, some simple carbs are absorbed slowly into the blood stream as well. A good example is stone fruits. Since they contain a high amount of fructose (fruit sugar), once it gets absorbed into the body it needs to be taken to the liver for processing. Whilst in the liver, it may be stored as glycogen, converted into glucose and sent into the blood stream, or converted into fat. Fructose does get converted into fat easier than glucose because it skips one of the steps in processing. However, it doesn't cause the significant insulin spike as glucose does. Therefore, limit your intake of fruit to 1 or 2 pieces a day.
The reason why some complex carbohydrates may increase blood sugar levels significantly is because they start to get broken down in the mouth. This is done by the enzyme, salivary amylase. Then, by the time the complex carbohydrates reach the small intestine after being broken down even further by pancreatic amylase in the duodenum, there is often a large amount of glucose molecules ready to flow into the blood stream.
This of course increases the blood sugar level significantly, which in turn, stimulates insulin release from the pancreas, which then stores the glucose either in the muscles or liver as glycogen or in the fat cells as fat. Insulin also stops fat burning in the body.
This example is what happens when most, but not all, high-density complex carbohydrates are consumed. These include carbs like, bread, rice and cereals. The complex carbohydrates that cause a significant insulin response in the body are high glycemic index carbs as well. However, when low or medium-density carbs are consumed, the fibre in them slows down the absorption rate of the glucose. This lowers the insulin response substantially.
The medium and low-density complex carbs are the 'good carbs' and include the natural carbohydrate sources like, starchy and fibrous vegetables. Foods such as, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc. are a part of this group. These are far better options to consume on a regular basis compared to the more processed, high-density carbs. This doesn't mean you can't have the high-density complex carbs at all, it simply means you need to limit your intake of them and ensure that you have the carbs as a part of a complete meal, which has a balanced macronutrient ratio. The fat, fibre and protein from the meal will help to slow down the absorption rate of the carbohydrates.
In the past, most dieticians and nutritionists recommended people to consume 6-11 serves a day of the high-density carbs and this has been one of the reasons for the obesity epidemic we are now facing. The Food Pyramid is an example of how these high-density carbs were promoted over the last 20-30 years. Even now, after an enormous amount of research showing the consequences of a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, the food industry is still able to influence government policy when it comes to its food recommendations and guidelines.
Therefore, if you want to lose weight and improve your health overall, become very aware of your sources of complex carbs. Make sure you consume complex carbs mainly from the low and medium-density sources and limit your intake of the high-density carbs. By doing so, you will limit your body's insulin response and will improve your ability to burn off body fat and keep it off long term.
One of the best ways to control your carbohydrate intake is to simply get into the habit of carb counting just for a week or so. You can use the Macronutrient Information table that is featured in my e-book, Look Good, Feel Great!
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