Today’s topic was a reader’s request. The reader asked, “What carbohydrates are healthy, and should we be avoiding fructose in our diet?”
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a client who hasn’t tried a low-carb diet. However, humans have eaten carbohydrates for thousands of years. Therefore, it’s safe to say carbohydrates are not ‘bad guys’ when it comes to your health.
The nutrition world now recognizes that long-term, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diets can have negative impacts on stress and sex hormone production. Think of each hormone as a mail man who is to deliver a secret message that will regulate the body’s systems and functions. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong if the mail man gets lost and the message does not get sent. A higher carbohydrate diet is actually known to improve hormone production.
Carbohydrates are one of the essential three macronutrients, it’s a main fuel sources, and one of the main building blocks of the body. The other two macronutrients are protein and fat. Carbohydrates are very important, but the type you eat does impact your blood sugar, belly fat and hormone production.
The three-main types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fiber. Along the way, the nutrition world has sorted these three types into either ‘simple’ or ‘complex’. However, let’s simplify this a bit more.
The bad, simple carbohydrates are all the low-fiber, highly processed ones that include all the refined sugars, corn syrups, fruit juice concentrates, white pastas, pastries and breads created from refined and processed flours. They contain very little to no fiber and usually come with little to no healthy vitamins and minerals.
The good, complex carbohydrates are high-fiber ones found naturally in unprocessed foods that still contain essential nutrients your body needs. These foods include vegetables, whole fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes, potatoes and whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and oats.
Simple carbohydrates provide you with energy (the spike and crash type), but lack nutrients to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Complex carbohydrates are healthier, because they are also providing fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients that promote good health.
Let’s clear up one more carbohydrate myth around fructose, which is a type of sugar found in carbohydrates. Fructose is metabolized in the liver, and the large amount and type found in high fructose corn syrup and other processed carbohydrates puts an unhealthy load on your liver. Many dietitians advise clients to avoid fructose; however, the fructose contained in fruits and unprocessed carbohydrates does not have the same effect. This type comes with fiber, antioxidants, and other great nutrients that make it a healthy part of a well-balanced meal plan.
The ugly part of carbohydrates is the sheer volume of processed sugars and refined flours we are eating, and this is what has turned a healthy macronutrient into a disease-causing crisis. To improve your health, pay attention to whether your carbohydrate sources are coming from processed or unprocessed foods?
Fran Sutherlin is a registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition in Bayfield. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.