This is Part 3 in the Nutrition series.
Both refined sugar and white flour are carbohydrates. Because overconsumption of these two processed foods is linked to unhealthy weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems, they’ve given carbohydrates a bad name. But carbohydrates are our main source of energy for life. They are the single most important nutrient in the human diet.
There is a huge difference between the carbohydrates in sugar and white flour and the carbohydrates in whole grains, potatoes, and fruit. The complex carbohydrates in whole foods are combined with important enzymes and fiber that aid in digestion and assimilation, and because they take longer to digest, the sugar in them is transported to the liver gradually in a way that is easy for the liver to receive. The reason that carbohydrates in processed foods are linked to obesity and diabetes is because processed carbohydrates like refined sugar quickly overwhelm the liver with a sudden rush of glucose, and the liver is forced to convert that sugar into fat to prevent dangerous spikes in blood sugar levels.
People often cut back on carbohydrates in order to lose weight, but our bodies need carbohydrates, no matter what. If we don’t eat them, then our bodies make them by converting fats and protein. The conversion of fat into carbohydrates is an important source of energy for cardiovascular exercise and steady energy levels throughout the day. That’s why about 25% of our intake should be healthy fat. But if we starve our bodies of carbohydrates, then our bodies go into emergency mode. At first, that may look like weight loss as our bodies begin to use our body fat for energy, but in the long run, that emergency starvation response also triggers the body to store more fat. If we cut back on carbohydrates and fats for too long, then our bodied begin to digest themselves, converting the protein of our muscles and organs into carbohydrates so that we can stay alive. That is a bad thing.
The best sources of healthy, enzyme-rich carbohydrates are whole grains, potatoes, and fruits. A balanced diet combined with daily cardiovascular exercise should consist of about 50-55% carbohydrates from whole foods. If you aren't getting daily cardiovascular exercise, then you aren't burning your calories and they may accumulate as fat. Rather than just reducing your carbs to lose weight, eat whole foods and exercise at least 45 minutes every day.