Just like fats were demonized in the 80s and 90s, the new dieting trend is to denounce carbohydrates as the cause of weight gain. While it is beneficial to limit certain simple carbohydrates such as sugars due to their lack of micronutrients and high glycemic index, it is unwise to entirely or almost entirely cut carbohydrates from the diet. After all, carbohydrates are the main source of our body’s fuel.
Many people on low-carbohydrate diets find that they lose a lot of weight at the beginning – but this is mainly due to water volume loss from the carboHYDRATEs. ‘Hydrate’ means water; for ever gram of glucose (carbohydrate) consumed, there is 2.7 grams of water attached to it. If carbohydrate intake is limited, the body does not hold onto the water, and is excreted from the body – accounting for that initial weight loss. Once the body resumes eating carbohydrates, it will once again retain that water weight. Please be aware that low-carbohydrate diets can lead to dehydration for precisely this reason. So if you plan on going on a low-carbohydrate diet, remember to drink plenty of water.
Carbohydrates are a chief source of energy for all body functions and muscular exertion – they are the preferred form of energy in the body.
Carbohydrates are compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen and are generally broken down into three categories: Sugars (simple), Starches (complex), and fiber. For every gram of glucose taken out of glycogen, it brings with it 2.7g of water.
Monosaccharides = single sugar unit
- Simple sugars (dextrose, fructose, galactose)
Disaccharides = two sugar units
- Semi-complex sugars (lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Polysaccharides = long chains of monosaccharides linked together
- Complex sugars (starch, cellulose, chitin)
Carbohydrates are required for:
- Nutrition and fiber that protein and fat cannot provide
- Proper cellular fluid balance, maximizing cellular efficiency
- Spares protein for building muscle
- Central nervous system requires Carbohydrates to function
- Efficiently burn and use fat and proteins
Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that is attached to polysaccharides and is generally non-digestible by human gut enzymes. Higher intake of fiber is associated with lower rates of heart, colon, and rectal disease. The recommended daily intake of fiber is: 25g for females, and 38g for males. Fiber provides bulk in the diet, increasing satiety value, prevents constipation, and regulates absorption of glucose in the bloodstream. In foods, it appears as both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fibers, when they come in contact with water tend to become gel-like, which allows bulk to slide through the colon easier. A good example of soluble fiber would be oatmeal. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to excrement, and essentially scrubs the colon clean as it passes through. A good example of insoluble fiber would be fruit skins such as from apples and pears, and legume skins from beans.