We have seen how carbohydrates are key energetic nutrients for our body.
They provide energy to fuel our brain, our muscles, and all of our tissues.
They allow us to spare proteins for more important functions.
To use fats more efficiently, and help us regulate hunger and satiety.
A diet with too little carbs would be highly unbalanced.
Adults need 130 G of carbs a day.
This is the minimum amount of carbohydrates that are necessary to supply adequate energy to our brain and red blood cells without the need for emergency measures, such as the production of ketone bodies or protein breakdown to make glucose.
The acceptable macronutrient distribution range for carbohydrates is 45%-65% of the total energy intake.
Muscle activity requires carbohydrates
For a 2000 kilocalories diet, that would be 900 to 1300 calories from carbs, which divided by 4 calories per gram, corresponds to 225 to 325 grams of carbs.
In practical terms, we don’t really need to worry about meeting our daily carbohydrate intake.
it’s very easily met and exceeded.
What we really need to pay attention to is choosing the best sources of carbs, especially whole grains, legumes, and fruit, while we need to limit added sugar and refined grains as much as possible.
Unfortunately, not only our average diet provides way too many carbs, but most of them come from the worst sources: sweetened soft drinks, sweets, candies, and refined grains.
These are all empty calories since it’s justs sugar without other nutrients or bioactive.
Let’s recap why too many carbohydrates can be very detrimental to our health.
First, because they can provide excess energy in general, leading to weight gain and obesity.
Let me underscore one more time that our body takes whatever carbohydrate is in excess, and turns it into fat that will be stored in our adipose tissue.
Then, we have seen how frequent and exaggerated blood glucose and insulin peaks lead to fat deposition, dyslipidemia, water retention, hypertension, inflammation and increased risk for type II diabetes.
There’s also another problem associated with carbohydrates which is tooth decay.
Prolonged exposure to carbohydrates, both simple sugar and starches, causes tooth decay leading to dental cavities and gum disease because acid-producing bacteria that erode the tooth enamel thrive on carbs.
For this reason, it is advised to brush your teeth or at least rinse your mouth thoroughly every time after you eat something.
Also, keep in mind that if you slowly suck on candies, lollipops, sugary gums, or slowly sip sugary sodas and juices, you are providing these bacteria with a constant stream of sugar.
Finally, we need to mention that excess sugar consumption has been suspected of causing hyperreactivity and other behavioural problems in children.
These claims, however, have never been supported by strong scientific evidence.
The only thing extra sugar does is providing extra energy
But so do extra lipids and extra proteins as well.
In the second half of the twentieth century, especially in the US, the “fear of fats” was banged into the population’s brain with food pyramids and public health campaigns.
The message to the consumer was basically: eat low fat, and everything’s going to be fine.
Unfortunately, this resulted in a series of initiatives of the disastrous outcome.
US people did not adopt the eating patterns of those countries, like Japan or the Mediterranean countries, where researchers had observed the low incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Rather, low fat meant the introduction of a plethora of new food industry products where fat was artificially removed, but to maintain taste and texture, a lot of sugar was added in its place.
A low-fat yoghurt may have less than 0.1% of fat but can have as much as 30 grams of sugar per serving. Coke? No fat, no cholesterol.
We’re in business. But 37 grams of sugar per can. Bagels, muffins, pancakes, cupcakes, cookies… Amazing! They can be made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, very little saturated fats, very little lipids, just a tiny bit trans fats.
But sugar, sugar and then sugar. Bread, pasta, pizza, rice, noodles.
Greenlight! They are at the basis of the food pyramid
after all, aren’t they? All nice, white and refined. Sugar, sugar, sugar. And little else.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the average American or European were consuming as molasses.
Today, little more than two centuries later, sugar consumption is 50-60 kg per person per year, on average.
That’s 150 grams of sugar every day, about seven full spoons, mostly as white sugar or glucose and fructose syrups.
Well, I don’t use seven spoonfuls of sugar every day, you may think.
Just two or three teaspoons in my coffee.
Right, that’s the sugar you add yourself.
The other six spoons you are eating have already been added to the food you buy, and are hidden in your juices, ice-creams, yoghurts, chocolate, sodas, cookies, turnovers, breakfast cereals, candies, dressings, and many many more.
To our body, there is no difference if we add the sugar ourselves or if it’s hidden in what we buy
It’s seven tablespoons full of sugar that we eat every day.
But unfortunately, there’s more.
Most of our complex carbohydrates, such as starch, come from white and refined cereals, such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, and every product baked with white refined flour, as most of our bagels, muffins, doughnuts, cookies, pizzas, biscuits, and the like.
These complex carbohydrates are so easily accessible to our digestive enzymes that they turn them into simple sugars within a few minutes.
These foods are absorbed very quickly.
Remember, once these simple sugars are absorbed, to our body there’s no difference whether they come from a bite
of white bread, a glass of coke, or straight from the sugar bowl.
It’s exactly the same molecules, with the same effect on blood glucose levels and insulin release.
If we consider that on average, we eat another these foods, for our body it’s as if we were eating another seven to ten spoons, for a total of 14 to 17 spoons full of sugar every day.
This is way too much.
Here are some things you can do to improve your diet:
Carefully check the food labels ingredients list for added sugar.
Steer clear of juices, drinks, yoghurts or cookies if sugar appears, especially in the top positions of the list.
Sugar, sucrose, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn sugar, invert sugar, syrup, maltose, molasses.
These are all label names that must be interpreted as sugar.
Don’t add sugar yourself. Not to your fruit, not to your coffee, not to your oatmeal. Just don’t keep any sugar at home.
It only takes a couple of weeks to completely re-train your taste after you stop adding sugar.
After that little sacrifice, you will fully enjoy your foods again.
Whenever you eat white bread or a bakery item made with white refined flour, visually associate it with the image of the sugar bowl.
You are eating sugar.
This will motivate you to look for the whole grain alternatives.
Even if they don’t contain added sugar, fruit juices still contain significant amounts of sugars, coming naturally from the fruit.
Drinking a juice is not the same as eating the whole fruit
There’s no fibre to lower the GI, and it’s easier to drink more than you would eat.
If you drink a lot of juice, dilute it with water.
Remember, the goal of these products is to help you get plenty of fluids, not to replace fruit!