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Carbs Aren’t All the Same

Carbohydrates are fundamentally molecules of sugar, and they’re a primary energy source for your body. “Carbs” get a bad rap for leading to weight gain and chronic illnesses, but they’re not inherently bad for your health. Your body needs them to function properly, in fact.

The problem is that natural carbohydrate foods, which start out whole, get "refined" by industrial food manufacturers. Refining strips the nutrients from whole foods, so when you hear that carbs are bad for your health, it’s those refined carbs that are the problem. Junk food and prepackaged, industrially manufactured meals are typically full of them. Food manufacturers often artificially fortify their products to add nutrients back into them, but, for the consumer, it’s just a consolation prize. Nutrients, as they come in whole foods, are already naturally balanced in the correct proportions for your body to efficiently digest and use as energy. This is referred to as the high bioavailability of nutrients.

And then there’s fiber. It’s another thing that gets stripped out of whole foods when they get refined. This is a big driver of weight gain and illnesses such as diabetes because (1) fiber, being indigestible, makes you feel full, and (2) it slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. When the fiber is stripped out of foods, your body loses out on those benefits.

That is to say, carbs from a donut and carbs from an apple do not affect your body in the same ways. When you eat fiber, it passes slowly through your stomach and small intestines, which makes you feel satisfied for longer. But you’ll probably be tempted to eat more than one donut because it lacks the fiber to satisfy your hunger. That makes the habit of eating donuts and other highly processed snacks a major risk factor for excessive caloric intake and weight gain.

On top of that, the donuts will spike your blood sugar level because there is no fiber in them to slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream. As your pancreas tries to produce more and more insulin for the cells of your body to absorb the sugars, the cells can start to get fed up with the bombardment of insulin and resist it. So if you’re eating a lot of ultra-processed snacks on a daily basis, the sugar concentration in your blood can get out of control, hence the onset of type 2 diabetes.

The carbs your body naturally craves are the ones that come with dietary fiber. Fiber is contained in whole fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and most people don’t get enough of it in their diet. That’s why I recommend eating salads frequently and snacking on fruits and nuts. The less industrially manufactured the food you eat is, the healthier your body is going to be.

Sayonara until next time.

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