If you’re worried about how many carbohydrates you eat, you’re worried about the wrong part of your diet. Don’t think about food in terms of carbs, focus instead on eating raw, whole foods. Fruits and vegetables offer the promise of optimal wellness. Their nutrients can spell the difference between enjoying great health or succumbing to chronic disease.
To understand complex carbohydrates, think of long chains of the sugar molecules found in nearly all plant foods. The words starch, cellulose and lignin all refer to these long, relatively stiff chains of 300 to more than 1,000 sugar molecules (or even more) that are made by nature. A large amount of research has been performed trying to understand the effects that complex carbohydrate food has on the risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Let’s look at what low glycemic complex carbohydrate foods do for heart health according to a study reported in a 2010 Archives of Internal Medicinearticle. This analysis revealed significant effects in women. Over a period of about eight years, among 47,749 people, the researchers found that women who consumed the most carbohydrates doubled their heart disease risk compared to those who ate the least. For men, the same analysis showed no differences.
You’ll notice that in this study researchers observed consumption of carbohydrate food and its effects on heart disease risk. However, they did not specify which other foods were consumed and also if people’s overall diets were high in nutrient-rich foods. The researchers recommended generally consuming lower glycemic carbohydrate foods, such as “oats, barley and bran in breakfast cereals… (and) wholegrain breads (while) cutting down on the amounts of potatoes consumed…” They also recommended “all types of fruits and vegetables, basmati rice, pasta, noodles, quinoa and salad vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing.”
Obviously, not all foods high in carbohydrate affect your health in the same way. For example, cooked potatoes, pasta and noodles really don’t do much to promote health. These don’t give nearly the health benefits of micronutrient-rich foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, oats and whole grains.
To take my point even further, consider that even whole grains are mostly missing active vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, phytochemicals and omega-3 oils after they’ve been milled down to flour. And they may even lose more nutrients when they are cooked into bread. You’re better off eating whole grains that have been soaked or even sprouted (a process that transforms grains to vegetables).
The micronutrient concentration that is higher in natural food (and especially raw whole foods) is what really produces health-promoting effects, not just the carbohydrate content. Processed foods that are far from their natural forms and are low in micronutrients are the most inflammatory.
The most notoriously health-damaging, inflammatory things you can eat are snack foods that predominately consist of refined sugars, white flour or other refined and processed complex carbohydrate. These include potato chips, corn chips, cookies, pretzels, donuts, cakes and crackers. In excess, these foods create a chronic inflammatory condition in the body. Eventually, this inflammation produces the pre-diabetic condition known as metabolic syndrome, which now afflicts as many as 25 percent of American adults. This chronic inflammation derives from a rapid rise in blood sugar and a corresponding insulin spike caused by these foods (described here).
This widespread overload of the pancreas and liver metabolic control mechanisms has led to an epidemic of diabetes mellitus which now afflicts one in 14 Americans. Diabetes increased by more than 100 percent from 1980 to 2003 in America, while the total U.S. population increased by only 18 percent.
Too Many Pounds
The typical American diet filled with low-nutrient complex carbohydrates and sugar has also produced soaring rates of obesity and weight gain. A 2003 report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that childhood overweight and obesity rates had risen to 30 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 11. Most notably, the report pointed out that as these children consumed more and more fast foods and soft drinks, their average body weight climbed by nearly 300 percent between 1977 and 1996.
It’s time to look at carbohydrates and sugars from the perspective of how close to nature they are. Think about how you can transform your health with fresh-juiced vegetables and fruits, along with fruit-and-nut smoothies every day. Fresh juice and smoothies are the most nutrient-rich sweet foods you can find because they are filled with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants and dietary fiber. You should limit fruits you consume that are highly glycemic, such as pineapple, banana, dates or raisins. But if you substitute vegetables in place of sweet fruits, you can boost the nutrient concentration of your smoothies.
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