Carbohydrates explained


Carbohydrates explained

Dr Gabriella Diaz

Sunday, September 06, 2020

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HOW many times have you heard someone say that they are staying away from carbs or going on a self-prescribed extremely low-carb diet?

I usually try not to cringe. Even when I hear the term going on a diet, I repeat in my mind that a diet is simply what you eat and should be sustainable.

As I have mentioned in one of my previous articles, in the Caribbean we refer to the six food groups. It has been recommended that foods should be selected from each of the groups daily. In addition, there are recommendations in terms of the proportion that each group should contribute to one's diet.

In the Caribbean food groups, carbohydrates contribute at a minimum half of the diet. When someone refers to carbs they may think it may be mostly products made from flour, rice and ground provision. However, carbs are components of legumes, nuts, milk and some coloured vegetables.

When carbohydrates are digested, the end product is glucose (sugar). Your brain and central nervous system require a continuous supply of glucose. Glucose and its storage form glycogen found in the liver and muscles provide about half of the energy muscles and other body tissues use.

It is recommended when selecting carbs to aim in the majority of instances for complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates contain fibre and usually result in a gradual and controlled release of glucose into the blood. However, carbohydrate-rich foods have varying amounts of fibre (which I will discuss in another article).

The glycemic index was developed to classify foods in accordance with their potential to raise blood glucose and how quickly it returns to normal. Foods that are categorised as low-glycemic are desirable with slow absorption, a modest rise in blood glucose and a smooth return to normal.

When a low or no carbohydrate intake is encouraged, it is replaced by proteins and fats. Without careful selection, protein-rich foods can be extraordinarily high in saturated fats which is a factor that raises LDL cholesterol and increases the risk for heart disease. High-protein diets have also been implicated in osteoporosis, kidney stone, kidney disease, and an increased cancer risk.

Weight loss occurs because most of these diets are designed to provide low-energy intakes. It is not based on protein's magical powers or carbohydrate's evil forces. While there may be dramatic weight loss within the first few days, much of this reflects loss of glycogen, protein together with large quantities of body fluids and important minerals.

When carbohydrate intake is low, lean body mass is metabolised to provide glucose. The high-protein diets do work for some people, at least for a short time. They lose weight for about the first six months, but later gains make up the difference. An ideal diet is one that can be incorporated into your lifestyle and sustained.

I'll end with a quote from Jim Rohn: “Some things you have to do every day. Eating about seven [otaheite] apples on Saturday night instead of one a day just isn't going to get the job done.”

Dr Gabriella Diaz is a medical aesthetics doctor and registered dietitian who is the director at Finesse Nutrition and Esthetics (FINE) at 129 Pro, 129 Old Hope Road, Kingston 6. Check out 876FINE on Facebook or contact her via e-mail at and 876-522-8297.

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