Carbohydrate Basics

Choosing the Best Fuel

If you've ever experienced a headache, grouchy feeling, or lack of concentration because you were too hungry, you can appreciate how important it is to eat every few hours. Skipping meals won't keep your energy level up, but it's important not to grab just anything. Does it really matter what foods you eat? Absolutely! Some foods will raise your blood sugar levels too quickly and drop them like a rock in short order. These foods are the simple carbs, particularly the highly refined foods, such as white bread and candy. Simple carbs are quickly disassembled and absorbed into the bloodstream. While they can temporarily boost your energy, the effect is fleeting because they are used up so quickly. That's why snacking on a candy bar to overcome that mid-afternoon energy slump will likely have the opposite effect. Following a simple carb snack, you may soon experience a significant dip in energy or a return of hunger.

Remember the moral of Aesop's story about the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The hare's burst of energy at the start of the race put him in the lead. But he couldn't maintain the pace and fell behind. The tortoise, on the other hand, plodded along steadily and ended up winning. You can think of simple carbohydrates as the hare and complex carbohydrates as the tortoise. If you supply your body with plenty of complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes) rather than simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels will rise more slowly, and they will stay steadier. That means you'll have a more constant supply of energy -- and you'll be a winner every day.

Fiber is an essential part of your diet for many reason. Keep reading to learn more about the important role of fiber in keeping you healthy and how fiber is linked to carbohydrates.

What Are Whole Grains?
Choosing whole-grain products isn't as easy as buying the brown loaf of bread instead of the white one. Many manufacturers would like you to believe that brown automatically means whole grain. But don't be fooled. Even when a label says "multigrain," it may be made from refined flour. Be sure to check the ingredients label. If the first ingredient is whole-wheat flour or another whole-grain flour, then you know you're getting the complex carbohydrates you want. If it just says wheat flour, you're getting refined flour, and that deep brown color may have come from added caramel coloring.

What exactly are whole grains? They are the entire seed grain, or the entire edible portion of any grain, including corn, oats, rice, and others. The whole grain contains three parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ. The bran makes up the outer layers of the grain, the endosperm is the innermost part of the grain, and the germ is the smallest part, otherwise known as the wheat embryo or wheat germ. Together these three parts provide B vitamins, trace minerals, fiber, proteins, phytonutrients, and carbohydrate.

During the milling process, the endosperm is separated from the bran and germ, then ground to the desired consistency, producing white, or refined, flour. For whole-grain flour, the bran and germ are returned to the flour at the end of the process, making it more nutritious. Despite its lack of nutrients, white flour is popular because it produces lighter, airier baked goods.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.