What is a Carbohydrate and Why You Must Limit Them in 500 Words
I’ve just returned from the tropical paradise of Hawaii and while I’m still buzzing with sun and saltwater energy, I must say that I noticed something I hadn’t on my previous trips. Most of the indigenous population of Hawaii is severely overweight. You wouldn’t think so, because they spend so much time outdoors, engaging in physical activities, but it’s a fact. I couldn’t really understand why until I was offered some pineapple from a staff member of my hotel. I replied “No thanks, I’m not taking in carbs until after my workouts.” Her response was, “Pineapple has carbs?” I had just realized that so many people don’t even know what a carbohydrate is or why they should be consumed in moderation.
Carbohyrate: “any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods.” In other words, fruits, vegetables, starches like rice and potatoes, wheat, corn, sugar-these are the most common sources of human carbohydrate consumption. Why is this important and why should we limit our intake of them? The simple answer is that carbohydrates cause a rise in blood sugar, an event in which the body responds to by releasing insulin to absorb the sugar in the blood stream and shuttle it into the cell-which can then use it for energy. Sounds great right? Sure, most of us have been taught that we need lots of carbs for energy. The problem is, our cells respond well to insulin (assuming one is not diabetic) when we are young, but constant carbohydrate consumption can damage the cells, especially as we age, making them not as sensitive to insulin and therefore causing a whole host of health issues.
Additionally, if the cells are not in need of glucose (the end product of carbohydrates that cells use for energy) the rise in insulin after consuming carbs will trigger your body to shuttle the energy into you fat cells for storage. If this continues on and on, obesity and diabetes or pre-diabetes is likely to occur. So the question becomes, why should be eat carbohydrates if over consumption can cause severe health problems? Like anything, you never want too much. Carbs are very useful for repairing damaged muscle tissue and replenishing energy (glycogen) reserves in the body. If you are an endurance athlete or weight lifter, consuming carbs to aid in recovery is a great idea. Insulin is a very powerful hormone. It can make you extremely fat or extremely muscular and strong, but you have to understand how your body deals with carbs. Some people are very carb-sensitive. Others are not so much. However, as all bodies age, the ability to process carbohydrates will decrease, so it’s a wise idea to limit their consumption except when necessary for tissue repair. What about veggies? Stay tuned for the next edition……