|The Latest Trends In Carbohydrate Nutritionism|
|Written by By Alex Kraft, ND, L.Ac|
In the world of nutrition, carbohydrates can’t seem to find their proper place. In the world of nutrition, carbohydrates (or carbs for short) are essentially sugars existing as individual or more complex units.
There are varying amounts of fiber and other nutrients that go along with the carbs, but you can’t take away the fact that they are some form of sugar.
Now nutritionism, as the author Michael Pollan describes the scientific complication of basic food facts, can’t seem to come to consensus as to what we as the general public should do with regards to carbs.
Why is that?
Well, let’s start by clarifying some nutrition definitions. Carbohydrates are most easily broken down into two main categories: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are those that come from whole grains, meaning grains that have either not been processed or are minimally processed and so still have all the fiber, nutrients, and long chains of sugars inherent to their natural form. Examples of these include whole oats, whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley and millet. Simple or refined carbs are those that have either by nature or by manufacturing been "cut up" into smaller sugar molecules and have had some or all of their fiber removed. Examples of simple carbohydrates would include basic sugar, white bread, white rice, potatoes and yes, even pasta.
At this time in history, there is general consensus that simple carbohydrates are not good for our health. Diets rich in white bread, pasta and pastries are never promoted as the key to long life and trim figures. While our bodies and brains require sugar to function, we now know that diets high in simple carbohydrates contribute to many of the diseases of modern culture: diabetes, obesity, and even heart disease. So complex carbohydrates are good for us, right? Maybe. Various health programs, doctors, and medical advisers including the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, TV’s medical guru Dr. Oz, and now even Weight Watchers argue that together with plenty of fruits and vegetables, having a diet rich in whole grains is beneficial to your health. Complex carbs contain nutrients and fiber to regulate our digestion, moderate the speed of sugar absorption, regulate our cholesterol and even provide a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria (i.e. acidophilus) of our digestive system. And this is the position that most naturopaths have promoted over the years as well – complex carbs are good. But as various journalists and researchers such as Gary Taubes and Michael Pollan point out, grains have really only been part of the human diet for the past ten thousand years. Now of course that’s a very long time, but in our 2.5 million year evolution, it’s still a rather recent occurrence. What that brings up is that historically, we spent a long time eating … something else.
But, to keep the tables turning, in modern times we have largely taken natural selection out of the equation of human evolution.
Humans have few natural predators left in the world and due to the population explosion, we have more genetic or DNA variability than most other animal species on the planet today. This is to say, we’re all different. As such, some of us may have the ability to process sugars and carbohydrates well, and some can’t.
In the end, simple sugars don’t seem to be good for any of us and complex carbohydrates are good for many, but as proponents of the Atkins diet, Paleolithic diet, or adherents to one of the many low or no-grain diets have discovered, even complex carbohydrates may not be good for everyone. And we’re not even going to mention food allergies, right? So, while everyone should continue eating a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, dark leafy greens, good fats and proteins, how many or few carbohydrates you yourself may need should be custom tailored to you.Dr. Alex Kraft is a Naturopathic Physician and Licensed Acupuncturist with Health Moves PLLC in Woodinville, WA. He can be reached at 425.402.9999 www.HealthMoves.org