Understanding Carbohydrates

Understanding the role that carbohydrates play in a balanced diet and in weight loss is something that many people find difficult. The controversy regarding good carbohydrates versus bad carbohydrates is so confusing that many dieters choose to avoid carbohydrates entirely. This, it turns out, is not a good choice for a healthy body.

Carbohydrates are the basic fuel for the human body. These are broken down into sugars or glucose and then combined with oxygen to provide fuel for the brain, muscles, nervous system and kidneys. Carbohydrates are essential for the body to function normally and are not entirely responsible for weight gain or loss. Carbohydrates do add calories to a diet, but no more so than any other form of food. The real issue is the complexity of the carbohydrates that a person consumes in their diet. 

Complex carbohydrates include foods like whole-grain breads, legumes and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Complex carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy for the body without causing large changes in blood sugar levels. This means that the body receives energy without causing insulin levels to fluctuate drastically. Simple carbohydrates are included white breads, processed flour, candy, table sugar and syrups. These also provide energy for the body but are burned very quickly and can cause extreme fluctuations in blood sugar levels. 

Eating a diet with too many carbohydrates will result in weight gain. Eating a diet with too few carbohydrates will result in malnutrition. Carbohydrates are a huge part of what is nutritionally important for the human body. A diet which requires a person to consume little or no carbohydrates often pushes the body into a process called ketosis. In this state, the body begins to break down muscle and fat and turn them into ketone bodies. This is actually a starvation process within the body. It causes dangerous strain on the kidneys and liver of the dieter and is thought to be a cause of kidney failure in diabetic patients. 

In general, cutting carbohydrates completely out of a diet will cause the person to lose weight. This is only due to the fact that carbohydrates contain calories and cutting calories will result in weight loss. The very best diets include plenty of complex carbohydrates along with low fat and low-sodium foods. This combination causes the least fluctuation in blood sugar and allows the body to receive all of the nutrients that are required. When dieting, foods that contain complex carbohydrates should be included with each meal.

Carbohydrates are one of the most misunderstood parts of any diet. Choosing a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to lose weight and keep a body functioning properly. When in doubt, adding large portions of fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole-grains and removing refined sugars from a diet is an excellent way to begin a weight loss program while maintaining good nutrition and good health.

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