Carbohydrates: friend or foe?

Road to Wellness

Aug 2, 2006 at 2:06 pm

It's important to understand carbohydrates so that we can choose the proper ones needed to enhance our lifestyle in gaining or maintaining a lean, healthy physique.

All carbohydrates are predominately fuel. They're used short-term, like gas in the tank. So the types and amount of carbohydrates to provide the right fuel mix — plus the timing of their intake to provide an optimum supply — are critical for any particular performance to succeed.

For peak performance and optimal health, you must stabilize your blood sugar for the entire day. In order to accomplish this, slow burning complex carbohydrates (like brown rice and sweet potatoes) should be combined with a lean protein source (like fish and chicken). A major point of eating in this manner is to stimulate or repress the production of specific hormones that make up the metabolism.

In the text books, carbohydrates are divided into two types — simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars found in fruits and fruit juices, vegetables, the lactose in milk and the sucrose from beet and cane sugar. Complex carbohydrates are found in grains, beans and legumes.

But I like to think of carbohydrates as being divided into starchy and fibrous. Starchy carbs being grains, legumes, peas and potatoes. Fibrous carbs are all your other vegetables such asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.

Here are a few general rules to following when considering your carbohydrates:

· Safe vegetables: asparagus, bamboo shoots, green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumber, eggplant, kale, mushrooms, okra, peppers (any color), pumpkin, salad greens, spinach, squash (summer types), tomatoes, turnips and zucchini

· Fresh or frozen (unsweetened) fruit: apples, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefruit, honeydew melons, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries

· Starchy carbohydrates: brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, cream of rice, beans (lima and kidney), corn and peas

· Natural alternatives to sugars: fruit, root vegetables, stevia, succanot and honey (unrefined)

· Sugars to limit or avoid altogether: sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, glucose, arabinose, ribose, lactose and high fructose corn syrup

· Refined carbohydrates to avoid altogether: white bread, bagels, donuts, etc. — you get the picture!

And one more thing: Never go to bed hungry.

TERRY BRYAN runs Terry Bryan's Training Center in Kenwood, focusing on total body fitness from weight training to cardiovascular workouts to proper diet. Contact him at [email protected].