No. Not all carbs are created equal.
Here’s the low-down:
There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple, and complex.
MONOSACCHARIDE – absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining
- Glucose is the most simple carbohydrate.
- Fructose (fruit) is rearranged into glucose (they have the same chemical formula in a different atomic arrangement) in the liver.
- Galactose (sugar in milk) is similar to fructose in that the chemical formula is the same as glucose, just in a different atonic arrangement. It is rearranged by the liver.
DISACCHARIDE – contain two monosaccharides – converted via enzymes in the digestive tract
- Sucrose (white sugar) is made up of one glucose and one fructose molecule bonded together.
- Lactose (sugar in milk) is made up of one glucose and one galactose molecule bonded together
- Maltose (the sugar in malt) is two glucose atoms bonded together.
STARCHES – have to be broken down in the digestive tract into glucose
Now, it gets interesting.
When some 5 – 7 grams (the amount varies with the individual) of glucose enter the bloodstream, the body produces insulin.
Insulin transports glucose to the cells for use as energy.
If there is more glucose than is required for energy, the glucose will be stored as fat under the presumption that you’ll need it later.
If you don’t use it later, and your body doesn’t have to resort to burning fat for energy (because there aren’t enough calories from carbs), then you’ll retain the fat.
… but it doesn’t quite stop with you accumulating too much fat …
I had someone tell me recently (in response to my mention of the Low Fat Raw Vegan ‘diet’ which primarily consists of calories from fruit) that if I eat more than 5-7g carbohydrates in one sitting, the glucose in my body will be at a toxic level. This would make my body produce too much insulin, my body would then become insulin resistance, and this would give me diabetes.
Don’t panic quite so much … it’s not quite that extreme – but it is something you need to give some consideration to – especially if you suspect that you’re borderline diabetic.
“Glucose toxicity … implies the gradual, time-dependent establishment of irreversible damage to cellular components of insulin production and, therefore, to insulin content and secretion” [http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/52/3/581.full]
Let’s explore …
Type 2 Diabetes results from Insulin Resistance.
Here are some quotes about Insulin Resistance – I prefer to quote.
Insulin resistance (IR) is a physiological condition where the natural hormone insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugars. The resulting increase in blood glucose may raise levels outside the normal range and cause adverse health effects, depending on dietary conditions. Certain cell types such as fat and muscle cells require insulin to absorb glucose. When these cells fail to respond adequately to circulating insulin, blood glucose levels rise. The liver helps regulate glucose levels by reducing its secretion of glucose in the presence of insulin. This normal reduction in the liver’s glucose production may not occur in people with insulin resistance.[www.sciencedaily.com]
Insulin resistance is a process in which the body is inefficient at managing sugars and starches you have eaten in your diet. When you eat a carbohydrate, such as a piece of bread or something sweet like ice cream, your body releases insulin from your pancreas to process that sugar. Without insulin, you would not be able to assimilate this sugar, called glucose, from your blood stream into your liver and muscles. In insulin resistance, your body makes too much insulin for the amount of carbohydrate consumed. This extra insulin is what causes so many of the listed problems, both functional problems (those which precede pathological), as well as pathological problems (those with tissue alterations.) Initially, the extra insulin often ends up processing sugar too rapidly and blood glucose levels are driven too low. This is called hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This adds stress to the body and causes the production of other hormones (especially adrenal gland hormones like cortisol), which increase blood sugar levels. As CI gets worse, more and more insulin is needed to process a small amount of sugar. The insulin eventually becomes ineffective at driving the sugar into the cells where the nourishment is needed. The cells have become resistant to the insulin.
Now, fruits (which is what had sparked the original diabetes ‘concern’) don’t primarily contain glucose!
Fruit contains fructose, and fruits generally have a low Glycemic Index (they’re not listed as having much of an effect on blood sugar).
Fresh fruits contain sugar fructose that does not need insulin for its metabolism and is well tolerated by diabetics. Emphasis should be on raw foods as they stimulate and increase insulin production. [http://allonhealth.com/health-news/natural-diabetes-remedy.html]
This next quote is a bit wordy, but please try to follow it.
Because fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion from pancreatic ß cells, the consumption of foods and beverages containing fructose produces smaller postprandial insulin excursions than does consumption of glucose-containing carbohydrate.
Because leptin production is regulated by insulin responses to meals, fructose consumption also reduces circulating leptin concentrations.
The combined effects of lowered circulating leptin and insulin in individuals who consume diets that are high in dietary fructose could therefore increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae.
In addition, fructose, compared with glucose, is preferentially metabolized to lipid in the liver.
Fructose consumption induces insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, hypertriacylglycerolemia, and hypertension in animal models. The data in humans are less clear. Although there are existing data on the metabolic and endocrine effects of dietary fructose that suggest that increased consumption of fructose may be detrimental in terms of body weight and adiposity and the metabolic indexes associated with the insulin resistance syndrome, much more research is needed to fully understand the metabolic effect of dietary fructose in humans. [http://www.ajcn.org/content/76/5/911.full]
Fructose may be detrimental to body weight and may cause insulin resistance?
Whaaaaat??? You mean it’s just as ‘bad’ as glucose??
Allow me to try to explain the digestion of fructose, and hopefully give you a better understanding.
Glucose goes straight to your bloodstream, where is it transported to energy and/or fat (depending on your overall calorie consumption vs. exertions).
Fructose does not.
Fructose goes to the liver, where any of three things can happen:
1) it gets converted into glucose which is then released into the blood,
2) it gets stored in the liver and muscle cells as glycogen (a form of sugar which is easily converted into glucose when the body requires energy) in the event that there is already glucose in the blood. (Remember I quoted earlier that when insulin is released into the bloodstream to deal with the glucose, it also causes the liver to act as a glucose regulator and release LESS glucose into the blood stream… well, that is unless you’re Insulin Resistant.)
3) it gets converted into fat (in the event that the muscle and liver cells already have their quota of glycogen).
Despite the common associations between sugars in general and fructose in particular and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity etc, whole fruit does not typically pose a problem to because of 1) its high soluble fiber content and 2) its high antioxident content – both of which have a counter-effect to the relatively high sugar content.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15163472 Concluded that modest increases in soluble fiber intake in healthy subjects improved LDL cholesterol and glucose levels.
ROLE OF FIBER
Most nutritionists recommend high-fiber foods for people trying to lose weight. Fiber is an important part of a nutritious diet, but it is not itself a nutrient; it passes through the digestive system without being absorbed. USDA guidelines suggest 14 grams of fiber for every thousand calories you consume. If you are trying to lose weight, you may wish to consume more than the minimum requirement.
Benefits of a fiber-rich diet include prevention of gastrointestinal troubles, improved digestion, increased nutrient absorption and reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to FamilyDoctor.org. Adequate fiber consumption can also help you lose weight. [http://www.livestrong.com/article/267931-importance-of-fiber-in-weight-loss/#ixzz1v2TdQs26]
Well, after all of that, I hope you have a better picture of how your body deals with carbohydrates.
My personal belief is that fructose is far better for you than glucose, because of how the liver is able to regulate and respond to fluctuating blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, WHOLE FRUITS – especially those rich in soluble fiber (think soft fruits) can not only provide you a good source of calories and nutrients, but can in themselves counter the potential for damage over time from prolonged blood sugar.
If you have diabetic tendencies, it’s probably a good idea to look into improving your insulin sensitivity (reducing your insulin resistance) before embarking on an eating plan that is so rich in carbohydrates.
Also, don’t forget that carbs and fats do NOT mix.
Some nutritionists have suggested that while on a high-fat diet, your body’s ability to process sugars is impeded, not to mention that the fat you eat is more likely to get stored as extra fat.
Most nutritionists agree that if you’re looking to lose weight, a great starting point is to stop mixing carbs with fats (see my previous article “Bread or Butter”.)
I say, cut the filler foods (bread, pasta, refined sugar, white rice) altogether.
They’re filling your stomach with empty calories, and not filling your cells with the nutrients that they need.
If you need some low-fat, filler-free, nutrient-packed recipe ideas, click this link to visit my collection.