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Carbohydrates: to eat or not to eat? That is not the question. Which ones to eat...That is the question!

Carbohydrates: to eat or not to eat? That is not the question. Which ones to eat...That is the question!

This article has been automatically translated from German. While our little team is working hard to provide you the best quality and resources, our multilingual capacity is still limited. Don't judge us by the Google translation please and head over to the original version in German instead.   

There are different sources of carbohydrates and you have to distinguish between the following:

  • How many carbohydrates they contain in total
  • How quickly they arrive in the blood in the form of glucose.

The glycemic index is often used for this, which describes how quickly carbohydrates are split in the intestine and absorbed from the blood.

The answer to the question “Which carbohydrates to enjoy?” is short and sweet:

  1. Grain products, potatoes, rice and sugar are on the “avoid” list.
  2. Vegetables, lettuce and some fruit are on the “Enjoy” list, because they are the good carbs. The relative content of carbohydrates in vegetables and lettuce is low. Therefore you can enjoy large amounts of it.

However, one must note: everybody is unique and what spikes insulin in one person's body, doesn't spike in the others. Some fibre reach carbs are essential for gut health. Knowing your body and taking informed (thus data-based) dietary decisions is key.

Fruit

The blueberries are particularly recommended because they contain the antioxidative polyphenols.
The blueberries are particularly recommended because they contain the antioxidative polyphenols.

Fruit contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially the strongly colored fruits such as berries, papayas and apricots. Healthy carbohydrates with lots of fibers and very low sugar are berries, citrus and avocados. The sweeter the fruit, the less it is suitable for a healthy carb diet. For example apples: Unfortunately, most varieties are grown sweet for today's consumers, but in markets and in organic food shops you can still find the older apple varieties, which are less sweet. Frozen berries are also great: they are mostly harvested when they are optimally ripe, you just have to make sure that they have no added sugar.

Vegetables

In general, the more green, the better.
In general, the more green, the better.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, vegetables also contain bases. The daily “dose” of carbohydrates should therefore mainly be covered by vegetables. Cabbage varieties such as Brussels sprouts, leaf salads, cucumbers, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, onions, tomatoes should be enjoyed. Good to know: Plants store carbohydrates in roots and tubers.

Legumes

In general, the more green, the better. healthy peas
the greener the better :-)

Lentils, quinoa, beans, peas and chickpeas provide high quality protein, but lentils, quinoa and chickpeas also contain a lot of carbohydrates. It is therefore advisable to observe the glycemic index. Let's take quinoa as an example:

Glycemic index based on quinoa

If you start a low-carb or ketogenic diet for the purpose of losing weight, you will first leave out quinoa. Why? Quinoa measures 53 on the Glycemic Index, which is relatively low. The glycemic index of a food shows how this food affects the blood sugar level. Quinoa is therefore slowly digested and absorbed, which leads to a slower rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. That's OK. However, if you eat other things (which you will certainly do), you quickly consume a too high dose of your daily needed carbohydrates. And if you want to stay below at a low lower you would rather choose low-carb alternatives.

No sweet breakfast when eating healthy carbs?

When you've grown up on porridge, bread rolls / croissants and muesli, it's hard to imagine an a breakfast with really healthy carbs. But there are a number of exciting alternatives. For example, almond-ode r coconut flour are great alternatives to white flour, while lightly roasted nuts and seeds - for cereals muesli. Almond flour, by the way, only contains about 6g carbohydrates per 100g, and when sweetened with xylitol or erythritol , the vegetable alternatives to sugar, it makes a good base for pastries.

The role of carbohydrates

In the form of glucose, carbohydrates are essential for the nervous system and must always be present in the blood in a fixed amount, in particular to supply our brain. Carbohydrates are also important for hormone balance: While radical carbohydrate reduction is often used to treat diabetes, obesity and cancer. A healthy (low carb) diet could impair thyroid function. Medicine has not yet agreed on this. However, a presumption of hypothyroidism should not be a reason to say goodbye to diet that is very low in carbs (such as LCHF = low carb high fat) - rather you should test yourself, plan your diet well and you should keep a constant watch.

Too much carbohydrate "provokes" insulin  

The concentration of glucose in the blood is regulated by the release of insulin. Insulin ensures that there is enough and not too much glucose. An excess in the blood is removed very quickly - our muscles then only burn glucose and store a little of it. The liver also fills up its carbohydrate stores. If this has happened and glucose continues to come from a sumptuous carbohydrate meal, such as a pasta dish or a fruit salad, then exactly what we want to avoid happens: The excess of carbohydrates is converted into fat.

We already wrote about insulin in our article Fit or Fat .

However, it is often the case that we not only eat carbohydrates, but also fat. So pasta with pesto, sprinkled with parmigiano and pine nuts. Since our metabolism then has enough glucose at its disposal, there is no need for it to burn the absorbed fat - i.e. from it to the hips, around the waist or anywhere else. Only when the glucose level in the blood is back to normal can this fat be used. But because the blood glucose concentration drops, the body understands that it needs a replenishment: we get hungry. If we then eat carbohydrates again, these are consumed first again and the stored fat gets stuck in the adipose tissue. And so the vicious circle turns.

A vicious cycle that leads to obesity in the long term. Of course, you can break this circle simply by not eating. But it's not that simple! Or you burn the calories through exercise, which unfortunately is often not so efficient.

Insulin affects the metabolism

A central part of this vicious cycle is the hormone insulin. It ensures that glucose is absorbed in muscle and liver cells and that our metabolism in the brain runs optimally.

Whenever glucose gets into our blood after a meal, insulin is released from the pancreas, which is still in the blood hours later. In order to program your metabolism for fat turnover, it is essential to keep the level of insulin in the blood as low as possible. If insulin is needed permanently, it can lead to insulin resistance: the metabolism reacts little or no longer to insulin, which can lead to weight gain or diabetes.

Less is more

The better and fewer the carbohydrates, the less "provocation" on insulin. (The so called LCHF diet even claims that only about 50g carbohydrates are necessary to meet the daily needs of the brain. But rather count fiber from healthy carbohydrates than just the amount of carbohydrates.

At rest, our brain consumes about 20% of the calories - around 2000 kcal per day, which is about 400 kcal. That corresponds to approx. 100g carbohydrates. If the metabolism is changed accordingly, then the body can access fat to cover the energy requirement.

Metabolism and energy requirements are individually different. Over time, you will find out your own requirements. At the beginning you can use mobile applications to learn about the amounts of carbohydrates (eg MyFitnessPal, Keto App, Carb Manager, etc.), but also about the reaction of your own organism to various foods with tests of blood sugar. There are even very cool medical grade gatgets you can use to see how your glucosle level responds to diffrent kind of food:

https://www.freestylelibre.co.uk/libre/

https://www.dexcom.com/en-GB/uk-dexcom-g6-cgm-system

Sources:

Low Carb High Fat by Nico Stanizok, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Vormann, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html
Virta Health, https: //blog.virtahealth .com / does-your-thyroid-need-dietary-carbohydrates

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