Complex Carbs and Why You Need Them
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
I mentioned the importance of regular complex carbohydrates in the last post. So, today, it only makes sense to dig deeper into complex carbs.
Day 12: Energy and Balance
Here is why there is no need to avoid carbs AND why you should make them a staple in your diet.
Managing blood sugars are essential to preventing chronic conditions later in life. Since healthy aging is a hot topic (and rightfully so), blood sugars are really a critical marker to have under control.
Keeping your blood sugar low and steady throughout the day ensures that energy is neither sky high nor hitting rock bottom. If your blood sugars are too high, you can count on a crash in about T-2 hours. When the crash hits, the body's natural response is to reach for something with a high amount of simple sugars like chocolate, white bread, cake, etc. to regain that high you were on a few hours ago. How does this work? When carbs are ingested, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin is critical because it serves as the key to unlock the path for glucose to go into the cells for energy. Your brain and your muscle cells really like this energy since it propels you to win tennis matches, chase toddlers all day, and get your work done on time without that dragging feeling.
Without insulin your body will not be able to manage your blood sugar on its own. People with type 1 diabetes know all about this since they have to inject themselves with insulin after carb-rich foods. After too many days of eating a lot of simple sugars, AKA having a lot of highs and lows, the insulin starts becoming resistant. This is called insulin resistance. Essentially insulin (the key) does not work properly, leading to type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and PCOS to name a few.
The logical step may be to cut carbs out and maintain really low blood sugars. That may work for some people, but here is why eating too few carbs is not ideal: carbs in whole grains or in fruit have antioxidants and fiber that are rather protective. When taken away from the diet, key nutrients, like Vitamin C, fiber, and B-vitamins (as you know from previous posts) are also diminished. Energy is also decreased and now you are left relying on fat and protein as your main sources of energy. Since fat breaks down at a much slower rate than carbs, good luck trying to beat any records at the gym or in a race. Protein is also a very inefficient fuel source. It's role is not to be used for fuel, but rather to be used for building hair, skin and nails, replicating DNA, and building and maintaining lean tissue mass.
So, if too many carbs increase insulin resistance and too few carbs are draining and lacking nutrients, what is the answer? Focus on whole grain breads, tortillas, brown rice, and pastas. Choose whole fruits with the skin on them vs fruit juice. Spread your intake over several meals throughout the day, and pair it with a fat or protein. This will help ensure your cells will get enough energy for the day to meet your requirements without creating the repetitive insulin spikes that result in developing chronic diseases over time.
And, as always, if you want to get a complete picture of your internal and external health and wellness, click below and schedule a wellness assessment. We can help you get back to baseline and then on to optimal health.
Jen Pfeilfer, MS, APD
Dr. Thomas R. Schneider, Medical Director