20The Role Of Carbs In Metabolism
For overall good health, we need to eat all varieties of food, including the three main macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates and fats. We need nutrients from all of these types of foods (including essential fatty acids from fat) in order to run all of our body’s cellular processes and to remain healthy.
Carbohydrates should make up 40% of all the daily calories we take in. By “carbohydrates,” nutritionists are referring mainly to complex carbohydrates, which are found in whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables as well as in beans and legumes. These are large chain carbohydrates that must be broken up into small pieces before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream to be used as fuel.
Glucose, a simple carbohydrate, is what the brain and most of the rest of the body’s cells use for metabolism. Glucose is part of the energy-making process of every cell and, without it, the cellular processes can fail. This doesn’t mean we should be taking in large quantities of glucose or even sucrose, which is table sugar made from glucose and fructose. If we take in too many simple carbohydrates, we turn on insulin production. Most of the insulin’s purpose is to put glucose into the cells to enhance the metabolic processes of the cells. Excess glucose, however, must be stored somewhere and, in many cases, it is stored as fat.
The Role of Simple Sugars in Metabolism
When we take in too much simple sugar foods, such as ice cream, cakes, cookies, candy and other sweets, the blood sugar is rapidly absorbed in the system, causing a spike in insulin and much of the glucose is turned into fat. Fat is a storage molecule, meant to be used as fuel when there isn’t enough fuel around from the food we eat.
Unfortunately, we rarely use this fat for that purpose because we have enough food to eat and we don’t have to rely on our fat stores for nutrition. This means we just get fatter and less able to exercise to burn off the calories we eat. This sets up a negative cycle of weight gain, low metabolism, low activity, and more weight gain.
Why Complex Carbs Are The Best
Complex carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to proper metabolism. As mentioned, they should make up the bulk of the diet and play a major role in the body’s metabolism. The trick is to stick to complex carbohydrates, which cause a slow rise in blood sugar, a slow rise in insulin and the proper uptake of glucose into the cells.
The cells can maximally use the glucose given to them and very little needs to go to fat. Complex carbohydrates are relatively low in calories, especially if you stick to plant-based foods, which are high in complex carbs. This means you can eat more, feel fuller, and won’t eat too much.
Diabetics And Carbohydrates
Diabetics, contrary to popular belief, should eat carbohydrates just as people without diabetes. They need to stay away from simple carbs, as they result in a rush of insulin into the body and this ultimately leads to putting glucose away as fat, increasing weight and fat content in the body. Moderate portions of complex carbs are idea in the diabetic diet.
A good diabetic diet, especially for type 2 diabetics who have plenty of insulin but have insulin that doesn’t function well, should contain the kind of carbohydrates that gradually enter the bloodstream and don’t trigger a massive insulin response. Type 2 diabetics actually have a lot of insulin floating around but they are not able to use their insulin well so that glucose levels remain high and insulin puts as much of that glucose away as fat.
Complex carbohydrates also tend to contain a fair amount of fiber in them. This further decreases the rate of glucose rise in the bloodstream and allows for a natural rise and fall of glucose levels after a meal.