Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Truth About Carbs

I am proud to say that I enjoy eating carbohydrate foods (carbs) every single day.  I eat starchy foods such as bananas, beans, and potatoes. I drink fruit juice.  I enjoy a variety of
cereals and breads. 
I eat all of these foods because I love my brain. 

Are you reading this post right now wondering what in the world carbs (breads, starchy foods, fruit juices) have to do with the brain?  I will tell you that gluconeogenesis has everything to do with the brain.  Confused?  If so, keep reading because I will explain in the next few paragraphs.  

The primary source of energy for our brain is glucose (broken down, digested carbohydrate), and the body ensures that the brain will get the fuel (glucose) it needs.  Our brain primarily depends on the carbohydrate sources of food we consume to function efficiently.  In the event that our brain is deprived of the glucose it relies on from carbohydrate food sources, it will still get the fuel (glucose) it depends on via gluconeogenesis.

"Gluconeogenesis, pronounced [gloo-koh-nee-uh-jen-uh-sis] is the glucose formation in animals from a noncarbohydrate source, as from proteins or fats" (definition can be found via the website).  This means that if the brain is not getting a constant supply of glucose, then it will obtain the glucose by breaking down our muscle or fat stores. 

Unfortunately, there is only a small percent of our fat stores that can be broken down and converted to glucose to be used for the brain.  In the event that our brain is not getting enough glucose (fuel from carbohydrate source foods), the next step our body takes is to break down our precious skeletal muscle.

Yes, if we are not feeding the brain with the fuel it needs, then our body literally starts to eat our muscle to ensure the brain stays alive.  And who wants to have decreased muscle mass?

So what does gluconeogenesis (genesis = making; neo = new; gluco = short for glucose) mean for all the "dieters" out there?  This means that our body needs a balanced proportion of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for optimal function.

There are a lot of "diets" available to the public, and it is important to ensure the body is getting enough healthy (complex) carbs from whole grain breads and cereals, whole wheat noodles, brown rice, and vegetables (starchy or non-starchy).

Complex carbohydrates are beneficial to the body because it takes longer for these types of carbs to be broken down (digested).  When complex carbohydrates are consumed, the body has a constant supply of energy which in turn limits the amount of sugar that can be stored as fat. 

I am sure many of us can relate to the fact that once fat stores are produced, it is very hard to get rid of them.  The carbohydrate sources that are recommended to limit in the diet fall into the category of simple (not as healthy) carbohydrates such as candy, soda, pies, cakes, cookies, table sugar.

Simple carbohydrates are easily digested and absorbed by the body.  After a meal, our bodily organs will use the simple carbohydrates that we ingest for immediate use.  Can you guess what happens when too many simple carbohydrates are consumed?  An overindulgence of simple carbohydrate foods causes body fat stores to increase.

I love carbs because they provide the fuel that my brain and other organs need to function.  I choose to consume the majority of my carbohydrates from complex carbohydrate sources because they are laden with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

I want to provide my body with optimal nourishment because optimal nourishment equals optimal function for my body. 

If I choose too many foods high in simple sugars, then I will be depriving my body of the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs to function properly and I will get more fat stored on my body too! 

So, in conclusion, ensure you are eating a balanced diet focusing on complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat all within moderation, of course.

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